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Secretary Vilsack Meets Farmers, Tours Biofuel Facility and Discusses Recovery Act Business Support During Pennsylvania Visit

Friday, a beautiful spring day in Pennsylvania, it was my pleasure to welcome Secretary Vilsack and his wife Christy to Pennsylvania for a tour and rural discussion. We started the day at Middletown Biofuels for a facility tour along with Congressman Tim Holden and other local and state officials. Middletown Biofuels recently received over $17,000 from USDA for producing biodiesel fuel from soybean oil. The facility is located in the heart of Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry, providing ready access to soybean and other vegetable oil feedstocks.  We then traveled to the state capitol in Harrisburg where the Secretary announced that in Pennsylvania, the Recovery Act has guaranteed $35.6 million in business loans that are expected to save or create more than 450 jobs. In total, USDA has provided loan guarantees to 350 U.S. businesses in the last seven months that will create or save nearly 23,500 jobs. Read more »

U.S. House of Representatives Approves Resolution Honoring USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service

By Suzanne Pender, NRCS

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution recognizing the 75th anniversary of the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS).

The Senate Concurrent Resolution (S. Con. Res. 62) congratulates the outstanding professional public servants, both past and present, of the NRCS as it celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Ranking Member Frank Lucas of Oklahoma introduced the House version of this resolution, which is co-sponsored by 17 other Members of Congress.

In 1935, Congress established NRCS in response to the Dust Bowl, a disaster that devastated vast stretches of the nation. Originally known as the Soil Conservation Service, the agency’s name changed to the Natural Resources Conservation Service in 1994 to more accurately reflect its role in protecting all natural resources – soil, air, water, plants and animals.

NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to landowners at a local level, recognizing the diverse needs across the country and the unique concerns in each local area. There is a NRCS field office in almost every county in the United States, and the staff in those offices helps local communities carry out thousands of conservation projects, translating into opportunities for job creation and increased investment in local communities.

“The United States depends as much today on productive soils and an abundant, high-quality water supply as we did 75 years ago, and given the agricultural and environmental challenges we face, these programs are more important than ever” Chairman Peterson said. “With this resolution we salute the NRCS professionals, both past and present, who have worked alongside America’s local farmers and ranchers for 75 years to help preserve our essential natural resources.”

“Farmers were conserving long before it became a celebrated trend to ‘go green.’  They have always had a vested interest in preserving the land that provides for them,” said Ranking Member Lucas. “Partnering with NRCS, our producers are provided the science and technical assistance to implement the most advanced conservation practices in the world.”

The House passed the resolution honoring the 75th anniversary of NRCS by a voice vote.

Honoring and Learning from 70 Years of Conservation: Jim L. Gillis, Jr.

By Mary Ann McQuinn, Georgia NRCS

NRCS joined the Ohoopee Conservation District and the Pine Country Resource Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) to celebrate and honor Mr. Jim L. Gillis, Jr., — at 93, the longest serving conservation district board member in the Nation. NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan presented Mr. Gillis with a unique art glass recognizing his 70 years of conservation leadership.

Mr. Gillis was a founding member of the Ohoopee River Soil and Water Conservation District and remains its Chairman to this day. He was also an inaugural member of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) Hall of Fame. Mr. Gillis witnessed the early days of NRCS, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

While relaxing in a rocking chair on the back porch of a pond house, and inside by the fireplace, he shared knowledge from his 70-year career and insights on founder and conservation legend Hugh Hammond Bennett. He reminisced about the conservation challenges and solutions from the Great Depression to today, and shared his thoughts about future challenges such as energy production and water conservation. Donnie Smith, Director of the Center for Agriculture Innovation, personally delivered a proclamation from the Governor designating Conservation Day in Georgia.

Mr. Gillis manages over 12,000 acres of timberland, and is well respected throughout the Southeast for his timber management program. It was indeed our honor to thank this conservation legend for all that he’s done for the natural resources of Georgia.

NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan (left) learns from 70 years of conservation experience of Jim. L. Gillis, Jr. (right) NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan (left) learns from 70 years of conservation experience of Jim. L. Gillis, Jr. (right)

Jim. L. Gillis sitting in a rocking chair. Jim. L. Gillis relaxing in a rocking chair.