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Cheyenne River Buffalo Authority Corporation
Bison managed by the Cheyenne River Buffalo Authority Corporation (CRBAC) on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. The CRBAC is an independent business owned by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Department of Agriculture announces inaugural Tribal Advisory Committee
Wednesday, December 6, 2023

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is finally launching the first-ever Tribal Advisory Committee.

The committee will provide advice and guidance to Secretary Tom Vilsack. The leader of the USDA announced the inaugural members of the advisory panel on Wednesday, in conjunction with the opening of the White House Tribal Nations Summit.

“As tribes have requested, we are reshaping our programs to incorporate tribal and Indigenous perspectives, remove barriers, and encourage tribal self-determination. USDA is working directly with tribal nations to support their decisions on how best to co-steward federal lands and forests and the traditions that have been passed down from ancestors and elders,” Vilsack said in a news release that touted his department’s initiatives in Indian Country.

The Tribal Advisory Committee was authorized by the Farm Bill of 2018 but the prior administration never got it off the ground. Vilsack finally took action this past summer.

“Establishing the Tribal Advisory Committee is an important step towards ensuring tribal perspectives are well represented at USDA and positioned to inform how the department meets its trust responsibility to tribes across the nation,” Vilsack said in a June 28 news release in which nominations were solicited.

A June 28 notice in the Federal Register invited nominations from tribes, tribal organizations and other organizations with expertise in food and agriculture. Appointments were then made by the Secretary of Agriculture, along with key members of the 118th Congress — the chairs and ranking members of the House Committee on Agriculture; the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; and the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

The inaugural members of the Tribal Advisory Committee represent all corners of Indian Country. They follow:

Appointed by Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pennsylvania), Chairman, House Committee on Agriculture:
Trenton Kissee, Director of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Muscogee (Creek) Nation (Eastern Oklahoma Region)
David Pourier, Tribal Council, Oglala Sioux Tribe (Great Plains Region)

Appointed by Rep. David Scott (D-Georgia), Ranking Member, House Committee on Agriculture:
Charles “Monty” Roessel, President, Dine College (Navajo Region)
Kelsey Scott, Chief Operating Officer, Intertribal Agriculture Council (Great Plains Region)

Appointed by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan), Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry:
Whitney Gravelle, President, Bay Mills Indian Community (Midwest Region)

Appointed by Sen. John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry:
Whitney Sawney, Director of Communications and Policy, Native American Agriculture Fund (Eastern Region)

Appointed by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Chairman, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs:
Glenn Teves, County Extension, University of Hawai’i (Hawai’i Region)

Appointed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs:
Karen Linnell, Executive Director, Ahtna Intertribal Resource Commission (Alaska Region)

Appointed by Secretary Vilsack, U.S. Department of Agriculture:
Meagen Baldy, Food Safety Specialist, Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative (Pacific Region)
William “Billy” Barquin, Attorney General, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho (Pacific Northwest Region)
Benjamin “Ben” Jacobs, Co-founder/President, Tocabe Restaurant and Indigenous Foods Marketplace (Southwest Region)

The Tribal Advisory Committee is required to meet at least two times a year. The USDA expects it will be meeting every quarter.

Federal Register Notice
Intent To Establish the Tribal Advisory Committee and Solicitation of Nominations for Membership to the Committee (June 28, 2023)