Rounds, Smith Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Promote Tribal Self-Governance for Federal Food Assistance Programs

Legislation would give tribes flexibility to adjust SNAP to meet local needs

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.), members of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow tribes in South Dakota and across the country to have greater control over how federal hunger programs are administered. The SNAP Tribal Food Sovereignty Act would give tribal governments the ability to administer the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as SNAP) through self-governance contracts. The bill would make sure that SNAP is run in a culturally-appropriate way that promotes the health and economic well-being of tribal communities. Approximately 25 percent of Native Americans receive some type of federal food assistance, and in some tribal communities, participation is as high as 80 percent.

“Our legislation would allow tribes the ability to administer SNAP to meet the specific needs of their communities,” said Rounds. “This added flexibility would create additional opportunities for tribes to strengthen local food economies and promote the inclusion of indigenous foods. I am glad to join Senator Smith to remove some of the federal bureaucracy that hinders tribal communities in South Dakota and across the nation.”

“Tribal governments understand what works best in Tribal communities and should have more say over how SNAP is administered,” said Smith. “The SNAP Tribal Food Sovereignty Act is about promoting Tribal sovereignty and helping Tribes fight hunger in a way that works best for them.”

The legislation is supported by the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Association and the Four Bands Community Fund.

“American Indians and Alaskan Natives need the opportunity to administer their own federal food programs. Our Tribes are proximate to the resources, cultural knowledge, families and are uniquely vested in the long-term health of Indian Country.  This important legislation will provide localized control over our food ecosystems and enhance our economic well-being as well as our community health,” said Lakota Vogel of Four Bands Community Fund which is headquartered on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. Four Bands Community Fund is a Native CDFI and the only entity in South Dakota that is a member of the Native Farm Bill Coalition.

You can access a summary of the legislation here.