November marks Native American Heritage Month. It’s an opportunity to reflect and learn about the history, culture, traditions, and ways of American Indian communities.

RMA is dedicated to ensuring Tribes have access to our risk management programs. This week we announced an investment of nearly $1.9 million to partner with the Intertribal Agricultural Council (IAC) to train, credential, and establish a pipeline of crop insurance agents within underserved agricultural communities. I’m incredibly proud of the efforts of the Risk Management Education Division to make this pilot a reality.

Throughout our agency many people are fostering stronger relationships with farmers and ranchers in Indian Country. One leader at our Billings Regional Office has done phenomenal work to help our agency make inroads to better support Tribes.

Jeremy Not Afraid is a member of the Crow Nation in Montana. He lives on a ranch within the Crow Reservation with his wife. They have two adult children and three grandchildren. After attending school on the reservation, he graduated from Montana State University with a B.S. degree in Economics. Jeremy began his USDA career working for the Natural Resources Conservation Service while still in school. He has been with RMA since 2015 and has been a USDA employee for nearly 29 years!

I had a chance to talk to him recently and wanted to hear his thoughts on the observance month and how RMA is serving Tribal communities.

Marcia: Can you tell us a little about your duties at the Billings Regional Office?
Jeremy: I work as a Senior Risk Management Specialist in the Billings Regional Office. If I had to sum up my duties within the RO, I would have to say that I am a Team Leader when it comes to certain tasks our office performs as well as a secondary reviewer for our RO. To be a proficient leader, I believe that the team lead needs to get their hands dirty along with the other team members. I try to do with that with the various projects that we work on throughout the year.

Senior Risk Management Specialist, Jeremy Not Afraid,
with one of his granddaughters at a cultural event

Marcia: It sounds like you are involved with quite a lot!
Jeremy: One thing I like about working at RMA is the diverse tasks that we work on within the Regional Offices. There are a lot of moving parts to the work that we do to provide the producers with a viable safety net that crop insurance provides. Whether it’s using ArcGIS to make sure that our Actuarial Maps are correct or reviewing policy data to update our Actuarial Documents.

Marcia: What does Native American Heritage Month mean to you?
Jeremy: Native American Heritage Month serves a variety of purposes. First, to provide the knowledge that we as Native people have made contributions to this country and that our tribal nations still exist. Secondly, I think Native American Heritage Month provides the Native youth with the idea that it’s OK to be Native and to be proud of your heritage and culture. Native American Heritage Month provides an opportunity to our employees to recognize the contributions that Native Americans have as provided not only to the U.S. as a whole but also to agriculture. Many of the foods we enjoy today originated from North America. The pumpkins we carved this past week, originated from Native people and was shared with the world along corn, beans, squash, and many others.

Marcia: Would you mind sharing a little bit about your heritage?
Jeremy: I am an enrolled member of the Crow (Apsaalooke) Nation, I grew up and still live on the Crow Reservation today on land allotments that my grandfather received over 100 years ago. My great-great grandfather’s name was Not Afraid. Not Afraid was born sometime in the 1850’s, in what today is Southern Montana. He lived the old ways in his early years before the reservations were created. His children were the first generation to be born and live on the reservation. Not Afraid lived to be around a hundred years old and it’s hard to comprehend the changes he seen in his lifetime. Not Afraid’s eldest son Joseph Not Afraid (my great grandfather) embraced agriculture, especially cattle ranching. I am carrying on that legacy to my children and grandchildren, along with the tribal traditions and culture that our family practices today.

Marcia: What are some things you feel RMA is doing to better to meet the needs of Tribal communities?
Jeremy: RMA does recognize that working with Tribes is a priority. This past summer some of our employees attended a “Working Effectively with American Indians” workshop that was provided by USDA. One session that was covered, directly dealt with providing our services to Tribes. I think this is important since every RMA Regional Office has a Federally Recognized Tribe within their respective Regions.

Marcia: What are some things that are of particular concern to Tribal communities where crop insurance is concerned?
Jeremy: PRF can be a controversial issue/policy for the western, large land-based Tribes. This issue is very complex due to the ownership and leasing scenarios for each reservation. Since PRF is still considered a “Pilot” policy, RMA is trying to find ways to keep this policy equitable to all of the Tribal producers.

Marcia: Yourself and the Billings office have done good work and outreach with Tribes.
Jeremy: When I came to RMA, one goal I had was help educate the Tribal producers on what RMA had to offer their operations. To be honest before I came to RMA, I had little knowledge of what RMA did and how important Crop Insurance was to farmers and ranchers. You have to remember, this is coming from a person who worked for USDA for 22 years prior to coming to RMA. Whether I am presenting to producers from a single reservation or to a regional group of Native producers, I try to put myself into their boots as a producer and help them understand the crop/livestock polices that are available to them thru RMA. We have a hard-working team here in Billings. Our office consists of people with strong Ag backgrounds, to folks with analytical strengths. This type of knowledge and experiences work well within our office. All of the Regional Offices cover a huge area, so it takes a true team to provide our services to the regions that we serve.

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It was nice hearing Jeremy’s thoughts on his team and how well they work together. I want to thank Jeremy for talking to me and for being a leader within RMA and USDA.

-Marcia

Marcia Bunger

Marcia Bunger is the Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). Prior to her appointment, she served as a County Executive Director for USDA’s Farm Service Agency. A native South Dakotan, Bunger is also the owner and operator of a 2000-acre farm, a cum laude graduate of Augustana College, and the first member of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and first woman to serve as RMA Administrator.