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Food, housing, utilities top topics at USDA collaborative meetings with Alaska tribes

Posted: October 26, 2011 - 12:01am

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency has announced a series of meetings to improve collaborative work between federal agencies and Alaska Native tribes.

In response to a request from President Barack Obama to “engage in regular and meaningful consultation and collaboration with tribal officials” a wide range of federal agencies will participate in a series of collaborative meetings with tribes around the state, according to a USDA release.

Alaska has 229 federally recognized tribes, nearly all of which are associated with rural villages. The USDA plans to have more than a dozen face-to-face meetings with tribal governments over the course of about a year.

“Collaboration with 229 tribes in their local areas is a large undertaking, but we feel this is the best way to understand the needs of Native communities and to seek their advice,” said USDA-Rural Development Alaska State Director Jim Nordlund.

Federal agencies and tribes will discuss collaboration efforts around food production, availability and nutrition.

“Food security is a big issue in our rural areas,” USDA Farm Service Agency Executive State Director Danny Consenstein said. “Not only are fish and game important, but growing more local produce can create jobs, healthier food and more self-sufficient communities,” he said.

The meetings will also cover rural housing, land management, rural economic and community development and rural utilities — electric, telecommunications, solid waste, sewer and water.

The USDA plans to involve the federal agencies Rural Development, Farm Service Agency, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Forest Service and Food and Nutrition Service. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, Small Business Administration, Economic Development Administration, Department of Energy and the Denali Commission also plan to be represented.

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