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FSA Administrator Cooks and Connects to FSA Programs

Chef Jonathan Bardzik (left) with Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini (right)

During a lunch-hour cooking demonstration with chef Jonathan Bardzik (left), Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini (right) explains how FSA helps growers move produce from farm to market to the consumer’s table.

During my travels to 46 states over the past two years, I’ve explored Illinois cornfields, watched an oyster harvest in Connecticut, and admired beet fields in North Dakota. I’ve toured a rooftop farm on a Brooklyn high-rise, and marveled at fresh vegetables grown in truck containers in the remote Alaskan Arctic.

These are the places where it all begins, so that Americans have safe and affordable food, from the farm to the plate.

So when local author and chef Jonathan Bardzik invited me to the USDA cafeteria for a lunch-hour cooking demonstration, I grabbed my apron and joined him as his “Sous Chef for the Day.” Read more »

Growing Local Food Means Growing Opportunities

Adelante Mujeres

In 2012, FMPP supported the launch of Adelante Mujeres’s Sabor Color commercial kitchen project. This project focused on training small food producers and processors to develop culturally appropriate foods from local ingredients.

With sales of over $11 billion in 2014 and projected growth of 10 percent annually, local and regionally-produced food is the fastest growing sector of American agriculture. At USDA, we hear a lot from communities interested in strengthening the connection between farmers and consumers. That’s why we’re investing in projects across the country to help farm and food businesses tap into this growing market.

Yesterday, USDA announced more than $56 million in grants to support local and community food projects, including a program administered by my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program awarded over $26 million in competitive grants, divided equally between the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). Read more »

September: A Nice Time to Celebrate Rice Research

Glenn Buffkin, store manager of Mayflower Foods with a special display of rice products

Glenn Buffkin, store manager of Mayflower Foods, Stuttgart, Arkansas, presents a special display of rice products to celebrate National Rice Month.

September is National Rice Month, and the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas, is well positioned—literally and figuratively—to support the production, harvest, and public enjoyment of this versatile and nutritious grain. And on the world-food security front, ARS’ Stuttgart center is closing in on genes that regulate rice’s uptake and storage of iron, thiamine and other important vitamins and minerals—a pursuit that could bolster the nutritional value of this cereal grain crop as a staple food for roughly half the world’s population.

In the United States, nearly 85 percent of the rice eaten by consumers is grown on family-run farms across six States:  Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. Of these, Arkansas produces about half of all U.S. rice on nearly 1.3 million acres of cropland. Read more »

Working Together to Develop Local Strategies for Strong Rural Communities

The USDA and Smart Growth America team touring the historic Greer Mill

In preparation for the workshop in Alton, Missouri, the USDA and Smart Growth America team tours the historic Greer Mill, which is being revitalized as an educational facility and event space through a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the nonprofit Friends of Eleven Point River.

How will decisions about where we locate new development or upgrade existing infrastructure impact our future economic vitality and fiscal health?  How can we site and plan public facilities and housing so they have the greatest benefits for our community?  How can we rebound from years of population loss?  How can we capitalize on our unique history to become the kind of place we want to be in the future?  These were some of Alton, Missouri’s residents’ many questions Smart Growth America addressed during a recent USDA Rural Development supported technical assistance workshop.

During my visit to Alton, I was amazed at this small town’s vision, energy, and commitment to revitalizing its economy and improving the lives of its 870 residents.  Local leaders are bringing life back to their downtown by improving the built environment and hosting cultural events, developing the regional food system, strengthening tourism to nearby National Forests and beautiful rivers, and more.  However, I’ve seen rural communities with similar dreams fall short of their goals due to a lack of technical expertise, local capacity, financing, and partnerships.  That’s why USDA is working with Smart Growth America to bring innovative solutions, funding ideas, and insights from their experiences around the nation to communities who want a brighter future. Read more »

Meet Candice and James: The Newest Real-Life Family in the #MyPlateMyWins Video Series

Candice, husband James, and their two-year-old son

The MyPlate, MyWins video series shows how real families make healthy eating work for them. Meet pregnant mom Candice, husband James, and their two-year-old son in the newest video.

Every family is unique, and when it comes to healthy eating, it’s important to find solutions that work for you. The MyPlate, MyWins video series features real-life families sharing their tips for success. In the newest video, Candice & James share how they plan healthy meals involving their two-year old son. For this growing family, preparing ahead is key. Read more »

USDA Market News – As Diverse as the Agricultural Landscape

Cage-free hen and eggs

Cage-free hen and eggs. As the agricultural landscape evolves to meet consumer demand, USDA Market News ensures that emerging sectors—like the cage-free egg market—have the data they need to succeed. Photo courtesy of the Oregon State Department of Agriculture.

As the agricultural landscape evolves to meet consumer demand, USDA Market News works to ensure that emerging sectors have the unbiased, reliable data they need to succeed in the marketplace.

USDA Market News – administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – provides data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.  Everyone in the ag supply chain is accustomed to visiting Market News for items like current wholesale and retail prices for beef cuts, but here at AMS we offer so much more. Read more »