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A Reflection on the State of Agriculture and the Future

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of traveling to Kansas City to address our nation’s farm broadcasters at the 68th Annual National Association of Farm Broadcasters (NAFB) meeting to answer questions about key issues affecting our agricultural community.  Since I usually only talk to the broadcasters over the phone, I enjoy coming to NAFB each year to meet with them face-to-face.  This year was particularly special because I was able to share good news regarding the state of our agricultural economy, farm exports as well as information about recent USDA streamlining initiatives that will allow us better assist our nation’s producers.

I was proud to announce that we set a record of $137.4 billion in agricultural exports this past fiscal year—exceeding past highs by over $22.5 billion—to support more than 115 million American jobs.  We were able to set a trade surplus record of $42 billion, which is a testimony to the hard work of our nation’s producers as the backbone of the American economy. Read more »

Cooking Contest Offers Opportunities in the Coconino National Forest in Arizona

Coffee perks over a hot bed of coals. Generally, cowboy coffee is made by putting the grounds right in the water.

Coffee perks over a hot bed of coals. Generally, cowboy coffee is made by putting the grounds right in the water.

Roughly 100 people shrugged off cold weather near Sedona, Ariz., to attend a Dutch oven cooking contest and talk about the Coconino National Forest’s work to create a motorized and non-motorized trail system on the Red Rock Ranger District. Read more »

A Vital Link between the Past and Future of Agriculture

A young Tohono O’odham girl smiles and shows off a peacock feather.  The Tohono O’odham Community Action is working to create a healthy, sustainable and culturally-vital community for the Tohono O’odham Nation’s 28,000 members.  Photo by Cheryl Maze Walker.

A young Tohono O’odham girl smiles and shows off a peacock feather. The Tohono O’odham Community Action is working to create a healthy, sustainable and culturally-vital community for the Tohono O’odham Nation’s 28,000 members. Photo by Cheryl Francisco.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Profile America Facts, the first American Indian Day was celebrated back in May 1916.  Red Fox James, a Blackfeet Indian, rode horseback from state to state, gathering endorsements from 24 state governments to have a day to honor American Indians. In 1990, then President George H.W. Bush signed a joint congressional resolution designating November as National American Indian Heritage Month, and this year President Obama continued the tradition. Read more »

Federal Nutrition Assistance Helps Food Banks Keep Up With Demand

Last month I spoke to food bank leaders at the Feeding America Central Region conference, which was held in Baton Rouge, La., and hosted by the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Attendees came from over 20 states to strategize about meeting the challenges of these tough economic times. Feeding America’s food banks help supply thousands of food pantries and emergency food sites across the U.S. and are among the many charitable organizations working hard to figure out ways to deal with decreased donations and a higher demand for food.

I told the group that it’s important that they continue to get the word out to food bank clients that USDA nutrition assistance is available to folks who meet the eligibility standards. Programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women Infants and Children program (WIC) still provide critical aid to individuals and families that may experience food insecurity. I also reminded them to encourage parents in their communities to enroll their children in school lunch and breakfast. School meals help ease the burden on families to provide three meals a day to the children in their households. Read more »