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USDA, Indian Affairs sign agreement on farm programs

The Agriculture Department and the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs today announced the signing of two memorandums of understanding designed to foster improved access to USDA and BIA programs by tribes and tribal members. The memorandums apply to programs administered by the Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development at USDA, and the BIA.

The five-year MOUs set up a framework for consultation, training, coordination, and the provision of technical assistance intended to increase the amount of Indian land enrolled under USDA conservation and farm loan programs and improve service delivery on those lands. They also support establishment of Native American rural businesses, renewable energy development, and job creation.

The BIA also will work with Rural Development to increase homeownership, home repair, and rehabilitation opportunities, and improve energy efficiency of homes on Indian lands through improved coordination of program delivery.

Finally, the MOUs will complement the USDA's Rural Utilities Service work with BIA to implement and administer the Substantially Underserved Trust Areas provision of the 2008 farm bill to increase affordability and availability of RUS-supported infrastructure on Indian lands.

The MOUs also help further the objectives of the Keepseagle settlement agreement, which resolved a lawsuit regarding past discrimination by USDA against Native American farmers and ranchers concerning its farm loan program, USDA and Interior said in a news release.