Whitney Sawney, NAAF Director of Communications and Policy, Announced as Member to the Inaugural USDA Tribal Advisory Committee

Whitney Sawney, NAAF Director of Communications and Policy, Announced as Member to the Inaugural USDA Tribal Advisory Committee

Dec 8, 2023

Earlier this week at the Tribal Nations Summit , U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, the Chair and Ranking member of Senate Indian Affairs, and the House and Senate Agricultural Committees named 11 new members to the inaugural USDA Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC). Included in that list was the Native American Agriculture Fund’s Director of Communications and Policy, Whitney Sawney. TAC is a permanent committee created by the 2018 Farm Bill to ensure Tribal perspectives are well represented at USDA and to ensure the Department’s policies and decisions are informed by the unique Nation-to-Nation relationship.

Sawney, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and University of Arkansas graduate, was appointed by Senator John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee. Sawney brings optimism and a wealth of experience  working in policy communications throughout Indian Country to the committee. Before joining NAAF, Whitney worked at the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative, where her work focused on promoting tribal food sovereignty and agriculture communications.

As a member of the Tribal Advisory Committee, Sawney will inform USDA on tribal food systems and community priorities. With her experience fostering tribal stakeholder and agriculture industry relations, she will be able to offer recommendations and solutions for the identified issues relating to Native American agriculture and discuss proposed changes to Department regulations, policies, and procedures that impact tribes, supplemental to USDA’s government-to-government consultations

“I am honored to take on this role as a part of the USDA Tribal Advisory Committee, and I am inspired by the work of my fellow committee members. I look forward to championing tribal voices and cultivating impactful discussions on policies that impact tribes and Indigenous agricultural systems,” said Whitney Sawney on her appointment to TAC.

NAAF’s CEO, Toni Stanger-McLaughlin, expressed enthusiasm about Sawney’s appointment, stating, “We are so excited about this opportunity for Whitney. Her expertise and passion for agriculture align seamlessly with the commitment of the Tribal Advisory Committee to offer counsel and guidance on matters pertaining to tribal and Indian affairs. In her role at NAAF, Whitney has been able to engage with Native American farmers and ranchers across Indian Country and will provide a unique perspective and knowledge in communication relations and policy as it aligns with advancement of Native American Agriculture. We look forward to seeing what Whitney does in her role with TAC, working to identify priorities and provide advice on appropriate strategies for Tribal consultation that help cultivate a future for the rural and Tribal communities we serve.”

The Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC) meets no-less than twice a year and is tasked with several key responsibilities, including identifying evolving issues relevant to Indian tribes concerning Department programs. The committee communicates these issues to the Secretary, providing recommendations and solutions for identified concerns, those raised at various levels, and those related to Tribal consultations. Additionally, the TAC discusses proposed changes to Department regulations impacting Indian tribes, identifies priorities and advises on consultation strategies, ensures timely communication with tribes on pertinent issues, addresses interdepartmental barriers, and annually submits a report to the Secretary and relevant congressional committees detailing its activities and offering recommendations for legislative or administrative action in the following year.

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Samantha Belote Communications Manager