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NEWS RELEASE

USDA, Navajo Nation Convene First-ever Department-wide Site Visit in Arizona

Assistant Secretary Gallegos Leads USDA Delegation to Window Rock, Ariz., Consultation, Announces $441,500 in New Funding to Benefit Navajo Nation

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz., Sept. 23, 2002-The U.S. Department of Agriculture began the first Department-wide site visit and consultation with the Navajo Nation here today. Customer service to the Navajo Nation, Farm Bill implementation, homeland security, new technology, rural development, education and training and marketing issues top the agenda.

"USDA is committed to ensuring that our programs are available to everyone who needs them," Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said. "This consultation and site visit is an opportunity to present these available programs so that the Navajo Nation can fully benefit from them."

Assistant Secretary for Administration, Lou Gallegos headed the USDA delegation that included senior officials from each USDA mission area.

"This site visit is a milestone as it is the first time all areas of USDA have formally consulted with a Native American tribe," Gallegos said. "We have come here to discuss the key issues confronting the Navajo Nation, share USDA program information and to listen and act on the needs of the Navajo Nation."

USDA offers a wide variety of programs and opportunities to the Navajo Nation and to many other American Indian tribes. These include operating loans, crop disaster insurance, soil analyses, electrification projects, youth development and diet and nutrition education.

Gallegos announced today a $230,000 grant to Developing Innovations in Navajo Education, Inc., Flagstaff, Ariz., from USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service to establish a Center to address community food security by increasing the availability of locally grown foods, promoting traditional Navajo diets and farming practices and providing online agricultural and nutrition education. This grant is awarded as part of the Department's Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program.

In addition, Gallegos announced a USDA Rural Development grant of $157,500 for the Four Corners Enterprise Community in Monument Valley, Ariz. These funds will provide arts and crafts vending areas for 25 to 45 Navajo vendors. The planned overall project will be a new $4 million Monument Valley Welcome Center which will house the arts and crafts vending mall.

Gallegos announced a third major grant from USDA's Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program of $54,011 to assist the Tohatchi Area of Opportunity and Services Inc. in McKinley, NM, to buy and lease computer and imaging equipment.

Recent USDA assistance to the Navajo Nation includes:

$46,343 Forest Service grant to develop a Fire Protection Plan and Economic Action Plan to include four principal communities and eight communities located on the border of the Navajo Nation Forest;

$28,000 grant from the Forest Service's National Fire Plan Community Assistance funds to finance a land use plan involving land uses for economic action projects in the Cameron/Little Colorado River Gorge area;

$10,000 grant through the Forest Service's Rural Community Assistance Program in planning a senior citizen center and a natural garden at the Leupp Chapter House, Coconino County, Ariz.;

$2.2 million Community Facilities Grant to the Crownpoi07/25/2007will be used to house the Navajo Nation social agencies. Another $25,000 grant went toward Crownpoint's veterinary program.

USDA began a major recruitment effort on the Navajo Nation last year led by Forest Service employee, Julia Yazzie, a Navajo tribal member. The group made more than 20 trips to reservations to recruit American Indian employees for work in the Forest Service. More than 160 American Indians were hired for fire positions.

Building on that success USDA has organized, running concurrently with the site visit, career fairs at four different sites where USDA personnel specialists will be on hand to help recruit individuals for all USDA positions around the country. The first two career fairs will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today at Diné College, Shiprock, NM and Crownpoint Institute of Technology, Crownpoint, NM. Career fairs will run tomorrow from 9 a.m. to noon at Diné College, Tsaile, Ariz. and at the Sports Center, Window Rock, Ariz.