S.D. tribal business to get $300K matching grant

Farm Forum

LOWER BRULE, S.D. (AP) – A South Dakota tribe will receive $300,000 in federal money to promote the sales of its popcorn as part of an attempt to boost the reservation’s economy.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told The Argus Leader that the money will go to a corporation of the Lower Brule Tribe to help overcome disadvantages its farm enterprise faces in the marketplace.

”This is consistent with our efforts to focus on areas of high and persistent poverty. Our hope is this farm corporation will create a few jobs and a market that didn’t exist before and isn’t as robust as it could be,” Vilsack said in a phone interview on April 30 from Washington, D.C.

The money is part of a matching grant. The tribe will put up $310,000 of its own cash to commit a total of $610,000 toward marketing its Lakota Foods popcorn. The grant is one of 110 awards totaling $16.9 million the USDA is issuing as part of its annual value-added producer grant program.

Popcorn makes up about 15 percent of the harvest from a series of Lower Brule farms on tribal land. The tribe packages the popcorn at a plant in Lower Brule, and annual yield is about 13 million pounds.

Lower Brule tribal chairman Michael Jandreau said the growth is encouraging, but the tribe is a relatively inexperienced business trying to establish its brand on equal footing with competitors.

”It’s been a struggle and continues to be a struggle,” Jandreau said. ”You have years and years of marketing on the part of most of them. If you don’t have that skill built in, it’s an uphill climb. We have a wonderful product. Hopefully, these dollars will help us move the process along.”