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Clarifying the Department of Labor’s Child Labor Proposal

Recently there has been some concern and confusion in rural America over the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed regulations on child labor and I’d like to help clarify how this regulation will impact our farmers.   We all know that kids benefit from good old-fashioned farm work.   It’s a longtime way of life that has helped make this country strong, and it teaches kids lessons that last a lifetime.

However, statistics show that while only 4 percent of working youth are in the agriculture sector, 40 percent of fatalities of working kids are associated with machines, equipment, or facilities related to agriculture.  That’s way too high.  We don’t want to blur the line between teaching kids about a good day’s hard work, and putting them in situations more safely handled by adults. Read more »

Setting the Record Straight on Congress’ Lifting of the Ban on Horse Slaughter

There has been a lot of talk in the past week about Congress’ lifting of the ban prohibiting federal funding for the inspection of horses, which prevented the slaughter of horses for human consumption for the past five years.  The issue is understandably a sensitive and emotional one for everyone who loves these majestic animals, but it is important that the discussion be tempered with the facts. Read more »

Disability Can’t Stop this Motivational Expert

Can’t is a four letter word that is not in Karren Alexander’s vocabulary. Having lost both arms in an accident at a very early age has not stopped Karren from reaching for the stars and trying to spread joy and determination to others.

Karren’s philosophy and purpose in life is to encourage and inspire other people. She stated, “I’ve lived my life instructing, guiding, motivating, and teaching others to be more than they think they can be.” Karren believes nothing is impossible and looks at life as being a beautiful thing. She never lets obstacles get in her way, always finding a solution to any problem or situation. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Coming Together to Restore the Middle Class

Last week, President Obama traveled to the small town of Osawatomie, Kansas, where President Teddy Roosevelt once called for building an America where everyone gets a fair chance, a square deal, and an equal opportunity to succeed.

One hundred years later, we are again at a make or break moment for the middle class.  At stake is a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement. Read more »

Learn How You Can Help Feed Kids During the Summer!

We think of summer time as a time when kids are free to play with their friends and enjoy time off from school. But it is during the summer months when many children report going hungry the most.  If you’re wondering how you can help prevent kids from going hungry when school is out, you should know that USDA encourages organizations to provide meals to kids through our Summer Food Service Program.

The Summer Food Service Program is a federally funded program –administered by States— that reimburses organizations for meals served to children during the summer.  Schools, churches, recreation centers, playgrounds, parks, and camps can serve meals in neighborhoods with high percentages of low-income families. These are safe and familiar locations where children naturally congregate during the summer.  Faith-based, community and private non-profit organizations can make a difference in the lives of hungry children by sponsoring a site and participating in the summer food service program. Read more »

Distance Learning and Telehealth-Providing 21st Century Education and Health Care in Rural America

Yesterday, I joined local and state leaders at an event in North Carolina highlighting the Obama Administration’s drive to provide top-quality educational and health care opportunities to rural residents. I went to James Sprunt Community College in Kenansville, N.C., to highlight USDA funding that will enable the faculty to provide college-level and advanced placement courses to students in five high schools.  It’s one of 100 Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grants awarded by USDA Rural Development nationwide.

These grants, administered through the Rural Utilities Service, are in keeping with the spirit of remarks President Obama made in a State of the Union Address.  If we want this country to succeed in the 21st century, we must harness the potential of every young person in this country.  It’s an economic imperative that we have a highly educated, highly trained – and healthy – workforce. Distance learning and telemedicine technology can effectively eliminate the barriers of time and distance that often challenge rural areas – bridging great distances to provide quality educational and health care opportunities to individuals that are hundreds, even thousands of miles away. Read more »