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Our National Security Depends on Feeding a Growing World

Recently I was in Des Moines, Iowa, to participate in events leading up to World Food Day. This day is observed each October 16th in recognition of the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1945. The first World Food Day was held in 1981. Its purpose is to increase worldwide awareness and year-round action to alleviate hunger.

On October 10, I had the honor of speaking to a large group of people at Iowa State University about the importance of the world producing enough food to feed its growing population. This is not just a moral issue, or an economic issue, or an agricultural issue. It is an issue of national security.

When you consider the challenges we face today—925 million people around the world were undernourished last year—and those we foresee in 30 to 40 years—a world population growing by one-third to more than 9 billion that will require a 70-percent increase in food production—you understand why the United States and the international community must tackle this serious, long-term threat. Read more »

Let’s Go Nuts on October 22nd!

Georgia Pecans. Heart-healthy pecans are the focus of a project in Georgia to help educate health-conscious consumers on the nutritional values of tree nuts.  Photo by Judy Baxter.

Georgia Pecans. Heart-healthy pecans are the focus of a project in Georgia to help educate health-conscious consumers on the nutritional values of tree nuts. Photo by Judy Baxter.

This Saturday is National Nut Day, a perfect opportunity to honor nature’s nutritional dynamo– the nut.  It seems that Americans are more than a little nutty about nuts, which are considered specialty crops.  Nearly one out of every 10 of us eats nuts, or a nut product, at least once a day.  Almonds, walnuts and pecans are the top three nuts consumed in the United States* and the production of almonds, walnuts and pistachios has more than doubled in the last decade. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Working Together to Create Jobs

Recently, both houses of Congress took action to support tens-of-thousands of American jobs by ratifying trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, as well as passing trade adjustment assistance to help train workers for the 21st century economy.  And last week, the President signed them.

These agreements are a win for the American economy.  For American agriculture, their passage will mean over $2.3 billion in additional exports, supporting nearly 20,000 jobs here at home for folks who package, ship, and market agricultural products. Read more »

Farmers Market Promotion Program Supports Diverse Needs in Upper Midwest States

Goats in a natural meadow. Browse and Grass Farmer Association, an independent association focused on grass-fed sheep and goats in Downing, Wisconsin, will expand their offerings to local consumers and increase training in good agricultural practices (GAP) through a project supported by USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program. (Photo courtesy browseandgrass.org.)

Goats in a natural meadow. Browse and Grass Farmer Association, an independent association focused on grass-fed sheep and goats in Downing, Wisconsin, will expand their offerings to local consumers and increase training in good agricultural practices (GAP) through a project supported by USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program. (Photo courtesy browseandgrass.org.)

While most people associate farmers markets with fresh fruits and vegetables, farmers and ranchers actually bring a much more diverse range of products to the table every week. This year’s portfolio of grant recipients under the Farmers Market Promotion Program, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), reflected that diversity in its range of projects. Among the grant recipients are several enterprises in the Midwest that overcome barriers for small livestock producers to get their healthy meat options into local markets. Read more »

Rural Development Under Secretary Tours USDA Funded Projects in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Under Secretary Tonsager and Worton farmer Frank Dill inspect a field of soybeans grown with the assistance of the County's spray irrigation system.

Under Secretary Tonsager and Worton farmer Frank Dill inspect a field of soybeans grown with the assistance of the County's spray irrigation system.

Earlier this fall, USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager traveled to Delaware and Maryland to tour two USDA funded wastewater system projects located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Read more »

Conscientious Objectors Play Important Role in Smoke Jumping During World War II

Jumping out of planes via parachutes to put out remote wildland forest fires isn’t your typical American job and it isn’t for the faint of heart. Since 1939, the technique called smoke jumping has attracted physically fit, courageous and adventurous firefighters and has helped keep communities safe.

By the 1940s, the smoke jumping program was a valuable asset to the U.S. Forest Service.  Unfortunately, with the country’s men drafted during World War II, the Forest Service experienced a significant loss in federal personnel which impacted the fire program. Read more »