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USDA Teams Up with the Smithsonian to Preserve the Past

At an event at the National Museum of American History on Thursday, Kevin Concannon,Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, signed a gift of transfer donating a collection of historic food coupons, proof sheets, early artist designs, printers plates and sample Electronic Benefit Transfer cards showcasing nearly 40 years (1960 – 2009) of the Food Stamp Program (FSP).

These rare materials will become part of the museum’s National Numismatic Collection, which consists of more than 1.5 million objects. The NNC includes materials documenting the history of the early FSP that began with the 1935 Agricultural Adjustment Act and lasted until 1943, as well as other forms of emergency currency, such as clamshells used by Americans during the Great Depression. With the new acquisition, the museum will hold the single most comprehensive research collection pertaining to food coupons.

At the event, US Concannon said “these items represent an important conversion of history in our country,” as he talked about ending the era of food coupons for a more modern “efficient and normative” way to issue benefits. Since 2004, all benefits have been issued electronically, through Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, similar to a debit cards.  The newer system provides users confidentiality, de-stigmatizing the program and greatly decreasing incidents of fraud.

The FSP began as a pilot program in the 1960s under President John F. Kennedy. Today’s program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has the highest participation in the program’s history, serving nearly 38 million people, half of whom are children. SNAP is the largest of USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s 15 nutrition assistance programs that work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger.

Kansas USDA Holds ‘Rural Jobs Roundtable’ at 2010 Kansas Workforce Summit

USDA Rural Development State Director Patty Clark and Kansas FSA State Executive Director Adrian Polansky hosted a roundtable on job creation and economic growth in association with the 2010 Kansas Workforce Summit in Topeka. The “Rural Jobs Roundtable” was a special session at the summit and a follow-up to a national Jobs Forum held in December by President Obama.

A diverse group of over 150 business owners, educators, community leaders, economic development and workforce professionals, state, county, and city governments were in attendance.

State Director Clark was the moderator of the panel which included Mr. Polansky;  John Cyr, Director of Special Projects, North Central Regional Planning Commission; Mike Michaelis, Executive Director, Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development; Ed Martin, President/Chairman of the Board, Kaw Valley State Bank & Trust, Wamego; and Caleb Asher, Deputy Secretary, Workforce Development, Kansas Department of Commerce.

Comments from those in attendance included:

Participants and panelists stressed the importance of small business ownership transition in rural communities.  Rural community bankers expressed concern that they are being disproportionally penalized through increased fees and regulations.

Audience participants also asked if USDA Rural Development could consider adjustments to the Business Loan Guarantee program that would mitigate the up-front costs for business plans and feasibility studies, especially for smaller loans.  In particular, they noted that business start-ups associated with local and regional food systems currently have to finance the cost of a business plan and feasibility study for loans $50,000-$100,000 and those costs deter loan application.

The audience included representation from workforce development organizations and many rural manufacturing companies.  Collectively they emphasized the importance of education and workforce training in trade skills such as construction, precision manufacturing, electrical, etc.

Panelists and participants also stressed the importance of partnerships, especially when resources are limited.  During the Summit, the Governor of  Kansas announced receipt of a $6,000,000 grant from DOE for Green Job Training.  Partnerships with other federal agencies such as USDA Rural Development were discussed to extend and leverage the DOE/Kansas investment through business financing.

Participants were encouraged to fill out a seven question survey at the summit, or link to an electronic survey provided by the Kansas Farm Service Agency at www.fsa.usda.gov.ks before January 28th.

Job Forum Kansas (R-L) Adrian Polansky, Farm Service Agency Executive Director; Mike Michaelis, Executive Director, Ellis County Coalition for Economic Development; John Cyr, Director of Special Projects, North Central Regional Planning Commission; Ed Martin, President/Chairman of the Board, Kaw Valley State Bank & Trust, Wamego; Caleb Asher, Deputy Secretary, Workforce Development, Kansas Department of Commerce; and moderating the ‘Rural Jobs Roundtable’, USDA Rural Development State Director Patty Clark.

Kansas Job ForumOver 150 business owners, educators, community leaders, economic development and workforce professionals, state, county, and city governments participated in the Kansas USDA ‘Rural Jobs Roundtable’

Kansas Job ForumSubmitted by Harold Alford, Public Information Specialist on behalf of State Director Patty Clark

To learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth

Oregon Business Owners, Community Leaders and Residents Share Success Stories and Frustrations at USDA Jobs Forum in Albany

Panels of economic experts, elected officials, community leaders and state agencies presented information in conjunction with Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Rural Development (RD) for a jointly hosted USDA Forum on Jobs & Economic Growth on January 21. The forum was held in Albany, a community with a 14 percent unemployment rate, well above the national rate. Read more »

USDA, Navy Sign Memorandum of Understanding on Renewable Energy Effort

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus at the Pentagon this morning to sign a key Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to encourage the development of advanced biofuels and other renewable energy systems. The event, held outside the building to showcase a light armored vehicle of the type capable to accommodate fuel from renewable energy sources, initiates a long term commitment from both departments to work in consort to secure the strategic energy future of the United States. It also is intended to create a more “nimble and effective” fighting force and provide renewable resources that protect the planet from destabilizing climate changes.USDA, through Rural Development, the Farm Service Agency and the Research, Education and Economics mission, will work with the Navy and Marines to support President Obama’s initiative to make the United States a global leader in developing a renewable energy economy, reducing energy consumption from fossil fuels and increasing energy production from renewable energy sources.

The Secretaries were joined at the event by a number of dignitaries, including North Carolina Congressman Mike McIntyre, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Armed Services Committee.  The Congressman noted that the renewable fuel production capacity of America’s farmers combines the “strength of our heartland” with our military in a spirit of innovation that sustains our Nation.

In his remarks, Secretary Mabus said that President Obama’s declaration that energy reform is a “national security imperative” underscores the necessity for the government to address the issue in bold fashion.  “The stakes are clear, the stakes are high and as our President said at the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, we choose bold action over inaction.”  The Secretary said that the military uses 90 percent of the energy consumed by the Federal government.  The Navy alone has 50,000 non-tactical vehicles and a goal of cutting petroleum use by those vehicles in half by 2015 by phasing in hybrid, flex-fuel and electric models.

Secretary Vilsack began his remarks by saying it was an honor to be in the presence of “those who serve us in uniform.” He thanked the Secretary for the security afforded to him and his staff during a recent visit to Afghanistan and he noted the tremendous response being mounted by the Military, including the Navy and Marines, in earthquake-damaged Haiti.

Secretary Vilsack noted that in addition to the National Security, clean energy and Environmental factors, the MOU creates an opportunity to “Use the resources of USDA, including research capability, to create second and third generation biofuels for Military use” while also establishing “an enormous jobs generator.”  The Secretary said that farmers will sell raw materials to be converted to biofuels to processing facilities that still need to be “designed, built and operated.” “This MOU is about creating jobs, a cleaner environment and a secure America,” all priorities of the Obama administration.

During the actual signing ceremony, Secretary Vilsack used a pen made from renewable materials (corn cob) from Iowa.  Vilsack, a former Governor of Iowa, presented the pen to Secretary Mabus, a former Governor of Mississippi.

Seated, (L-R) Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary Ray Mabus sign the MOU between the Department of Agriculture and the Navy Looking on are Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager, Congressman Mike McIntire and Roger Natsuhara, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Installations and Environment (Acting). Seated, (L-R) Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary Ray Mabus sign the MOU between the Department of Agriculture and the Navy. Looking on are Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager, Congressman Mike McIntyre and Roger Natsuhara, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Installations and Environment (Acting).

Secretary Vilsack, Congressman McIntire and Secretary Mabus answer reporters questions while standing in front of a light assault vehicle of the type capable to accommodate fuel from renewable sources. Secretary Vilsack, Congressman McIntyre and Secretary Mabus answer reporters questions while standing in front of a light armored vehicle of the type capable to accommodate fuel from renewable sources.

Secretary Vilsack presents a pen, made from a corn cob, to Secretary Mabus.  The pen is from Iowa, where Vilsack served as Governor prior to his appointment to USDA by President Obama. Secretary Vilsack presents a pen, made from a corn cob, to Secretary Mabus.  The pen is from Iowa, where Vilsack served as Governor prior to his appointment to USDA by . President Obama

Submitted by Wayne Maloney, Office of Communications

South Carolina Business Owners, Residents, Community Leaders Share Ideas on Creating Jobs at USDA Forum

The U.S. Department of Agriculture sponsored a Presidential Roundtable Forum on job creation for South Carolina at Clemson Research and Education Center in Columbia today, bringing together about 60 community leaders to brainstorm solutions to high unemployment numbers and the impact on rural areas.

“This forum provides an opportunity to share ideas on creating jobs and economic opportunities,” said Vernita F. Dore, state director of USDA Rural Development in South Carolina.  “Government can help lay the groundwork for economic growth, but the best ideas for continued growth and job creation often come from local communities. We need the best ideas to share with the Obama Administration.

The roundtable included business owners, residents, state and local officials, union members, non-profit organizations, community leaders, economists, educators and others interested in job creation and economic stability.

“The primary purpose is to put South Carolinians back to work,” said Dore. “We all know that unemployment in our state is one of the highest in the nation, and this forum brings the opportunity to change that. It gives us the chance to remind rural America about the many programs that Rural Development has to address this economy’s problems.”

“Moreover,” Dore continued, “it gives Rural Development the opportunity to remind rural communities that Rural Development stands poised with direct and guaranteed loan and grant programs to finance and help to create jobs and stimulate the economy. We believe that this forum will truly generate ideas for job creation and economic expansion in our state.”

USDA Rural Development works to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural families and businesses. Rural Development administers and manages more than 40 housing, business, and community infrastructure and facility programs as laid out by Congress. South Carolina has 108 employees in 11 offices.

These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Rural Development has an existing portfolio of more than $125 billion in loans and loan guarantees.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency, also a sponsor for the program, works with farmers, producers and ranchers to improve their economic viability and prosperity. Some of the agency’s efforts include financial assistance with loans for operations, farm equipment, seed and fertilizer and ownership loans to purchase a farm. FSA also implements disaster and conservation programs, and works to procure various commodities to benefit low-income families through domestic food assistance programs. FSA has 36 offices and service centers in South Carolina. FSA personnel assisted farmers in commodity and program payments in FY 2009 of $145.7 million.

Pierce McNair from South Carolina Technical Systems stresses the importance of investing in education for economic development at the Job Forum in Columbia, South Carolina.

Pierce McNair from South Carolina Technical Systems stresses the importance of investing in education for economic development at the Job Forum in Columbia, South Carolina.

Janie Davis from South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs " Small Business does not live by itself."

Janie Davis from South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs " Small Business does not live by itself."

Submitted by Marlous Black and Mack Eubanks of USDA

To learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth

Business and Community Leaders Join in USDA Jobs Forum in Boulder City, Nevada

Don’t cut education and don’t cut technology! That was one of the main messages coming out of a lively discussion at a Jobs Forum in Boulder City, Nevada on January 14. The forum was sponsored by the Nevada offices of USDA Rural Development and the Farm Service Agency.

The main speaker, Brian Palmer, told how his company, GE Energy, which had lots of places to choose from, picked Minden, Nevada because it has a good environment for business, an excellent technology base, and a strong employee base. He said the last thing state government should do is to cut back on education or technology, since those are the things that will attract businesses and jobs.

There were lots of folks at the Roundtable, including members of the City Council, business people, staff from Senator Harry Reid and Congresswoman Dina Titus’s office—even a few young people who were with adults to find out what might help bring in and keep jobs in Boulder City. The speakers represented big and small businesses and the bottom line was that there are things that we can do to help make the community one that has jobs available for those who want them. It was a great opportunity for a cross section of folks to get together to try to solve one of our biggest problems.

Brian Palmer, Nevada Job Forum
Brian Palmer, keynote speaker at the Boulder City, Nevada Jobs Roundtable, is taped for BCTV broadcast during the first Nevada Jobs Roundtable. Behind him is USDA Rural Development/Nevada State Director Sarah Adler and Duncan McCoy, Mayor Pro Tem of Boulder City.

Submitted by Diana Jennings, Arizona Special Projects Coordinator on behalf of the Nevada Rural Development and Farm Service Agency staff.

To learn more, go to the Rural Development and FSA Job Roundtables Schedule, and the News Release, “USDA to Host Roundtables on Jobs, Economic Growth