RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) –The U-S Department of Agriculture is taking steps to incorporate local bison meat into tribal feeding programs.

The USDA wants to make sure people in indigenous communities have access to foods that are important to them, while also supporting local producers. 

“We’re working on purchasing bison and being able to make sure that bison and to make sure that bison actually gets into the communities here in South Dakota,” USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Jenny Lester Moffitt said.

This pilot project is all about South Dakotans feeding South Dakotans, and with equipment like the cultural harvest trailer behind me, they’ll be able to get those bison across the street to their neighbors.

The cultural harvest trailer is a mobile processing plant from the Intertribal Bison Cooperative.

“This pilot is purchasing in smaller quantities. It’s purchasing at specific times of the year. Everyone of our livestock are different, cattle are different from bison. Bison are often only handled a few times a year so we’re purchasing at a time that works for the bison,” USDA Tribal Relations Director Heather Dawn said.

USDA officials say they’re proud to be helping those producers here in South Dakota with this program.

“To look at all the different barriers and comprehensively address them so that we’re actually able to do the procurement that is needed, for tribes and for small producers here in the state,” Lester Moffitt said.

The Agricultural Marketing Service recently awarded bison contracts to four tribal and local producers for this pilot program.