U.S. Senator Tina Smith, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan Celebrate First-Ever Trade Mission Focused on Indigenous Products

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Today, U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan (DFL) announced the first-ever trade mission by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) focused solely on Indigenous products. Lieutenant Governor Flanagan will join Red Lake, Inc. in representing Native producers from Minnesota on this historic trade mission to Canada from June 17-20 alongside 15 Tribal agribusinesses and 13 Native agricultural leaders from across the country.

“This is a historic opportunity for Native farmers and producers and Tribal businesses to access a new market for their goods.  Native farmers and producers face unique and challenging barriers, and this market access will make a huge difference,” said Senator Smith. “I pushed hard to get Tribes and Native communities represented on these trade missions. I’m delighted to see such a historic trip finally come to fruition, and it will be a great benefit to not just Red Lake Nation, but the rest of Indian Country as well.”

“Native farmers and producers feed our families and the world,” said Lieutenant Governor Flanagan. “I am proud to lift up Native agriculture as a standard part of our Minnesota trade missions. I am looking forward to connecting with more Native farmers and producers and showcasing the products that Minnesota has to offer to our global partners. Indian Country has always led in agribusiness and innovation, and I am grateful for Senator Smith’s partnership and work to ensure my community is at the table for these important opportunities and conversations.”

“Red Lake, Inc. is honored and beyond excited to participate in the first ever Indigenous focused trade mission. Acknowledging the unique barriers that tribal producers face while recognizing the important role that market access in meaningful economic development for Indigenous communities is a monumental step for Indian Country,” said Jake Robinson, Chief Development Officer for Red Lake, Inc. “The opportunity to showcase our products and develop meaningful business relationships in Canada is made possible by the advocacy and dedication from elected officials like Senator Smith and Lt. Gov. Flanagan.” 

Senator Smith, a member of both the Senate Agriculture and Senate Indian Affairs Committees, pushed for the inclusion of a provision in the 2018 Farm Bill that directed USDA to include Tribal Nations in trade delegations. That provision was passed by Congress and signed into law.  In 2023, Red Lake Inc. became the first Tribal agribusiness to participate in a trade mission and has since joined missions to the Netherlands, Japan, Chile, and India.

Indigenous products represent the deep cultural traditions of Native peoples, and Canada holds great potential for Native producers. Canada is one of the United States’ most reliable trading partners and consistently ranks among the top markets for agricultural exports, with over $28.2 billion in exports in 2023 alone. According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, American Indian/Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian agricultural production contributes $8 billion each year to the U.S. food economy. Members of the delegation will also take part in high-level policy discussions on barriers for Indigenous producers in the United States and Canada.