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IACmemberconference Amanda Radke
Youth members pose for a photo at the 30th Annual Intertribal Agriculture Council Member Meeting held in Las Vegas in conjunction with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Could production ag solve our nation’s social issues?

How Native American food producers are working to solve economic, social & health issues in their rural communities.

Last week, I had the distinct privilege of speaking in Las Vegas at the 30th Annual Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) Member Meeting and the 3rd Annual IAC Indian Ag Youth Alliance Conference. It was great to be in Las Vegas with my family during the one time of the year that Sin City turns into a cowboy town!

I had never heard of the IAC until I had a chance meeting with the organization’s executive director, Ross Racine, at a cattlemen’s meeting I spoke at earlier this year. After listening to my speech, he wanted me to come share my message with the IAC youth members. It was an honor to share my agricultural story, offer tips as a millennial rancher and talk about ways we can effectively advocate for our industry to our consumers.

Visiting with Racine, I learned that IAC works to provide a unified effort to promote change in Indian agriculture to benefit the Native American people. This is achieved through promotion of land conservation and the development of agricultural resources.

The meetings, held together in conjunction with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, focused on sustainably raising food for rural communities and empowering youth leaders to pursue careers in agriculture.

It seems like the entire nation is tuned in to Indian relations these days. With heated protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the media has been reporting on the status of the protest, particularly as bitter winter weather has now swept across North Dakota.

It’s great to see a spotlight on my Native American friends and the issues they face in rural America. However, I find it sad that before the #NODAPL movement, there was no media coverage and very little awareness about the many other issues going on in Indian country. Issues such as alcohol and drug abuse, depression and suicide, diabetes, heart disease, low high school graduation rates and teen pregnancies, just to name a few.

The IAC believes healthy food, grown and produced by Native Americans themselves, could be the solution to many of these worrisome issues.

“If we can solve the food issues in Indian country, we will also solve our health and social issues,” Rocine says.

It seems like such a simple and obvious solution that so many of us take for granted, but the truth is where food is abundant, nutritious, safe and affordable, people are happy, healthy and secure. In addition, production agriculture provides enriching careers that give us self-worth and a feeling of accomplishment each day. I love IAC’s mission to produce more food, and it was inspiring to listen to the dreams and goals of the youth IAC members and learn about their plans to pursue careers in food production.

I think there’s a great opportunity here for Native Americans to use this media attention centered on the Dakota Access Pipeline to shine light on other issues they face and to also promote the agricultural products that come from Indian country.

There’s certainly many sides to the pipeline discussion, and I hate to see the violence that has hurt area ranchers as a result, but I’m definitely in favor of turning this into a positive thing — one that could enhance the goals and mission of groups like the IAC to create self-sustaining communities with ample job opportunities in production agriculture in the heart of the reservations.

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of or Penton Agriculture.


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