Column: Agriculture can help reservations pull out of poverty
"Agriculture remains critical to economic and human development, as recently affirmed in two very distant parts of the world. Last month, at a meeting in Rapid City, S.D., the National Congress of American Indians went on record urging support for an Indian Agriculture Act to assist the poorest Indian tribes in the United States, and the poorest Americans.

The rural American Indian tribes of the Missouri River Valley are today suffering the highest unemployment rates in America, as high as 60 or 70 percent being common and reaching 90 percent for the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, This economic failure leads to comprehensive social breakdown that affects health care, education, crime and the entire quality of life. Because these reservations are so rural, tourism and casinos are of little economic benefit.

On the Northern Plains, the turn toward agriculture is no less dramatic. An Indian Agriculture Act, as conceived of by the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, would mandate that the U.S. Department of Agriculture target its arsenal of proven programs toward Indian reservations, generating agriculture production, food-based start-up businesses, and needed infrastructure improvements, such as broadband.

A successful Indian agriculture effort could secure the economic health of a major region of the American heartland, providing economic stimulus far more effective than most others tried. The tribes themselves now recognize that enforcing their treaties with the United States, while critical to sovereignty, is not enough. They must build a private sector economy to pull themselves out of poverty, and agriculture is the key."

Get the Story:
Marshall Matz: Agriculture essential for lifting people out of poverty (The Des Moines Register 7/3)