Mullin, Smith Introduce Bill to Protect Tribal Self-Governance in Meat Processing Operations

Today, U.S. Senators Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Tina Smith (D-MN) introduced the bipartisan Promoting Regulatory Independence, Mastery, and Expansion (PRIME) for Meat Processing Act to foster greater Tribal control over meat processing operations in Indian Country. If passed, the bill would extend Tribal government’s self-governance authority to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Specifically, The PRIME Act would amend the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 (ISDEAA) to provide Tribes with the opportunity to enter self-governance contracts with the FSIS for meat processing inspection, keeping processing local and available and facilities running smoothly and safely.

“Oklahoma is home to four of the twelve Tribal meat processing facilities in the United States,” said Senator Mullin. “Given their operation in rural areas, these facilities are often booked for months, or even years in advance, leaving few processing options for Tribal producers. The extension of self-governance authority to the Food Safety Inspection Service at the USDA will help Tribes expand production, capacity, and support a reliable food supply in their communities. Thank you to Senator Smith for joining me on this important legislation.”

“Supporting Native farmers and producers helps expand access to healthy Indigenous foods and spur economic development in Minnesota and around the country,” said Senator Smith. “Tribal Nations in Minnesota have been working to restore buffalo herds on their lands, but meat processing options are often limited. This bipartisan legislation would help keep processing options local and available by expanding Tribal control over meat processing operations in Indian Country. This kind of self-governance policy helps federal dollars work more efficiently for the people they serve.”

This legislation is endorsed by the Native Farm Bill Coalition, Inter-Tribal Agriculture Council, and Inter-Tribal Buffalo Council.

Full bill text can be found here.


  • Self-governance contracting, pursuant to ISDEAA (i.e., P.L. 93-638), allows Tribal Nations to administer federal programs within their own communities.
  • Self-governance contracting, or “638 contracting,” has been widely regarded as one of the single-most effective policies that respects and upholds the government-to-government relationship between the federal government and Indian Tribes.
  • In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress expanded 638 contracting authority to the USDA by creating a pilot program for tribes to administer the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDIPR).
  • Expanding “638” authority elsewhere within the USDA is a natural progression and builds upon the success Indian Country has seen since the 2018 Farm Bill.