U.S. Senator Tina Smith Reintroduces Bipartisan Legislation to Promote Tribal Self-Governance for Federal Food Assistance Program

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to give Tribes in Minnesota and across the country more control over how a key federal hunger program is administered in their communities.

The SNAP Tribal Food Sovereignty Act would give Tribal governments a more active role in the administration of the USDA’s vital Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as SNAP). The bill would help make sure SNAP is administered in a culturally-appropriate way that promotes the health and economic well-being of Tribal communities. Federal programs to combat hunger like SNAP are important to Tribal communities—approximately 25 percent of Native Americans receive some type of federal food assistance, and in some Tribal communities, participation is as high as 80 percent.

“Tribal governments understand what works best in their communities and should have more say over how SNAP is administered,” said Senator Smith. “The SNAP Tribal Food Sovereignty Act is about promoting Tribal sovereignty and helping Tribes fight hunger in a way that works best for them.”

Self-governance authority allow Tribal governments to administer federal programs within their own communities—it is widely regarded as one of the most effective federal policies for Tribes.  Self-governance policies make federal dollars work better to address the unique needs of Tribal communities. In 2018, the Farm Bill included the first ever self-governance expansion to USDA, with a pilot program within the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations that gave Tribes authority to procure the foods for distribution, including foods from within their own Tribes and communities. Expanding self-governance at USDA will allow Tribes to build food systems to address food insecurity, increase access to Indigenous foods, and support strong Tribal economies.

Self-governance for SNAP has been a top priority for the Native Farm Bill Coalition and other leaders in Indian Country. Sen. Smith is pushing for the inclusion of the SNAP Tribal Food Sovereignty Act in the Farm Bill.