A Nebraska resident is among the appointments by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the Council for Native American Farming and Ranching, a committee created to settle a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture.
Lance Morgan, CEO of Ho-Chunk, Inc. with the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, Winnebago, NE is one of the 11 Native Americans appointed to the committee, which also includes four USDA officials.
The council advises the Secretary of Agriculture on ways to eliminate barriers preventing Indians from operating farms and ranches. It grew from the settlement of Keepseagle v. Vilsack, a lawsuit that alleged the USDA discriminated against Native American farmers and ranchers in the way it operated the farm loan program. The Obama Administration reached an agreement to settle the lawsuit in 2010, a settlement the courts approved.
“The Council for Native American Farming and Ranching will help Native governments, businesses, farmers and ranchers and tribal governments partner with USDA to create jobs, drive economic growth and strengthen tribal communities,” Vilsack said in a written statement issued by the USDA.
The council’s primary responsibility is to advise the USDA on how to change Farm Service Agency regulations and make other changes to increase participation among the various Indian tribes in various USDA programs. It also is intended to help improve the relationship the USDA has with tribal governments. The council is a discretionary advisory committee.
The first meeting of the council is scheduled for this summer. It will work directly with the Office of Tribal Relations, the FSA and other USDA agencies to improve access to governmental programs for Native American farmers and help them be profitable. Creation of the council is part of the USDA effort to settle civil rights complaints filed against the USDA.