- By Chez Oxendine
The Native American Agriculture Fund, or NAAF, has announced a new round of grantmaking to the tune of $11 million beginning April 1 and closing June 1, 2023.
The fund was established in 2018 using money from a settlement reached during 1999’s Keepseagle v. Vilsack, in which Native farmers sued the Department of Agriculture for discriminatory lending practices. Since its inception, NAAF has invested $55 million in grants targeting nonprofits, educational institutions and organizations, federally recognized tribes, and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)
“We are in the era of cultivating agriculture throughout Indian Country. NAAF is committed to being a part of the solution in support of Native farmers and ranchers in developing our food systems and agricultural infrastructure,” NAAF CEO Toni Stanger-McLaughlin said in a statement. “We look to this year of funding as an opportunity to build upon the enhanced capacity of our grantees to reach new rural tribal areas, address challenges related to rising rates of inflation, and improve market access for Tribal producers.”
NAAF has placed special emphasis on tackling barriers to credit for Native producers and farm and ranch infrastructure in past years. Board of Trustees chairman Dr. Joe Hiller said funding aims to “foster systemic solutions” for those issues and others facing “historically disadvantaged Native producers.”
“NAAF’s investments should help expand the capacity of those eligible entities to increase the number of producers they support, encourage more Native youth to get involved in agriculture and enhance economic growth in the tribal and surrounding rural communities,” Hiller said in a statement.
Organizations like Native CDFI Akiptan - a frequent NAAF partner - have called NAAF’s support important to widening their impact on issues like credit.
“We hope to make a deep and lasting financial impact with our producers to set them up to thrive at their operations,” Executive Director Skya Ducheneaux told Tribal Business News previously. “It is truly humbling to have NAAF’s support with our projects and programs.”
NAAF grants have helped Native producers train drone operators, build greenhouses, and tackle credit issues in Indian Country, per prior Tribal Business News reporting on the organization. In addition to its annual grantmaking push, NAAF has also a youth grant program, and has partnered with regional and state organizations such as Oklahoma State University in support of those areas’ Indigenous agricultural communities.
NAAF will open its request for applications April 1 — located at their website here — and close it on June 1, 2023. The fund will host five webinars throughout the application period to provide technical assistance for potential applicants.
As well, the fund has begun the process of creating an “other financial institution” through the Farm Credit System, pledging $12 million to the process as of early March.