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White House Business Council Roundtable held in Mexico, Missouri

Cross posted from the White House blog:

Twenty business leaders from Mexico, Missouri, joined me at the Mid America Brick plant recently for the first White House Business Council Roundtable meeting in Missouri.  President Obama asked me, along with other senior Administration officials, to facilitate a discussion to seek their input on ways the federal government can improve economic conditions and help them create jobs.

When you think of “bricks and mortar” for cementing economic development, there is no better place than the heartland of America at a brick plant for a setting.  Mexico, Missouri, was once known as the brick capital of the world, but its biggest factory shut down in 2002.  An energetic entrepreneur, Frank Cordie, CEO of Mid America Brick, is bringing it back to life.  Mr. Cordie graciously hosted and assisted with inviting key business leaders from the region.  His company is using USDA funding, as well as other financing, to restore this icon of the local business community, which at one time was the main employer in this rural town.  A tour of the plant made me believe he is well on the way to success.  I have never found a more committed group of leaders to their community. Read more »

Rhode Island Agriculture Day

I was honored to accompany Governor Lincoln Chafee at the Rhode Island Agriculture Day held at the Statehouse in Providence.  In my remarks to farmers, agriculture organizations, legislators, and government officials, I emphasized the Obama Administration’s commitment to Rural America, and complimented producers for being a model for the nation in direct marketing of agricultural products.

Ten percent of Rhode Island’s agricultural sales move through direct marketing channels such as farmers markets, roadside stands and CSA’s.  In addition, Rhode Island has developed a successful Farm-to-School program and a Farm-to-Plate program with local restaurants. Read more »

Urban Gardening Ministry Brings Fresh Food to Richmond, VA

Cross posted from the Let’s Move! blog:

There’s a lot going on in the Church Hill North neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia! For three years, the congregation at 31st Street Baptist Church has been growing fresh vegetables in an urban garden behind their church. More recently, they launched a healthy living campaign to encourage the congregation and the surrounding community to get active and eat more nutritious foods.

Led by Rev. Dr. Henderson, who serves as senior pastor, 31st Street Baptist Church has acquired three city lots behind their church. The congregants have a large community garden with 24 cultivated raised beds in one of the lots. The garden provides healthy, fresh produce to a community without close access to a grocery store. The majority of the produce from the garden is used in the church’s nutrition center, which has served members of the local community for 21 years and receives some of its food via USDA’s Emergency Food Assistance (TEFAP) program. Read more »

USDA Asks Local Pennsylvania Businesses What They Need From the Federal Government to Grow, Create Jobs

Thomas Williams, Pennsylvania Rural Development State Director, talks about the USDA Rural Energy for America Program with Roxanne Molnar, funding recipient (center) and Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Cheryl Cook.  REAP funding enabled Molnar Farms to install computer-controlled radiant heaters to reduce energy costs.  Cook and Williams toured the farm earlier this month.

Thomas Williams, Pennsylvania Rural Development State Director, talks about the USDA Rural Energy for America Program with Roxanne Molnar, funding recipient (center) and Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Cheryl Cook. REAP funding enabled Molnar Farms to install computer-controlled radiant heaters to reduce energy costs. Cook and Williams toured the farm earlier this month.

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook and Thomas Williams, Rural Development Pennsylvania State Director recently conducted a Small Business Council meeting at the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, followed by a visit to Molnar Farms, a local Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) recipient. Roxanne Molnar explained to the USDA officials how $20,000 in REAP funds was used to install computer-controlled radiant heaters and ceiling vents to modernize a 40,000 chicken house to keep the chickens healthy in the extreme heat and cold. Read more »

Food and Nutrition Service Helps Southern States Hit Hard by Disasters

A bout of flooding and tornadoes throughout parts of the Southeast have left thousands of people in need. Several USDA agencies have been working for weeks with state and local officials, as well as individuals, businesses, farmers and ranchers, as they begin the process of helping to get people back on their feet. USDA offers a variety of resources for states and individuals affected by the recent disasters. Just last week, USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager and Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse toured several states and met hundreds of folks affected by recent disasters.

It makes me glad that our programs are helping storm victims get back on their feet. I accompanied Donald Arnette, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s (FNS) Southeast Regional Administrator, on a recent tour to assure those in need and eligible that they would receive disaster nutrition assistance at any of the following locations: disaster shelters, feeding sites, Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) sites, and food banks. The FNS disaster nutrition assistance available to eligible individuals include: DSNAP; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); and USDA Foods distributed through the Commodity Supplemental Food Programs, which also includes The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Read more »

USDA Officials Tour of Mississippi’s Flood Damaged Areas

The state of Mississippi, recently hit with back-to-back disasters in the forms of record-intensity tornadoes in the eastern portion of the state and devastating floods in the Mississippi River Delta, was visited by two USDA under secretaries on Thursday.

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager and USDA Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse spent much of Thursday in Mississippi as part of an intense whirlwind tour of flood-damaged areas of Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana and tornado damaged areas of Alabama. This tour follows visits last week by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the tornado affected areas of Mississippi and Alabama. Read more »