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NRCS Participates in Organic Farming Conference

If you are interested in organic farms and food, La Crosse, Wisconsin is the place to be in late February—when the largest organic farming conference in the U.S. takes place there.

Jean Stramel, Grazing Lands Specialist in Richland Center, discusses what assistance is available from NRCS for interested graziers.

Jean Stramel, Grazing Lands Specialist in Richland Center, discusses what assistance is available from NRCS for interested graziers.

This year’s Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) organic farming conference ran from Feb. 23 through Feb. 25 and was attended by over 3,300 people from 39 states. Over 150 exhibitors were there to provide information related to organic farming. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service Women: Opportunities are Endless

When the U.S. Forest Service was established in 1905, the common belief was that only men were physically and mentally capable of working outdoors for the agency. In the early 20th century, women were limited primarily to roles as administrative clerks. But in 1913, Hallie M. Daggett was hired as the first woman employee to be assigned to field work. She worked as a lookout at Klamath Peak on the Klamath National Forest in Yreka, Calif. – for 14 years.

Today, women comprise 38 percent of all of the Forest Service’s more than 30,000 employees. Women hold positions in all aspects within the agency, including forester positions, scientists and senior leadership roles.

“We take a lot of our opportunities today for granted as if they have always been that way,” said Angela Coleman, Associate Deputy Chief of Forest Service Research and Development. “We don’t stop long enough to thank those pioneers, women and men, who helped break down barriers that allow the Forest Service to be more inclusive. We are stronger today because of the strength of our diversity.” Read more »

The Best Food Distribution Models for Small and Mid-Sized Farmers

Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco.  Wholesale buyers like Bi-Rite see value in marketing local products.  Our study found that marketing to regional preferences helps farmers get a better price for their products.

Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco. Wholesale buyers like Bi-Rite see value in marketing local products. Our study found that marketing to regional preferences helps farmers get a better price for their products.

Small and mid-size farmers are the backbone of farmers markets, but they often face particular obstacles when trying to sell products in markets like grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, and schools.  Through the Transportation and Marketing program at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), we explored this issue in our recent study, Moving Food Along the Value Chain: Innovations in Regional Food Distribution. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: US-Korea Trade Agreement Big Boost for Agriculture

Last week was monumental for American farmers. Under the new U.S.-Korea trade agreement, two-thirds of the tariffs imposed on U.S. food and agricultural products exported to South Korea are being eliminated. That includes wheat, corn, soybeans for crushing, whey for feed use, hides and skins, cotton, cherries, pistachios, almonds, orange juice, grape juice, and wine.

Over the next few years, as additional barriers fall and more U.S. businesses market products to Korea’s expanding economy, American agricultural exports should grow by $1.9 billion and help support nearly 16,000 jobs here at home. Read more »

USDA, Other Federal Agencies Join Together to Help an Iowa Community

Mention to folks that federal agencies work well together and you may receive reactions of disbelief.  Sometimes the federal employees, themselves, don’t believe it.  But there was a roomful of believers at a recent USDA Rural Roundtable held in Ogden, Iowa.

Iowa USDA Rural Development State Director Bill Menner (center, seated) and other federal officials, hold a roundtable meeting in Ogden, Iowa.

Iowa USDA Rural Development State Director Bill Menner (center, seated) and other federal officials, hold a roundtable meeting in Ogden, Iowa.

I held more than 40 roundtables across rural Iowa last year, modeled after the roundtables of the White House Business Council and the White House Rural Council.  These roundtables provided a great opportunity to talk with rural residents, business owners and leaders about the issues facing their communities – and the opportunities that exist. Read more »

Value Added Producer Grants Promote Improvements to Vermont Dairy, New Hampshire Sausage Operations

Value Added Producer Grant recipients in Vermont will use USDA support to increase on-farm production of dairy products. (Photo taken by a USDA employee)

Value Added Producer Grant recipients in Vermont will use USDA support to increase on-farm production of dairy products. (Photo taken by a USDA employee)

It was a snow day in New England, but up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, in the little town of Hardwick, several people were gathered at the VT Food Venture Center, a local food incubator, to sign USDA Value Added Grant papers for the new businesses they are starting up.

The Michaud family of East Hardwick is launching Kingdom Creamery of Vermont, LLC. out of their newly finished processing facility on their dairy farm.  They are producing ice cream, yogurt and a soft serve mix for local retailers. They received a USDA Value Added Producer grant for working capital purposes for marketing, processing and purchasing packaging and production inventory. Read more »