Cherokee Nation Develops Financial Program to Help Drought-Stricken Farmers

The Cherokee Nation Reservation is offering a new program to provide financial help to tribal farmers and ranchers seeking relief from a historic drought.

The million-dollar Relief for Cherokee Ranchers program will serve up to 2,000 ranchers – one per Cherokee household – with a one-time payment of $500 to mitigate the cost of buying and hauling hay. Many tribal ranchers have been forced to sell off their herds to survive since there’s little to no grass for livestock.

The Respond, Recover and Rebuild Plan (RRR) funds the new program under the federal American Recovery Plan Act.

“When the Council reviewed and approved the first ARPA budget in May 2020 by a vote of 16-1, little did we know that it would set the stage for stepping up for our farmers and ranchers today in their time of need,” said Rex Jordan, Cherokee Councilman.

Working herds and earning a living off the land is deeply engrained in Cherokee culture. As pastures in northeastern Oklahoma are scorched, it is a sad reality to observe the damage firsthand and hear stories about how the drought is impacting Cherokee families.

The Cherokee Nation has expanded its collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to amplify their programs and resources for Native agriculture producers. Recently, the Cherokee Nation hosted a one-day information session with the USDA to explain federal programs that can help with home loans, business supports, water infrastructure and drought relief for ranchers and small-business owners. The USDA is a powerful agency that can bring a great deal of funding to help both Cherokee and non-Cherokee farmers in this region.

The Cherokee Nation is focused on strengthening its agriculture industry and providing avenues for its tribal citizens to succeed in farming. Food sovereignty became an issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. It emphasized the importance of universal food access, health and well-being of the Cherokee people.

There are approximately 80,000 American Indian agricultural producers in the United States. Native agriculture producers have disproportionately experienced negative impacts related to the pandemic, including rising costs, difficulty exporting goods and fewer financial resources to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic.

Funding is provided on a first-come, first-served basis. Once the allocated budget is expended, the program will end. Candidates must live within the Cherokee Nation Reservation and currently be impacted by the hay shortage.

Applications for assistance under this program begins on Monday, August 8. Apply at   Applicants will be asked for supporting documentation to be reviewed for eligibility.

Since 2020, the Cherokee Nation administration and the Council of the Cherokee Nation have worked collaboratively to provide more than $750 million in direct financial assistance to Cherokee citizens.