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USDA, Bureau of Indian Affairs Meet to Better Serve Tribes

Earlier this week I was privileged to co-host a historic meeting here at USDA.  I was joined by Jodi Gillette, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Michael Black, Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to discuss ways USDA and BIA can work together to better serve the Tribes.

Our two agencies discussed the many challenges in addressing the needs for economic development, natural resource conservation and agriculture on trust land.  We reached an agreement to develop working groups made up of representatives of the two departments to focus on land and credit issues.  We will also discuss leasing processes, easement issues, how agreements that require both our department’s approvals can be handled more efficiently and how we can work together to focus on joint staff education and training.  The end goal is to improve our processes so that economic development, alternative energy, conservation, agriculture, and all our related programs can deploy in Indian Country in a better way.  We are forming two working groups of national and local office staff to clarify the issues and begin building workable solutions. Read more »

St. Louis Riverfront Is Front Row for Surging U.S. Ag Exports

Secretary Vilsack on the Mississippi River, with a grain elevator towering behind him, told the audience: “U.S. farm exports will support more than 1.1 million jobs in 2011. But we can do better.”

Secretary Vilsack on the Mississippi River with a grain elevator towering behind him, highlighted how the Korea trade agreement would eliminate tariffs on two-thirds of all U.S. ag exports to Korea and bring $1.8 billion export growth.

I spent yesterday in St. Louis, talking about the importance of trade and smart trade deals to America’s rebounding economy. Within 500 miles of St. Louis, farmers are producing more than three quarters of the nation’s corn and soybean crops, injecting $75 billion into the global economy, supporting 265,000 jobs, and producing $131 billion in crops and livestock. Meanwhile, the Mississippi River moves about 500 million tons of cargo each year, including 60 percent of the nation’s grain exports, accounting for $8.5 billion in exports. USDA recently reported that grain barge traffic around St. Louis is up 126 percent over last year, underscoring the importance of St. Louis to the national economy as a hub for U.S. farm exports. As the heart of the nation’s farm economy, St. Louis is pumping life into the overall economy. Read more »

Nearly 300 Washington Area Residents Learn Food Safety from the Pros

(from L to R) Kimberly Mejia and Germany Ray, both Oxon Hills Elementary School students, Felicia Thompson and Nita Ray stop by the FSIS food safety exhibit to obtain food safety information, educational materials and promotional items during the Oxon Hills Health Extravaganza on March 23, 2011.

(from L to R) Kimberly Mejia and Germany Ray, both Oxon Hills Elementary School students, Felicia Thompson and Nita Ray stop by the FSIS food safety exhibit to obtain food safety information, educational materials and promotional items during the Oxon Hills Health Extravaganza on March 23, 2011.

Oxon Hill Elementary School’s motto for its annual health extravaganza is, “Spring forward with good health.” The motto was put into practice last week at the Maryland school’s health fair, where community organizations, activities and food samples came together to contribute to good health and well-being. Read more »

New Handbook Shows Farmers’ Market Operators How to Participate in SNAP

Last summer, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), in collaboration with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), released  the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at Farmers Markets: A How-To-Handbook.  The handbook assists farmers’ market operators and direct marketing farmers in determining the steps necessary to become authorized to participate in SNAP and, subsequently, the steps related to managing participation.

It includes tips and guidelines on how to make the program work successfully for vendors and customers.  The handbook also features a list of resources, a glossary of important terms, and several case studies from farmers markets that have successfully implemented EBT technology.  AMS’s USDA Farmers’ Market Directory is available online to locate farmers’ markets that accept nutrition assistance program benefits. Read more »

USDA Brings Jobs to St. Louis County, Missouri

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

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of joining U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, U.S. Representative Lacy Clay, along with St. Louis area economic development and agriculture representatives to celebrate the establishment of a new national operations center for USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in Overland, Mo.  This facility, with the jobs and local investment it brings, has the potential for positive, long-term economic impact in our community. Read more »

Millions of Rural Americans See Improvement in Quality of Life, Thousands of Jobs Created through USDA Support

The Obama Administration made historic investments in rural America in FY 2010, paving the way for increased economic growth and productivity over the long term.  More than 33,700 rural jobs were created and saved as a result of assistance Rural Development provided to more than 500 rural businesses; more than 150,000 rural residents became homeowners in FY 2010, and 4.67 billion kilowatt hours of energy were saved through Rural Development energy programs.  As a matter of fact, USDA investments in renewable energy led to the production of nearly 1 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in FY 2010.  These and other details are included in a report I issued today. Read more »