Last week, the Blackfeet ARMP team jumped straight into our community outreach partnership with the Blackfeet Stock Growers Association, and highlighted the COVID-19 Outreach Associates program. This initiative utilized rapid relief funding made available through the Native American Agriculture Fund, to mobilize a team locally through the Piikani Lodge Health Institute to assist farmers and ranchers in applying for COVID-19 grants and programs. That initiative is still in progress, and if you are a local farmer or rancher, and would like to schedule a call with an Outreach Associate to access relief funds, please contact Thedra Birdrattler at 450-8558 or email thedrabr@blackfeetnation.com.

This week, the Blackfeet ARMP team wanted to take the time to provide a bit of a background on who we are and the story behind how we came to be. The Blackfeet Nation’s Agriculture Resource Management Plan (ARMP) was first envisioned by members of the Blackfeet Natural Resources Conservation District (BNRCD). Members of the BNRCD wanted to make our lands more productive, address challenges associated with production agriculture on Indian Trust Lands, and increase market-ability and profitability for local producers, farmers, ranchers and potential growers. 

To make their vision a reality, the BNRCD secured funding from the United States Department of the Interior – Bureau of Indian Affairs and, in June of 2016, hired a project manager, Loren Birdrattler. Shortly after being hired, he assembled the ARMP Interdisciplinary Team. This includes cattle and other livestock producers (many of whom are members of the Blackfeet Nation Stock Growers Association); farmers of both dry and irrigated land within each of the five watersheds; Tribal natural resource managers including the directors of Land, Environment, Water Resources, Fish and Wildlife; the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, as well as representatives from Blackfeet Community College and the conservation community. This team gives guidance on program development and goals of the ARMP.

Then, the ARMP core team met with the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council (BTBC)  for input on the role the Blackfeet Tribal government wanted to pursue. The BTBC overwhelmingly supported opportunities to invest in private agricultural production instead of placing the Tribe in competition with private producers and to explore ways the Tribe could incentivize commercial agricultural production and reintroduction of traditional foods, to begin to narrow health disparities among Blackfeet People. In this way, the Tribe could address food insecurity and the need to grow healthy foods here in Blackfeet Country by getting locally sourced foods into our grocery stores, restaurants, schools, senior centers and the USDA commodities program.

The Council also wanted to invest in programs that are working to lower the median age of Blackfeet farmers, ranchers, and growers while creating new programs that will instill institutional and practical knowledge in our younger people, thereby sustaining a Blackfeet agricultural way of life. Thus, the Blackfeet Tribe’s triple bottom line was born. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, along with the Blackfeet Natural Resources Conservation District, agreed that the Plan and the work associated with the development of the Plan must include these three primary correlations: sustainable agricultural production, the narrowing of health disparities through the production of healthy, locally sourced foods, and investing in our youth. 

We hope this helps tell the story of how the ARMP was formed, and what our central goals are. Next week we will discuss more of what is currently being worked on, and highlight some members of our team. 

Montana FSA Dates and Deadlines:

Aug. 1: Last day to submit Nominations for 2020 FSA County Committee Elections to FSA (or postmarked)

Aug. 3: Deadline to request a farm reconstitution or farm transfer for 2020.

Aug. 3: Last day to submit Nominations for 2020 FSA County Committee Elections to FSA (or postmarked)

Aug. 15: 2020 Acreage Reporting Deadline for Hemp

Aug. 21: Last day of CRP Soil Health and Income Protection Program (SHIPP) Pilot Sign-up Period

Aug. 28: Last day of Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Signup

Aug. 31: Last day of 2020 CRP Summer/Fall Non-Emergency Harvesting Period (prior approval required)

Aug. 31: All Hay Bales Must be Removed from Non-Emergency Conservation Reserve Program Acreage.

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