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Intertribal Agriculture Council

Membership: 84 tribes, more than 80,000 farmers and ranchers

Organization Focus: Promoting positive change in Indian agriculture for the benefit of Indian people

Founded in: 1987

Program Focus: Recognizing and encouraging Indian youth in agriculture

Watch a YouTube video produced by youth in Indian Agriculture:“It’s All about That Ag”

On reservations across the U.S., more than 80,000 Indian, or Native American, farmers and ranchers produce $3.4 billion of livestock and crops each year. Until relatively recently, these agricultural producers did not have access to programs and support from the USDA, a roadblock removed in the 1990 Farm Bill with the help and efforts of the Intertribal Agriculture Council.

This national organization was formed at the behest of Congress to bring about positive change in Indian agriculture, a significant part of which was addressing the legal and political barriers to Indian participation in federal agricultural programs that had existed since the 1930s.

Eleven years ago, the Intertribal Agriculture Council started a youth essay contest to energize Indian youth, gain the youth perspectives about what agriculture means to them, and what could and should be done in Indian country to foster the continued growth of Indian agriculture. The contest, sponsored by Farm Credit’s national contributions program, invites high school students to submit essays on an annual theme, with this year’s being “Feeding the Future and Filling the Age Gap in Indian Agriculture.”

It is of the utmost importance that the next generation perseveres and protects agriculture on our reservations and in our native communities.
Intertribal Agriculture Council

Three winners are selected and rewarded with several prizes including a chaperoned trip to the annual membership meeting. At the meeting, the student winners have the opportunity to read their essays to the 600 attendees, as well as gain a national view of what’s happening in Indian agriculture, attend the Youth Enclave introduced just last year, learn about USDA programs, services and opportunities, and learn about agricultural issues like risk management, goal setting and technology.

"I think that there is a lot of discussion about keeping youth involved in agriculture, but I truly believe that IAC is one of the few organizations that put their money where their mouth is, and our collaboration with Farm Credit enables us to do it,” says Ross Racine, Executive Director of the organization.

The insights shared by the essay contest winners reflect a deep recognition of the challenges facing Indian agriculture and creative ideas about how to remedy them. Winner Lena E. Sanchez’s essay is representative:

The challenges of the current economy play a role in discouraging tribal youth to pursue careers in the agriculture industry, especially on their own reservations. It is of the utmost importance that the next generation perseveres and protects agriculture on our reservations and in our native communities. Tribes might be able to encourage more young men and women to pursue a career in the field of agriculture on reservations by assisting young entrepreneurs wanting to go into farming or ranching. Filling the age gap in Indian Agriculture isn’t going to be easy. Nonetheless, we have to start somewhere. We must start with the youth. I believe educating the youth should be a community affair. We need to tap into the older generations’ wisdom before it’s too late.”