Farm Food Facts

Janie Hipp of NAAF Discusses Transformative Investment in Agriculture

February 24, 2021 USFRA Episode 102
Farm Food Facts
Janie Hipp of NAAF Discusses Transformative Investment in Agriculture
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Farm Food Facts
Janie Hipp of NAAF Discusses Transformative Investment in Agriculture
Feb 24, 2021 Episode 102
USFRA

The Native American Agriculture Fund provides grants to eligible organizations for business assistance, agriculture education, technical support, and advocacy services to support native farmers and ranchers. Janie Hipp is the president and CEO, and she joins us today. Janie oversees the work of the fund of philanthropic organization, responsible for distributing the remaining funds created by the settlement of the landmark Keepseagle versus Villsack class action lawsuit. Hipp also founded the indigenous food and agriculture initiative at the university of Arkansas school of law. The nation's first law school based initiative, focusing on tribal governance, strategic technical policy assistance, and native youth and professional education that supports native food systems, tribes, tribal enterprises and native entrepreneurs are optimally positioned to move beyond growing crops and raising livestock into the business of putting food in stores and on tables. The Native American agriculture fund proposes the development of 10 regional food hubs in Indian country to provide processing and distribution infrastructure for food grown and raised by tribal farmers and ranchers. With over 59 million acres of native operated farms across the United States, tribal nations and tribal producers will play a critical role in addressing climate change.

Show Notes Transcript

The Native American Agriculture Fund provides grants to eligible organizations for business assistance, agriculture education, technical support, and advocacy services to support native farmers and ranchers. Janie Hipp is the president and CEO, and she joins us today. Janie oversees the work of the fund of philanthropic organization, responsible for distributing the remaining funds created by the settlement of the landmark Keepseagle versus Villsack class action lawsuit. Hipp also founded the indigenous food and agriculture initiative at the university of Arkansas school of law. The nation's first law school based initiative, focusing on tribal governance, strategic technical policy assistance, and native youth and professional education that supports native food systems, tribes, tribal enterprises and native entrepreneurs are optimally positioned to move beyond growing crops and raising livestock into the business of putting food in stores and on tables. The Native American agriculture fund proposes the development of 10 regional food hubs in Indian country to provide processing and distribution infrastructure for food grown and raised by tribal farmers and ranchers. With over 59 million acres of native operated farms across the United States, tribal nations and tribal producers will play a critical role in addressing climate change.

Phil:

US Farmers and Ranchers in Action would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2020 Honor the Harvest Forum. The Native American Agriculture Fund provides grants to eligible organizations for business assistance, agriculture education, technical support, and advocacy services to support native farmers and ranchers. Janie Hipp is the president and CEO, and she joins us today. Janie oversees the work of the fund of philanthropic organization, responsible for distributing the remaining funds created by the settlement of the landmark Keepseagle versus Villsack class action lawsuit. Hipp also founded the indigenous food and agriculture initiative at the university of Arkansas school of law. The nation's first law school based initiative, focusing on tribal governance, strategic technical policy assistance, and native youth and professional education that supports native food systems, tribes, tribal enterprises and native entrepreneurs are optimally positioned to move beyond growing crops and raising livestock into the business of putting food in stores and on tables. The Native American agriculture fund proposes the development of 10 regional food hubs in Indian country to provide processing and distribution infrastructure for food grown and raised by tribal farmers and ranchers. With over 59 million acres of native operated farms across the United States, tribal nations and tribal producers will play a critical role in addressing climate change . Janie , welcome to Farm Food Facts.

Janie:

Nice to be with you today.

Phil:

So Janie, I'll start by, by asking about food and agriculture as the major economic drivers in Indian country, you've developed an infrastructure roadmap that builds on this foundation to expand it to food processing. As I mentioned before, getting food on people's tables, tell us about your vision.

Janie:

So our vision is rooted in a pretty simple concept , um, that native leadership and tribal agriculture producers are , uh, critical to this country's , uh , future agriculture , um, systems and food systems. Uh, we already are , um, involved in agriculture in many aspects, but we're often in invisible. Um, and what we know will help native farmers and ranchers achieve the level of success that they desire and that we really need them to achieve. We know that infrastructure is at the heart of that , uh, mainly because many of our native farmers and ranchers, and I would include fishers in that conversation as well. Um, live in some of the more remote and rural areas of the country where infrastructure has always lagging. Um, maybe I should correct that. And you know, years and years and years ago, infrastructure existed everywhere, but it doesn't now. And we believe that IM important to the success of native farmers, farmers, and ranchers, and the health of our native food economies and native food systems is the build-out of the infrastructure that we need. But I'll tell you a secret. Um , most everybody else needs that infrastructure too .

Phil:

Absolutely. And what you're describing , uh , Janie to me sounds really expensive , uh , to build, to build that infrastructure. I know here in Southern California, like when I go out to the desert , um, you know, with, on Indian land and so on, you know, as you said, you know, it's pretty remote, what is this going to cost? And you know, how are you going to pull it together?

Janie:

Well, our vision document and folks can actually pull it off of our website. That's very easy, just go to native American agriculture fund and it pops right up, but we actually did quantify , um, what we believe will be , uh , necessary for an infusion of capital to actually build out this infrastructure. Um, and to give you a sense of the details , um, ending country sits across , uh, over 58 million acres of land in the lower 48 and then another 40 million in Alaska. So our approach from the beginning was regionally based. And so , um, infrastructure we believe is best approached from a regional standpoint so that you don't have individual, Troggs doing things one-off in such a way that the cost of doing that increases exponentially. And so , uh, what the price tag that we put on it, and it was based in real numbers so that we triple and quadruple checked a million times was around three , uh , three, a little over $3 billion, but that's a one-time infrastructure , uh, infusion. And of course, you know, maintenance and operation, we factored that in as well into that figure . Um, but we thought something that could be replicable in all of the regions and that figure that I just shared with you is for the entire country. So when you think about it in that way, it's not that big of a number. And the other thing I'll share with you is according to the national ag accesses , the , the annual market value of native food products is already over 3 billion annually. And so if you actually think about the infusion of infrastructure funds funding, if you will capital to build this out, it actually equals one year of our market value. Anyway, and we , uh , part our vision actually talks about how this one, one, one push could actually have easily have pushed up the annual market value or return to our native producers and , uh, and our consumers. So yes, it may sound at first blush like a lot, but if you put it in context, it literally is not, and it will bear fruit very quickly.

Phil:

So one of the things that we hear from farmers a lot is the lack of good quality or great quality cell service is, is part of this initiative, including getting cellular service , uh , to these farms and ranches.

Janie:

You know , that's a really great question. And I will share with you that, you know, Indian country and native producers suffer from the same lack of decent cell surface, that a lot of our nations agriculture producers suffer from and rural communities for that matter. Uh, we did not factor that in what we talked about was actually positioning the regional hubs, if you will, around the existing , uh, internet access and that we know we can make it work that way, but I will tell you straight up that all of us need to actually focus on broadband access and improving its access throughout rural America, as well as, you know, tribes. And, you know, granted, we're sitting right there out in the middle of our land base is extremely remote and rural, and we're in the same boat as everybody else out there who , who really needs this infusion of infrastructure to occur, but, but we didn't want to wait on that. And so we have , yes, we need to all be fighting for that, but our vision was structured around , um, positioning the hubs so that we could actually piggyback onto what we have existing

Phil:

Martin , very smart. Um, so at USF RA , we know that partnerships are critical for our strategy. Um, and , and I think in looking at what nap is doing , um, you really feel the same way about partnerships. What are, what are your priorities and plans when it comes to developing these partnerships?

Janie:

Well, we have, we have many, many farmers and ranchers who've been at this a really long time. Uh, we actually have producers in the polos who have been , um, as Congresswoman Deb Holland calls it she's the 35th generation new Mexican. So we actually have folks who, whose traditions in their families work in. Agriculture goes back centuries, and, but partnerships are critical today and moving forward , um , we all need them. Um, I tell people all the time, you know, on a good day, there's flood 2 million farmers and ranchers in the country. That's not a lot. And you know, there there's, you know, a little over 5 million native people, we actually all need partnerships in these spaces. We need those to be honest and good partnerships, but we also need to realize that we don't have to agree on everything, but when we're in this ag business, we, we all need to be focused on all of us getting to a better place because those partnerships are key. So right now we're talking to everybody. Um, our fund is only going to be around till 2038, where a private charitable trust that as you mentioned, was created out of that settlement. But we, our expiration date is 2038. So we've got a period of time that we're going to be really aggressively looking for partners, but I will tell you that a lot of native folks involved in agriculture already have deep DB partnerships where they are, and with others who maybe grow the same things they do, or, you know, raise livestock the same way they do. I mean, there's, there's what, we're, what we know is that the partnerships aren't always talked about a lot, but we think it's really important for us to align ourselves with key partners that we believe are going to have strong voices moving forward. And USF IRA is one of those.

Phil:

And frankly, when we start to exchange information, it helps everybody, you know, I can't tell you the number of times where I'm talking to a farmer or rancher and they've had an issue and they call up another farmer and rancher. And especially during the pandemic, you know, we've seen farmers and ranchers reach out across the country, not just through the neighboring farmer that they, that they know for 20 years , uh , but really, you know, trying to understand what they can learn from other farmers. And that's what partnerships are frankly all about. And it's great. Now, USF a , just published the report, transformative investment in climate smart agriculture, you served on the TEI working group to provide stakeholder input. What's your take on the findings and the implication ?

Janie:

Well, I think the findings are critical and I'm so thankful that the report was released right now. Um, but it also, I think it's really important to think about these issues in almost two compartments that must fit together. One is how we look at agriculture in the context of climate. We all know that agriculture is going to continue to have risks associated with everything we do. And , um, you , um , you didn't mention it, but one of my previous careers was as the national program leader at USDA on risk management and farm financial management. So I've spent over 30 years in this space around agriculture and risks , climate poses, huge risks. And we have to come to terms with how we're going to all be in that space. But the transformative investment piece is of high interest to me as well. You mentioned that we came out of a landmark piece of litigation, but at the heart of that litigation was access to capital and access to capital is critical for all farmers and ranchers, not just native farmers and ranchers. So the marrying of how we work across agriculture to really lean into doing climate smart agriculture and being prepared for the next a hundred years of challenges is terribly important that can run across the gamut of, you know , risk tools, risk management tools, policy interventions, but also just how we do things in the production world. But if we don't actually also look at our financial instruments and how we invest and who invest and how we sit up underneath individual farmers and ranchers in this, in this space, then we're going to miss a really important component of actually making this work. We , we must look at the transformative investment that we need the infrastructure in fusion and how, how farmers and ranchers as individual producers can navigate this world in terms of , uh, doing what they, we always know they're going to do, which is respond. They always do, but we got to make it easier for them because we depend on them. And it's so important for access to capital, but also transformative capital to be in that space. We got a lot of work to do, and I was just thrilled to be a part of the, the team that looked at all this, but, you know, I've , uh , I told Aaron not too long ago, I know my work's not done. This is, we got a lot of work to do in this area and I'm excited for doing it. But I think we got to look at these issues through the eyes of the producer on the

Phil:

Absolutely. One of the things that I have to ask you is that , um, NAF says, always says that native agriculture has always been climate smart agriculture. What do you mean by that?

Janie:

Well, I have my best way to demonstrate this is through the words of one of my staff. He has a PhD and, and he he's Hopi and he still farms the traditional Hopi way. And, but he also held a PhD in soil issues and his work was around, you know, the , the parallel nature of how we need to be thinking, moving forward around , uh, Eller , other knowledge systems, if you will. And so he, I really butchered just then what he would actually do a much better job of explaining, but he and I were at a meeting about a year ago before COVID and somebody mentioned, you know, sustainable practices. And he was so funny, but he said, he said, you know, I'm a Hopi traditional farmer. And I farm corn in the middle of Hopi without irrigation. And everyone in the room was just taken aback. How do you do that? And he basically said climate smart agriculture. And so I do know that that, that there are knowledge systems that native folks indigenous to this place have had within our traditions and practices and our knowledge that we carry from generation to generation, because we were farming here a long time ago and still are, but it's really important for all of us, I think, to hear multiple voices when we're working in these spaces and he just tells the best story about it, because if you can grow corn in the middle of Hopi with no irrigation and have a crop every year, then you're doing something about climate smart agriculture.

Phil:

Absolutely. And we've got to get them on farm fruit facts. There's no question about that. I'm going to, I'm going to be calling you. Uh [inaudible] .

Janie:

So ,

Phil:

You know, when, when I look at how the supermarket is evolving, how supermarkets are looking for more local foods and so on, whether it be in their produce department or even, you know, just pre-packaged foods , um, what role does native farmers and ranchers play in, in that space, in, in aligning with supermarket retailers to get their products on the shelves?

Janie:

That's a really another great question. Uh, we actually are on shelves. Um, but sometimes our products are not labeled to us, but we are not reflected in the labels. So there's that problem? Well, we said , I agree. Absolutely. I absolutely agree. And that's getting better. I will say we also have a lot of producers in the U S who have found it easier if you will, to get into consumers in other countries than it is for us to get our products on the shelves to domestically. Wow. There's a lot of reasons for that, that I'm not going to go into today, but I think it's an interesting thing to think about why is it easier for us to find markets overseas than it is to find them here?

Phil:

Well, I'll help you with that. We , we, we got to get those products labeled and get it on the shelves here. Okay .

Janie:

Yeah. I think to your point, it's , we, we have historically been pretty invisible in this space. I mean, sometimes our products are not labeled according to who we are, but I tell people all the time, it's never been better for us to, for the story of native food to actually be out there for those tribes who desire to actually have their products hit a commercial marketplace. And that's a decision that, you know, is, has to be done locally and, and very personal to the producer themselves or the tribal government themselves. But when that happens and we're in those places, we need to have joined with partners who can help us tell our story, but we need to find as many new avenues to tell it as we can. Um, intertribal ag council has been around for since the eighties, the late eighties, and they actually have partnered with foreign ag service for probably almost 20 years now to move native food products into export markets. But I think our, our next challenge is to make sure that we're more visible , um, in domestic markets. And I'm going to take you back to our infrastructure plan. Part of that is that with, with, with the packaging, the labeling , um, with the processing infrastructure, then I think that's going to happen. I think we're going to, but some of what we're talking about here really depends on that infrastructure piece, as it does with any , uh , producer of raw food products to get it on a shelf, there's a lot of steps in between, but we're getting there. And it's exciting because I think our products are moving across this hemisphere and around the world. And our products always did. I mean, if you look historically and archeologically, you can find native seeds that actually, and products that actually originated maybe in the Southwest or in the Southeast, but found their way all the way up into the Northern tribes who were, who were here before any, any anyone else. And that's an indication that we were in the trade of food products for a long time and have been. So just making sure that we maintain our stories and we , um, get prepared to be in a bigger marketplace, I think is really important because we've got a lot of food production that happens. And it's awesome. And if I say so myself and , uh, and worthy of a second look , um , on the shelves.

Phil:

So look into your crystal ball. What does the future look like for native farmers and ranchers?

Janie:

I'm thinking it's very promising. And the reason why I am excited about that is , um, we are developing new partnerships. The issues that we've historically faced are , are complex and would take a lot more podcasts to go into. Um, but we're, we're starting to really grapple with those in a new way, if you will, but you know, as well as I do that, how, how you stay in agriculture depends on, on whether you have a next generation coming up behind you. And I , and I can tell you that, that our younger native producers are on the rise and numbers. They are gripped with a passion for this. Um, they are wanting to stay home and wanting to stay in their communities and be leaders within their communities, but also have a solid career. And there's just a growing number of native young people who really see food and agriculture as their future. And that's in many ways, we're almost going against the trend in some other communities. And so that makes me happy, but it also makes me really excited for the future because I think it's going to be in really amazing hands. Um, and I think it's, we, all of us, all of us need to focus on our next generation. They are critical to us creating the future in agriculture that we all want, and we got to come up under them. We've got to push them into leadership. Now we've got to support them and we got to solve problems with them, but I'll tell you they're a lot smarter than we are there yet . We need to listen to them because, because they have ways of seeing and ways of thinking through issues that have plagued you and I with our gray hair for quite some time. And I think a fresh set of eyes on what we have before us is really necessary right now. And I am totally committed to our young people, stepping into the lead on this as quickly as possible. But I'm excited about that because I think we're kind of bucking the trend if you will.

Phil:

So Janie, thank you for your vision. Thank you for your leadership of the native American agriculture fund. And thank you for joining us today on farm food facts.

Janie:

Thank you so much for having me and I'll come back anytime for future podcasts

Phil:

And , and you will be back.

Janie:

Thank you so much.

Phil:

Us Farmers and Ranchers in Action would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2020 honor. The harvest form . Our movement sponsors United soybean board and national pork board. Our presenting sponsors, Wells Cargill and DMI, our platinum sponsor, the native American agriculture fund. Our gold sponsors Bader Rutter, heir Cartiva dairy West Edelman, Ernst , and young, the foundation for food and agriculture research frog. McDonald's Nebraska soybean board and nutrient, our silver sponsors, CoBank and OCP North America. Our bronze sponsor, Nestle Purina, our copper sponsor Ruan and our donor sponsor Tyson for more on all things, food and agriculture, please visit [email protected] Also be sure to look out for us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers and on Twitter at USF RA until next time.