Janie Simms Hipp, J.D., LL.M. is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. She was raised in Idabel, Oklahoma. She currently serves as the General Counsel of the United States Department of Agriculture, nominated by the Biden-Harris administration to serve in this Senate-confirmed capacity. In her role, she acts as the legal advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas J. Vilsack, who is the longest serving Secretary of Agriculture in the nation’s history. She supervises a team of lawyers located in Washington DC and field offices across the United States and through this team provides legal counsel to each of the agencies and mission areas of USDA.
Ms. Hipp served previously as the founding CEO of the Native American Agriculture Fund (www.nativeamericanagriculturefund.org) which is the nation’s largest philanthropic organization serving the needs of Native farmers and ranchers and Native food systems. She was nominated for that role following the conclusion of the Keepseagle v. Vilsack class action litigation against USDA for discrimination in providing lending services and servicing loans of Native farmers and ranchers. The Fund was created with over $270 million in cy pres resources following conclusion of the litigation and now has over 300 active projects supporting Native agriculture across the US, has launched a national scholarship program for Native agriculture leaders of the future, and has recently launched the creation of a financial institution within the Farm Credit lending system.
Prior to her work with the Fund, she was the founding Director of the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative at the University of Arkansas School of Law which was created to assist Tribal governments in the creation of agriculture laws and policies to support their agriculture activities and investments. The Initiative also launched an annual training effort to support the next generation of agriculture producers, scientists and leaders.
Prior to launching the Initiative, Hipp served in the Obama-Biden Administration as the Senior Advisor for Tribal Relations to Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack and Director of the Office of Tribal Relations and previously served as a National Program Leader within the National Institute of Food and Agriculture with program leadership responsibilities of the farm financial management, risk management, trade adjustment and beginning farmer and rancher programs.
Between 1992 and 2007 she served in the National Center for Agriculture Law as staff attorney and ultimately director of the center and throughout that period taught agriculture law, environmental justice, administrative law and other courses at the University of Arkansas’ School of Law, College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering and Honors College. She is a frequent speaker in issues related to agriculture and food law and has worked internationally on issues related to agriculture and food policy development.
Ms. Hipp began her agriculture career in the State of Oklahoma while serving as an Assistant Attorney General in the offices of Attorney General Robert H. Henry, who supported an aggressive effort in the 1980s farm financial crisis to address the loss of Oklahoma farmers and ranchers to foreclosure. She is a graduate of OU and received her JD from Oklahoma City University. She holds an LLM in Agriculture and Food Law from the University of Arkansas and was recognized as a Distinguished Alumni at both University of Arkansas and Oklahoma City University.
She received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award from former President Barack Obama for her national commitment to volunteer service and was the recipient of the National Center for American Indian Economic Development’s 2017 Tim Wapato Public Advocate of the Year Award. She was also the recipient of the 2021 Trailblazer Hunger Leadership Award from the Congressional Hunger Center, awarded annually to those whose careers contribute to the alleviation of hunger in the United States.