The Native American Agriculture Fund provided $12 million in grants to Native CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions) across the United States. This program places a special emphasis on financial assistance to Native farmers and ranchers.
What is the Native American Agriculture Fund?
The Native American Agriculture Fund is a private charitable organization that supports and advocates for Native farmers and ranchers.
Of the recent $12 million, about half ($5 million) is to provide funding so Native American communities can develop financial institutions. Further, these funds will support programs tied to educational programs, equipment purchases, and communal land acquisitions.
Specialized Native CDFIs offer exclusive lending options to Indigenous communities, who typically have fewer options for traditional credit. Therefore, these financial institutions address credit access for Native American entrepreneurs and producers.
Previous Discrimination against Indigenous Farmers
The Native American Agriculture Fund is integral to providing equality for Native American farmers.
In 1999, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s loan programs were found guilty of discriminating against Indigenous farmers. Essentially, it made it nearly impossible for Native farmers to secure loans and land.
Therefore, the Native American Agriculture Fund was established to provide direct funding to Native financial institutions.
How the Grant Money will be Spent
Thirteen total grantees will receive funds from the recent Native American Agriculture Fund’s $12 million grant.
One example of a grantee is the Montana Native Growth Fund, which received $225,000. This program plans to split its funding into two grants.
One aims to use the funds to offer loan capital, technical assistance, and agricultural education for Indigenous farmers in the state of Montana. The other will offer a special focus on helping these farmers build climate resilience through emergency hay stores, emergency loan payments, and special seed purchases.
Further, these programs will specifically help Native farmers’ financial literacy and credit needs, which are often different from traditional farmers.
“Native economies are contingent on the continued growth of Native food systems,” Kerry Shabi, the business development coordinator at the Montana Native Growth Fund, points out.
When Native food systems are supported, the next generation of agricultural producers has a stronger foundation to grow from.
Plans to Address Sustainability Issues
Some states that received funding, like the program in Montana, will pour funds into projects that address sustainability issues brought on by recent climate changes.
For example, most Montana farmers experienced extreme drought, excessive crop damage, and damage from wildfires.
Therefore, the funds will assist farmers in withstanding the economic shock from losses incurred by natural disasters. And when natural disasters hit, Shabi attests that the Native American community is more adversely affected.
“Our tribal communities are being impacted, usually first and in a more severe manner,” Shabi notes.
Why Native American Borrowers Require Special Funding
There’s often confusion as to why Native American farmers demand special funding. Indigenous borrowers require alternative loan terms because of trust land regulations that comprise many tribal reservations.
Essentially, the federal government still owns some Native American land, making it challenging for these farmers to have control over their property.
Therefore, programs like the Native American Agriculture Fund provide a more level playing field for Indigenous farmers everywhere.