President-elect Jonathan Nez: ‘Farm Bill empowers the Navajo Nation’

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On Dec. 15, Navajo Nation President-elect Jonathan Nez said he is pleased with the recent approval of the Farm Bill reauthorization that offer new opportunities for local food economies and expand the Navajo Nation’s food sovereignty.

“Health and wellness has always been a core value as vice Ppresident and also on the campaign trail,” Nez said. “By providing new opportunities for local food economies, the Farm Bill reauthorization will help our local Navajo farmers and hopefully we see an increase in the number of farmer’s markets in our local communities so our farmers can earn revenue while providing healthier food options for our people.”

The Farm Bill reauthorization will provide $867 billion and set federal nutrition, forestry, and agriculture policy for the next five years if signed into law. The Senate approved the bill Dec. 11, and by the House Dec. 12.

“If our local farmers are able to benefit from this bill and expand their sales of fruits and vegetables then this also helps the grandmas and grandpas out there because they won’t have to travel to Gallup, Farmington, or other border towns to purchase those products — they’ll be available near home,” Nez said.

He also thanked U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) for supporting the bill and for working to ensure that tribal provisions were included within the final version of the Senate bill.

“Honorable Udall and Honorable Heinrich have been champions for Indian Country in many areas of policy and they continue to be friends of the Navajo people,” Nez said.

He said he greatly appreciates and supports Udall’s work on the bill to ensure that it included a tribal self-determination provision that allows tribes to conduct projects related to the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations Food Procurement that allow tribal food programs to better serve participants with greater access to traditional and nutritional foods.

Another important component of the Farm Bill reauthorization is the permanent establishment of a tribal advisory committee within the USDA, which will greatly benefit the Navajo Nation, according to Nez.

“When we have a voice at the table, it makes our Nation that much stronger and influential when it comes to developing federal policy that impacts our communities,” Nez said.

In 2016, the Navajo Nation set aside approximately $15 million from the Permanent Trust Fund income for farming and agricultural projects in Many Farms, Tsaile/Wheatfields, and Shiprock. With the Farm Bill, Nez said he is hopeful that it will help supplement these projects.

“We can have Diné bich’iiya’ (Navajo foods) offered and sold in our stores, health care facilities, schools, senior centers, and other places on the Navajo Nation,” Nez said. “The Farm Bill reauthorization further empowers our people to do that.”

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