Yesterday, the White House Rural Council hosted a Native American Food and Agriculture Roundtable Discussion, bringing together tribal leaders and experts on Native American agricultural economic development with Administration officials from the White House Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, Council on Environmental Quality, and federal agency partners including the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Commerce, Treasury, and the Small Business Administration.
The White House Rural Council was established by an Executive Order of President Obama in June 2011. The Rural Council, chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, is dedicated to creating jobs and fostering economic development in Rural America. This is an all hands on deck approach - to accomplish this goal of growing the rural economy, the President appointed 14 Cabinet Members to the Council. In August 2011, the Council hosted the White House Native American Business Leaders Roundtable, which provided officials an opportunity to hear from Native American business leaders and policy experts about ways we can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs in tribal communities.
The Native American Agriculture and Food Roundtable served as a forum for leaders and experts to contribute ideas for fostering community and agricultural economic development with a particular focus on Leasing, Technical Assistance, Strategic Business Planning and Access to Capital, Credit and other Financial Resources. These topics were chosen because of their importance for agricultural economic growth in Rural America and Indian Country. The White House Rural Council convened this roundtable to gather information and ideas to help us identify administrative barriers and explore opportunities to foster food and agricultural opportunities in Indian Country.
The Rural Council has recently announced three new ways to leverage existing programs and funding to drive economic growth in rural communities, including tribal communities. President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the federal government to dramatically increase the purchase of biobased products over the next two years, which will create jobs and drive innovation where biobased products are grown and manufactured. The Council is also launching a “Rural Jobs Accelerator,” providing about $15 million for projects that promote innovation-fueled regional job creation. Finally, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor signed a memorandum of understanding to connect community colleges and technical colleges – including tribal colleges – that support rural communities with the materials and resources they need to support the training of Heath Information Technology (HIT) professionals that work in rural hospitals and clinics.
President Obama understands that a strong American economy is tied to a healthy, vibrant rural economy. The actions we are taking will bring new economic investments to our rural communities, and ensure the people who live in these towns, communities, and reservations have a better, brighter future. Yesterday’s roundtable discussion will allow the Administration to utilize the input we received to spur greater interagency collaboration, establish better government-to-government relationships in the field of agriculture and food production, and create new initiatives for agricultural economic growth in Indian Country.
Kimberly Teehee is Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs, White House Domestic Policy Council