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Deputy Agriculture Secretary Announces Value Added Producer Grant Program Changes to Assist Farmers as They Add Value to Products

I recently began the Know your Farmer, Know Your Food College tour, and one of the locations I visited was a farmer’s market in North Carolina. Many of the regionally and locally produced products we see at farmer’s markets have a helping hand from USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant program.

Sometimes it’s tough for a small or beginning rural business or cooperative to come up with the money for a feasibility study, marketing or packaging.  That’s where USDA’s Value Added Producer Grant program can help. Read more »

Communities Across the Nation Work Tirelessly to End Hunger. Join the Movement!

USDA took one step closer to ending hunger in America today with the announcement of 14 Hunger-Free Communities Grantees.   The important goal to end hunger and improve domestic nutrition is a top priority for the Obama administration, and an aspiration our innumerable partners have rallied around.

Those commitments from non-profit and faith-based organizations, state and local governments, private industry, and from the public to end hunger in their communities is nothing short of amazing. It’s a movement that has gained strength, in part because it’s an achievable goal.  It’s also becoming clear that if we work together to ensure our nation’s hungry people have access to nutritious foods, much headway can be made on the front. Read more »

Western North Dakota USDA ‘Great Regions’ Job Creation Success Hailed by Local Residents

Earlier this month, acting USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Doug O’Brien heard one testimonial after another from a variety of people who thanked the federal government for providing funding and services to a portion of western North Dakota that was hard hit by outmigration two decades ago.

The area has been designated one of seven “Great Regions” in the nation by USDA Rural Development.  However, sixteen years prior it was named a Rural Economic Area Partnership or a “REAP” pilot project by then-Senator Byron Dorgan.  On February 16, a celebration was held in Dickinson that attracted the non-profit’s board members, community leaders, business owners, and USDA personnel who provided technical assistance over the years. Read more »

New Foreign Service Officers to Face Unique Challenges in Promoting U.S. Agriculture Abroad

This week, seven Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) employees were sworn in as Foreign Service Officers during a ceremony at USDA in Washington, D.C. This group of newly minted Foreign Service Officers will be posted in locales around the world, from Moscow to Brasilia, in their first positions in USDA’s overseas offices. FAS officers begin their Foreign Service careers as attachés.

FAS Administrator John Brewer officiated the ceremony and was joined by Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Deputy Under Secretary Darci Vetter. In what is their first step in a long and successful career in the Foreign Service, Brewer and Vetter presented each new officer with a flag representing the country in which they will be posted. Read more »

Rural Business Administrator Tours Renewable Energy, Regional Food Projects in Massachusetts

USDA Rural Business Administrator Judy Canales joined State Director Jay Healy recently for discussions about, and tours of, three Rural Development financed projects currently underway in Massachusetts.   Their first stop was at Berkshire East Ski Area in Charlemont, where the Administrator led a roundtable discussion about USDA’s renewable energy initiatives and celebrated the installation of a new, 900kW wind turbine at the ski area.

Rural Development provided Berkshire East a loan guarantee through its Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).  The funds were used, in conjunction with commercial financing through Greenfield Savings Bank and State Clean Energy Center grants, to purchase and install the wind turbine at the family-owned ski area. Read more »

Oregon State University Researchers Tackle Obesity in Rural America

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the U.S. Department of Agriculture blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the agency’s rich science and research portfolio.

Rural America is often portrayed in Hollywood as an idyllic place where kids can run free, ride their bikes and pick fresh food out of gardens. The reality is that rural communities face challenges that are different than those experienced in urban areas – especially challenges that contribute to rising childhood obesity levels among rural youth. Despite a perception of abundant resources, including land for growing food and active recreation, rural children face a lack of access to and availability of fresh and nutritious foods, and the distances between destinations makes it difficult to walk or bike and participate in structured and unstructured physical activity programs. Read more »