As Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture- Rural Development’s Business and Cooperative Programs, I travel throughout the country, promoting the President’s and Secretary’s vision of revitalizing rural America. Of the many talks that I have given this year, one of the most exciting and memorable moments for me occurred on Saturday, May 14, 2011, when I had the honor and privilege of giving two commencement speeches to graduating classes totaling 500 students at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) in Laredo, Texas.
As a native of south Texas, you can imagine how excited I was to have this opportunity to share my educational roots and professional experiences with these inspiring new graduates. Many of these students are the first in their families to graduate from college; therefore, the experience was not only a major accomplishment for the graduates but a monumental achievement for their families who were present at this event. So, as I shook the hands of each of the graduates as they came up on stage to receive their diplomas, I couldn’t help but think to myself how very proud I was of these students and their families. Read more »
Blue Lake - Photo by Mark Wilson, Tahoe National Forest
The prestigious EPA clean air award acknowledges the Placer County Air Pollution Control District, the US Forest Service and Sierra Pacific Industries who have teamed to implement projects designed to cost effectively manage portions of the 550,000 acres of forested lands that are at severe risk for wildfire in the Lake Tahoe region. Read more »
On June 15, 2011 USDA’s executive director of the National Food and Agriculture Council, John Berge spoke with agricultural producers and businesses regarding his tour of the agricultural lands devastated by the Missouri River flood and the assistance that USDA has to provide in this time of need.
Berge said, “Our goal with the tour and the conversations that we have had with producers and community leaders is to get a firsthand look and provide that information back to Washington necessary to better deliver our disaster programs expeditiously to effectively respond to this disaster.” Read more »
There are new developments in two popular USDA programs that will support conservation of working lands for the benefit of wildlife, water quality, and recreation. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is expanding its efforts to encourage owners of privately held farm, ranch and forest land in eight additional states and one Tribal area to voluntarily open the land for public recreational use. It also announced the enrollment of acreage under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) is a grant program open to state and tribal governments that provides a financial incentive to encourage landowners to open their land to the public for wildlife-dependent recreation such as fishing or hunting. Read more »
Drum roll please…. The long anticipated winners of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Recipes for Healthy Kids competition were announced this morning by Secretary Vilsack.
USDA and the First Lady launched the Recipes for Healthy Kids competition last September, challenging kids, nutrition professionals and community members to dream up healthy recipes to be incorporated on lunchtime menus for the National School Lunch program. The contest is a component of the First Lady’s broader Let’s Move! initiative that also includes Chefs Move to Schools, which encourages chefs to work with schools in their communities. Read more »
This photo shows giant miscanthus (measuring seven feet tall). Photo courtesy of NRCS
Four more states will be added to the list of project areas under a Farm Service Agency program that encourages producers to establish dedicated energy crops to be used for production of biofuels. Today’s announcement is expected to spark the creation of thousands of new jobs in future production years. Read more »