PRIOR LAKE, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Native American leaders are part of an initiative to bring more farm bill funding to Indian Country.

More than 30 tribes across the country have formed the Native Farm Bill Coalition, Minnesota Public Radio reported . Minnesota's Shakopee Mdewakanon Sioux Community is leading the effort. The National Congress of American Indians, the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative and the Intertribal Agriculture Council have partnered with the coalition.

"Indian tribes have been either ignored or overlooked or been the victim of policy changes since we can remember, that's just a fact of life," said Keith Anderson, vice chair of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

The lobbying effort is an outgrowth of programs to improve health and expand access to health food for Native Americans. The coalition illustrates a long term commitment to giving Indian tribes a louder voice, Anderson said.

"The effort of the Native Farm Bill Coalition represents the very first time such a concerted effort has been made on behalf of all of Indian Country and only Indian Country," said Zach Ducheneaux, of the Intertribal Agriculture Council.

The farm bill could help tribes strengthen their agriculture economy by funding projects that add value to livestock or crops produced by Indian farmers and ranchers, Ducheneaux said.

"There's really no part of a reservation community that the farm bill will not impact. Everything from the electricity to the water that you use, the food on the grocery store shelves, the buildings that you're going to house your community activities in," said Ducheneaux. "It's absolutely critical that Indian Country realize how big of a player this could be in their game."

The United States Department of Agriculture says more than 56,000 Native Americans operate farms and ranches across the U.S.

The new bill is expected to provide nearly $500 billion in funding over the next five years.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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