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Secretary’s Column: MyPlate Inspires Healthful Eating

We know that a healthy nation starts with healthy people.  A good diet helps kids stay active and focused at school.  And staying healthy can increase your productivity on the job.

But sometimes families who want to make healthier eating choices are confused by conflicting messages, or don’t have time to do the research.

That’s why, earlier this year, I launched a new, easy to understand food icon, called MyPlate.  It’s a clear and simple visual showing what a healthy meal looks like on your plate. Read more »

Urban Agriculture and Gardening

A wide variety of eggplant sold at the North Carolina Farmers Market.  The North Carolina State Farmers Market is one of the local markets covered by USDA Market News.  Photo by Justin Henry.

A wide variety of eggplant sold at the North Carolina Farmers Market. The North Carolina State Farmers Market is one of the local markets covered by USDA Market News. Photo by Justin Henry.

Urban agriculture and gardening can be an important tool in confronting several key challenges that Americans face: from supporting farm viability in and around urban areas to improving access to healthful, affordable food to realizing the potential of rural-urban linkages. Read more »

Se Busca Mayor Diversidad del Sector Privado en los Comités de Asesoramiento Comercial Agrícola del USDA

El rostro de Estados Unidos – y de la agricultura estadounidense – está cambiando. El número de granjas en los Estados Unidos ha crecido un 4 por ciento y según los resultados del censo más reciente del Departamento de Agricultura (“U.S. Department of Agriculture” o USDA por sus siglas en inglés) en los últimos cinco años ha aumentado la diversidad de los operadores de las granjas. El Censo de 2007 registró un aumento de casi 30 por ciento en mujeres identificadas como operadoras principales de granjas. El número de los operadores agrícolas hispanos aumentó en un 10 por ciento, y los recuentos de indígenas de Estados Unidos, asiáticos y los operadores de raza negra aumentaron también. Además, la Oficina del Censo de EE.UU. informa que el número de negocios de propiedad de minorías aumentó un 45 por ciento entre 2002 y 2007.

Para reflejar la diversidad de nuestro sector agropecuario y la comunidad empresarial, el USDA está intensificando sus esfuerzos para complementar continuamente sus siete Comisiones de Asesoramiento Comercial Agrícola (“Agricultural Trade Advisory Committees” o ATACs) con nuevos miembros, especialmente aquellos que representan a minorías, mujeres o personas con discapacidad. Consideramos que las personas con antecedentes y puntos de vista diversos harán el trabajo de estos comités, y por lo tanto el de USDA, más eficaz. Read more »

Greater Private Sector Diversity Sought on USDA’s Agricultural Trade Advisory Committees

The face of America – and of American agriculture – is changing. The number of farms in the United States has grown 4 percent and the operators of those farms have become more diverse in the past five years, according to results of USDA’s most recent Census of Agriculture.  The 2007 Census counted nearly 30 percent more women as principal farm operators. The count of Hispanic operators grew by 10 percent, and the counts of American Indian, Asian and Black farm operators increased as well.  In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of minority-owned businesses grew more than 45 percent between 2002 and 2007.

To reflect the diversity of our agricultural sector and business community, USDA is stepping up its efforts to continually supplement its seven Agricultural Trade Advisory Committees (ATACs) with new members, especially those who represent minorities, women, or persons with disabilities. We believe that people with different backgrounds and views will make the work of these committees, and thus of USDA, more effective. Read more »

A Pumpkin Shortage? Here’s the Scoop

How worried should Charlie Brown be? Is there any truth to what some are calling the Great Pumpkin Shortage?

After Hurricane Irene pummeled and soaked the Northeast, the media began reporting that damage to the pumpkin crop portended a general shortage of pumpkins for the Halloween season and beyond. Heavy rains in the spring caused some farmers to plant later than usual, and some areas experienced hot, dry weather during the summer months, further fueling concerns about this year’s harvest. Read more »

Successes of the New Era in Civil Rights at USDA

In April 2009, Secretary Vilsack called for a new era in civil rights and directed the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) to help lead a comprehensive effort to improve USDA’s record.  That meant correcting errors, learning from past mistakes, and charting a stronger path for the future where all Americans are treated with dignity and respect by USDA employees.  To make these goals a reality, my staff and employees across USDA have been working extremely hard over the past two and a half years and I am very proud to highlight some of the strides we’ve made.

To begin with, we want to make sure that USDA’s policies, regulations and decisions are inclusive and respect the rights of all the American people.  To make sure USDA agencies are in compliance with civil rights regulations and policies, OASCR conducts reviews to determine the civil rights impact of any new policy, action, rule or decision.  Since 2009, we have doubled the number of reviews conducted, improved the quality by providing training to folks who conduct them, and worked with agencies within USDA to improve their decision in nearly a third of the cases we reviewed. Read more »