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Employee highlight: Justine Kougl, Program Officer

Akiptan is pleased to introduce our team of people who are helping make a change in Native Agriculture Finance. This month, we are highlighting our Program Officer, Justine Kougl. 


Justine Kougl has spent many years working within the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in agriculture, community development, and at the Farm Service Agency.  Her husband and children are enrolled members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. Justine holds a Master's Degree in Economics from South Dakota State University and has career experience in finance, program management, non-profit leadership, and agricultural business (both personal and professional).  

 

Ten years ago the Kougl's moved their family ranching operation from the Cheyenne River area to the Pryor Mountain range on the Crow Reservation in Montana where they continue to manage their cattle and horse herd and promote their packaged beef business. Justine and her family have first-hand knowledge of the challenges that Native producers face and they are determined to be a part of the solutions. Justine has a passion to help Native American producers obtain working capital, understand the business aspects of agriculture, and to help sustain the future generations of Native agriculturists for years to come.


How did you begin in the Native Ag Industry? 

Well, I married into it, I married into the Kougl family and they are Native ranchers. So in 2008, William and I got married and we were running a calf/cow operation; registered black Angus and a commercial herd at that time. Now, we have a small herd of commercial Angus cattle and we take them from birth to packaged/retail beef. I'm so glad to be on the helping end promoting Akiptan’s mission. 


What is your favorite part of working at Akiptan? 

Our staff is my most favorite part, collectively as a team, we are out there helping Native agriculture producers. It's so valuable for producers to have access to knowledge and capital to keep going in their operations. 


What do you think makes Akiptan important/unique?

We're the only organization out there doing this type of lending that I’m aware of. We have the capacity to lend and educate Native producers on a national basis to build their knowledge and their capital. 


So many times, producers within the Native agriculture industry are turned down for loans based solely on location or land type. With our program we are saying we’ll handle that, we're like that's okay you have a challenge, we will do our best to help you through that, while others may be challenged by the details of a situation, we are able and willing to be creative and find solutions. 


“The great thing about what we get to do at Akiptan is we get to create solutions. As a team Akiptan will work together to try to figure out a way to make your plan happen.” - Justine Kougl,

How has your passion for assisting those in Native Agriculture financing developed?

My passion for this work and our industry has grown. I’ve seen so many neighbors and family members struggle trying to work with other lenders and getting nowhere to strengthen their operations. 


What are some of the successes that have happened while in your role as a Program Officer at Akiptan? 

Through the Mountain Plains Coalition, we have had some great projects to strengthen our team through human resources, networking, and team-building opportunities for both our in-office and remote employees to better serve our clients. As a whole our organization has nearly doubled in size for employees and having a real team approach that encompasses a human resource facet has proven to be very helpful. 


What are your goals for the next few months or years in your role as program officer? 

My main goal for the upcoming month is to successfully implement the Cattle Rancher Financial Management Cohort training, get our first set of producers through the program, receive their feedback to grow the program, and make sure the producers have the knowledge to grow their business from a financial standpoint. 


What would you say about the Akiptan team you work with? 

I would say we have so many strengths and are from all across the Agricultural industry which gives our organization a wide scope of knowledge, skills, and abilities to best help our Native producers.  


What is one thing you would like for people to know about your job? 

We are here for the producers, if producers have questions or need a resource or anything to help with their operations, WE ARE HERE! Of Course, the accessibility to working capital is a huge plus but the benefit of education along with it creates a win-win situation for the sustainability of any operation! We love more ideas and we are here for them, that's our purpose. 


To learn more about our programs please visit our website at https://www.akiptan.org/loanproducts.

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