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Rounds, Cantwell Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve USDA Tribal Programs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen tribal economic development programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Rural Economic-Development Assistance and Consultation to Help (REACH) Our Tribes Act would improve USDA’s tribal consultation, data reporting and interagency collaboration for economic development.

“Native American communities are an integral part of South Dakota,” said Rounds. “It is crucial those communities have the resources necessary to thrive for future generations. I am pleased to introduce this bipartisan legislation to improve tribal access to federal economic development programs.”

“Tribal communities in the State of Washington are economic engines that generate jobs and prosperity,” said Cantwell. “To keep these engines running strong, Tribes need to invest in water systems, energy production, broadband infrastructure, and economic development. The REACH Act will make it easier for Tribes – especially those in rural areas -- to access programs that can help secure these investments, so that Tribal communities can see their businesses and job opportunities grow.”

In addition to Rounds and Cantwell, this legislation was introduced by Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.)

Specifically, the REACH Our Tribes Act would:

  • Require USDA to establish a formal budgetary consultation process for the annual budget process and for Farm Bills.
  • Require USDA to analyze, estimate and publicly report obligations made to tribal entities.
  • Require USDA to work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Economic Development Administration to streamline application requirements for economic development programs, which would reduce the administrative burden for both applicants and federal agencies.
  • Require the U.S. Department of Commerce, in coordination with USDA and other agencies, to establish a public comprehensive repository of economic development programs available to tribes.

This legislation is supported by the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association, National Congress of American Indians, Native Farm Bill Coalition, Rural Community Assistance Partnership and Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

“While the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a number of important economic development programs, it is apparent tribal governments have not always been able to access these funds,” said Ryman LeBeau, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. “The REACH Our Tribes Act supports tribal access to USDA rural development programs with improvements in data reporting, consultation and inter-agency collaboration”

Click HERE for full bill text.