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Anaerobic Digesters Are the Sweet Smell of Success

New Mexico is one of several states to participate in building anaerobic digesters, which use manure as fuel to create energy. The goal is to construct them over a four-year period, through USDA’s Rural Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA).

On October 26, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding for 19 biodigester projects in 8 states, funded through USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program. In Fiscal Year 2011, USDA, through the REAP program, provided nearly $21 million in assistance for biodigesters, and leveraged over $110 million in project development. Through its Value-Added Producer Grant program, USDA provides planning grants of up to $100,000 and working capital grants of up to $300,000 to be used for establishment of a biodigester. Additionally, NRCS offers financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives (EQIP) program. Read more »

Champions of Change: Make it in America

Recently, the White House held a panel inviting leaders from across the country to participate in a discussion focused on how businesses and companies “Make it in America.” These Champions were recognized for their work in helping to create high-quality jobs in the United States. They are the leaders this country needs, people who are working to build in America and create jobs in America. Below please read Michael Bowman’s story.  Michael serves on the National Steering Committee for “25x’25″ and was a founding member.  He has been active in rural development for many years and was recently honored as one of the White House Champions of Change.

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From Seed to Harvest: Supporting the Next Generation of Leaders to Reduce Global Hunger

In mid October, 40 Borlaug Fellows from 21 countries as far away as Azerbaijan and Zambia were in Des Moines, Iowa, to attend the Borlaug International Symposium and World Food Prize ceremony. These Fellows are part of the Norman E. Borlaug Agricultural Science and Technology Fellows Program established by USDA in 2004 to honor Nobel Laureate Norman E. Borlaug. Grace Otitodun, a Borlaug Fellow from Nigeria, authored this blog post:

Last month, I was honored to have the opportunity to attend the 2011 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa as a fellow in the Borlaug 21st Century Leadership Program. The event saw participation from hundreds of leaders and experts in policy, industry, and research from all over the world, convened there to discuss global food security and agriculture.  Throughout the week, I encountered countless high-powered individuals who have been working tirelessly to achieve global food security by facilitating increased production among small-scale farmers.  They have made a compelling case for improving the effectiveness of U.S. investments in global food security and for addressing the troubling gap between population growth and food production. Read more »

Southern Pine Beetle: One Million Acres Protected, One Acre at a Time

Miles Cary Johnston lives in the rolling countryside east of Richmond, Va., on land that’s been owned by his family for more than 12 generations. His acreage in New Kent County stretches down to the Pamunkey River and includes open fields, mixed hardwood forests and 16 acres of pine he planted for timber production.

Johnston keeps track of what’s going on with his forest land, and in 2010, he figured it was time to thin his 16 acres of loblolly pines. The stand was starting to look closed in, and Johnston knew from his consulting forester that this would make his trees more susceptible to southern pine beetle, a native bark beetle considered the most destructive forest pest in the South. Read more »

Aniin niije (Hello Friend) – Cultural Sharing and Meal Kicks Off Native American Celebration Month

Left to right guest speaker Dr. James E. Pete and Rural Business Specialist Ken Lynch presenting Dr. Pete with one of his drawings.

Left to right guest speaker Dr. James E. Pete and Rural Business Specialist Ken Lynch presenting Dr. Pete with one of his drawings.

South Dakota staff held a “kick-off” for Native American Heritage Month in early  November  with opening comments provided by State Director Meeks sharing a PowerPoint – 5 minutes 500 years – with statistical information gathered by the National Congress of American Indians, an Indian Taco meal, and guest speaker Dr. James E. Pete, who also provided a blessing before the meal. Read more »

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 »