Farm Bill funding for Indigenous food producers needs a boost

The daughter of a South Dakota rancher, Skye Ducheneau spent her childhood running the family business on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. She left that lifestyle behind, living between Spearfish and Rapid City while she blacked out.

In 2019, Ducheneaux founded Aciptan, a Qualified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) based in Eagle Butte, South Dakota. The CDFI is designed to meet the broad financial needs of historically underserved communities, but like Akiptan, provides much-needed financial and technical support to food producers. Some provide and play a pivotal role in the agricultural sector.

Although there are over 1,400 CDFIs in the United States, Aquiptan is one of only 65 CDFIs focused on serving Native Americans. Over the past three years he has distributed over $16 million in capital through approximately 240 loans in 24 countries. These include Morning Light Kombucha, a Kansas company focused on sustainable practices, and Sakari Farms, a business that specializes in growing fast food. We’re expanding production of research-based tribal seeds in Oregon, but we’re just getting started.

Akiptan’s 2022 market survey determined that nearly three-quarters of the farmers they spoke to needed additional capital to purchase new equipment and infrastructure, but most farmers CDFI loans, which accounted for only 9% of the total capital they raised, were unavailable.

The Native CDFI Network found that 86% of Indigenous communities lack a single financial institution to access loans and capital within their borders. One of his 2023 policy priorities for the network focuses on increasing the flow of capital and subsidies to farmers and ranchers through the Farm Bill. The hope is to create a CDFI pilot program.

The 2022 Gaining Ground Report, prepared by the Native Farm Bill Coalition (NFBC), states that the Indigenous CDFI will be able to “increase agricultural lending and provide key lines of credit to improve the food economy of Indigenous peoples” It also advocates “flexibility”. And please support rural America. ”

Akiptan was one of three lenders appointed last August as part of the Agricultural Services Authority’s Heirs’ Property Relending Program. Approved as a provision of the 2018 Farm Bill, the program aims to address deep-seated agricultural inequalities by targeting conditions on divided land between black and indigenous farmers. .

Agricultural Service Authority administrator Zach Ducheneaux, a registered member of the Cheyenne River Sioux and a relative of Skya, who helped create Akiptan, told Civil Eats: It’s structured like an investment, actually putting money out there to make it work. ”

Skya Ducheneaux recently spoke to Civil Eats about Aquiptan, her hopes for the 2023 Farm Bill, and the importance of funding Native American food producers.

Did your childhood on a ranch get you into farming?

My dad used to run a ranch with my dad who ran a ranch with my dad. Everyone in my family was expected to help. I am a girl but my father raised me to be able to do the same as all the men in my life. From sunrise to sunset, from before school to after school, I was with him all day. Hard; ranching is hard work.

Skya Ducheneaux, founder of Akiptan.  (Photo courtesy of Akiputan)

Skye Ducheneau. (Photo courtesy of Akiputan)

I used to chase cows, pull calves and fix tractors. And when I turned 18, I never wanted to work hard again. I said It takes me out of the ranch and the hayfield. ” I went to college and started to miss farming. I missed my job, but my good-natured, honest people.

After graduating, I wanted to go home, but until a few years ago I couldn’t go far, so it’s funny. The Intertribal Farming Council learned of the fact that I was going home and offered me the position to start this CDFI of his.

I didn’t know what CDFI was, so there was a huge learning curve, but I never looked back. And I’m a sunny cowgirl these days.

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