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2012 Ag Outlook Forum: Agricultural Financial Markets and Investment

USDA’s 2012 Agricultural Outlook Forum, Feb. 23-24, will present 25 breakout sessions, including Agricultural Financial Markets and Investment focusing on patterns of financial investment in U.S. agricultural assets, changes in the types of lenders serving the agriculture sector, and the economics of land prices. Session speakers will be John Blanchfield, Senior Vice President, Center for Agricultural and Rural Banking American Banker’s Association;  Dr. Brent Gloy, Associate Professor and Director of Center for Commercial Agriculture, Purdue University; and John Hays, Senior Vice President–Policy Analysis and Development, Farm Credit Council. These are the topics they will address:    Read more »

Planting Seeds to Help the Specialty Crop Industry Grow

Blueberries blossom at Spiller Farm in Wells, Maine.  The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program will support blueberry and other specialty crop growers in California and the rest of the U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo by henskechristine.

Blueberries blossom at Spiller Farm in Wells, Maine. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program will support blueberry and other specialty crop growers in California and the rest of the U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo by henskechristine.

When it comes to supporting the American agricultural economy and its communities, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is all in. Here at AMS, we have several grant programs that producers and other organizations can utilize to help increase the competitiveness of their businesses. Read more »

Using a USDA Loan, a Dentist and Chiropractor Serve a Rural Minnesota Community

Dr. Julee Kingsley, dentist, practices out of a building in Elgin, Minn., financed with a USDA Rural Development Community Facilities loan. Dr. Kingsley grew up in Elgin, and returned to her home town to work after graduation.

Dr. Julee Kingsley, dentist, practices out of a building in Elgin, Minn., financed with a USDA Rural Development Community Facilities loan. Dr. Kingsley grew up in Elgin, and returned to her home town to work after graduation.

If you’re looking to shatter any preconceived notions you might have about rural Minnesota, take a trip to Elgin and spend some time with Dr. Julee Kingsley and Dr. Colleen Urbain. Read more »

The (Plant) Doctor is In

Trevor Nichols (left), Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Agricultural Bioscience CABI-Plantwise and Dr. Catherine Woteki (right), Undersecretary, Research Education and Economics signed a Memorandum of Understanding to make the United States Department of Agriculture’s research and genetic information accessible to “plant doctors” working to prevent disease and pests in developing countries at the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, February 7, 2012.

Trevor Nichols (left), Chief Executive Officer, Centre for Agricultural Bioscience CABI-Plantwise and Dr. Catherine Woteki (right), Undersecretary, Research Education and Economics signed a Memorandum of Understanding to make the United States Department of Agriculture’s research and genetic information accessible to “plant doctors” working to prevent disease and pests in developing countries at the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, February 7, 2012.

As USDA celebrates 150 years of serving American agriculture and rural communities, it is important to remember the enormous contribution of the Cooperative Extension Service, a three-way partnership between USDA and our state and county partners that forms a nationwide network of expertise.  These experts work with Americans on issues that relate to a wide range of topics including: agriculture, natural resource management, nutrition, youth development, community empowerment, household and family budgeting, and disaster assistance, among others. Read more »

Protecting Tax Payer Dollars by Strengthening SNAP

While fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a relatively limited problem, any amount of waste or abuse is too much.  As I wrote back in December, we are taking more aggressive steps to root out fraud and abuse as part of this administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste and to continue improving our stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

This week we were pleased to announce that fiscal year 2012 first quarter results for USDA’s efforts to identify and eliminate fraudulent retailers from SNAP are available.  From October 1 through December 31, 2011, USDA took final actions to sanction through fines or temporary disqualifications—more than 225 stores found violating program rules.  We also permanently disqualified over 350 stores for trafficking (exchanging benefits for cash) SNAP benefits. Read more »

Tennessee Office Welcomes Wounded Warriors

Earth Team Volunteer Sgt. Patrick Bower, Soil Conservationist Janet Coleman and District Conservationist Kevin Hart inspect a streambank protection jetty.

Earth Team Volunteer Sgt. Patrick Bower, Soil Conservationist Janet Coleman and District Conservationist Kevin Hart inspect a streambank protection jetty.

Volunteers for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) come from all walks of life.

In Tennessee, we’ve been lucky enough to have U.S. Army soldiers, who were injured while serving our nation, volunteer at the Clarksville NRCS Field Office.

Clarksville is only eight miles from Fort Campbell, Ky., a large Army base which straddles the Kentucky and Tennessee border. Fort Campbell is the home of the 101st Airborne Division, Special Forces units, a combat support hospital and sizeable medical facilities. Read more »