MOLE LAKE - Some members of Wisconsin's Tribes rely on their land for survival. They farm, fish and gather to put food on the table. But it can be difficult for tribes to find funding for large food projects.
That's why the US Department of Agriculture met with Wisconsin tribes Wednesday. Both sides hope to use it to plan programs and address tribal needs.
Oneida Nation of Wisconsin Vice Chair Greg Matson says tribes have some catch up to do with the USDA.
Matson says the USDA programs help them improve their agricultural infrastructure. Funding can be the biggest challenge.
Leslie Wheelock,USDA Office of Tribal Relations Director, says access to funding is the biggest issues for tribes.
"It will always be access to capital," Wheelock said. "Unlike states and counties, tribes don't tax their people they have a tendency to not tax their businesses because the states come in and tax the businesses and if you tax a business too much the business won't come."
The USDA formed a special advisory board in 2011 to ensure Native Americans participate in and benefit their programs.
"It's to get our tribal people up to speed to the point where they know who to go to in the USDA," Wheelock said. "The USDA has to be builder in that relationship because we know what we have to offer."
Some Wisconsin tribal farmers have benefited from programs like USDA start up loans, but some farming isn't considered a practice by the agency.
For example, the tribal wild rice harvest isn't recognized as conventional farming practice. Some Tribe members are working to change that.
LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Ruby's pantry opened their doors Tuesday in Lac du Flambeau. This is the first time the Ruby's pantry has set up shop there. They decided to come to Lac du Flambeau because of the good turnout in Rhinelander. The food pantry asks that people give a $20 donation.
“It's not your typical food pantry,” says Gloria Cobb, Ruby's Pantry Lac du Flambeau Lead Coordinator. “This is an opportunity to give people dignity, to serve with dignity, and it's a donation base.”
“I mean look at the hustle and bustle going on we've got the community coming together not only Lac du Flambeau but the surrounding community coming together to meet a very basic need and that's to help with hunger,” says Cobb.
The pantry offered items like strawberries, cake mix, and toilet paper. More than 400 people were expected to show up.
“A participant will go through the line with a laundry basket and or box and they will be offered items,” says Cobb. “They can refuse them however we will encourage them to take the item because somebody else that they may know may have a need.”
“They get a certain amount of each item and they go through the line like an assembly line,” says Cobb.
The pantry had more than 21,000 pounds of food to give away.
RHINELANDER - The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce group held a seminar at Nicolet College in Rhinelander Tuesday, to plan how to make Wisconsin more attractive to skilled workers and manufacturing businesses.
WMC's president believes the shortage in younger people in the industry has to do with two big misconceptions about manufacturing.
"The younger kids, as do their parents, have a perception on what manufacturing looks like and it's about 40 years out of date. If you're in an advanced manufacturing facility now, it's clean, it's high-tech, the engineers and technicians are working together," said Jim Morgan."We have a perception problem. I think we still have a definition of success that's says unless you have a four-year degree, you're not successful."
Morgan says groups like WMC work to change that perception. He believes workers with a two-year degree are just as successful in the industry.
So far, WMC held seminars at nine other technical colleges. For Rhinelander, more manufacturers could mean more economic independence.
"The Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce is looking to see how it can help and partner with local manufacturers to make the Rhinelander area a more favorable place for them to locate their businesses, as well as to attract and retain skilled workers to make those businesses successful," said Dana DeMet, Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce director.
Over the next six months, WMC will continue to look for ways to attract more workers and businesses to the state.
In December, it hopes to have 1000 representatives for a meeting in Milwaukee focusing on how manufacturing will benefit the state.
WMC also works with the University of Wisconsin system and the Wisconsin Technical Colleges.
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