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Intertribal Agriculture Council Executive Director Praises Appointment of Members to the USDA Council for Native American Farming and Ranching

I was pleased to receive this statement in support of Secretary Vilsack’s appointment of members to the Council for Native American Farming and Ranching (CNAFR) from Ross Racine Executive Director  of the Intertribal Agriculture Council.

“The addition of CNAFR to the USDA available tools should provide much needed Native American input to the Department policies, rules and program delivery.  The CNAFR represents a diverse geographical group of individuals which in turn represents the diversity of Native American agriculture and natural resources.  In addition, I foresee the CNAFR providing an additional sounding board for Tribes and individual Indian producers as barriers are identified and are in need of address to facilitate Native American participation in the vast array of USDA programs and services.  CNAFR increases the Native American focus on Indian agriculture and increases the number of individuals pursuing positive change thus increasing Indian participation in USDA programs. CNAFR is another step USDA is taking to insure Native Americans have full opportunity to utilized programs and services to improve the quality of life on our Reservations.” Read more »

Collaboration for a Colorado Community

Some of the most passionate advocates for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service are our partners across the country.  I realized that when I sat down yesterday with our hunger fighting partners in rural Greeley, Colorado.  The town sits in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in Weld County, among some of the richest, most productive farmland in the west.  It’s a massive 4,000 square mile county where cattle, grain and sugar beets are king.

Yet in the midst of the beauty and bounty, I was struck by the fact that 25,000 people here are in need.  So United Way of Weld County brought together more than two dozen local agencies that all have a common goal:  to strengthen their community by reducing hunger and promoting health. Read more »

A New Step Forward in Fighting Food Stamp Fraud

Cross posted from the White House blog:

At USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service we are committed to keeping our vital nutrition assistance programs available to those who need them most.  One way to do that is to ensure access.  Another is to ensure integrity—Americans expect us to serve those in need, and they expect us to do so with accountability for the benefits provided.

That why today, as part of the Obama administration’s ongoing Campaign to Cut Waste, we’ve announced a proposed rule that will provide States with additional tools to maintain integrity in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. The proposed rule will help States identify and prevent fraud by allowing them to request client contact when there are excessive Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card replacement requests by SNAP households. The rule also further clarifies the definition of what constitutes trafficking. These new tools are important because excessive card replacement requests by SNAP recipients may indicate that the client does not know how to use the card properly and needs additional help or training, or that fraudulent activity may be occurring that warrants further investigation by the State. To be clear, we expect most requests for replacement cards to be legitimate ones; however, it’s important that we take a closer look at those cases in which cards are replaced at an excessive rate. Read more »

Strawberry Fields Forever

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan tours Driscoll’s Cassin Ranch in Watsonville, Calif on May 18.

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan tours Driscoll’s Cassin Ranch in Watsonville, Calif on May 18.

Last Friday I visited Watsonville, California.  As people know, I like to get outside the Beltway and visit with people to see how USDA programs are working.  My first stop was Driscoll’s Cassin Ranch, the site of the company’s plant breeding program.  We had a roundtable discussion about the many water management challenges faced in the Pajaro Valley watershed.  The Pajaro Valley aquifer, like too many others, is over-drafted and saltwater is intruding into the groundwater.  But action is being taken.  The Pajaro Valley Community Water Dialogue, a multi-stakeholder forum, is engaged in a series of managed aquifer recharge projects.  Not only does Driscoll’s participate in the Dialogue, but on its own, the company is also creating a new water monitoring process that is sure to improve irrigation efficiency amongst its growers.  Following our roundtable, I joined Carmela Beck (to my left) and others on a tour of the Bokariza recharge project.  Carmela is a member of the USDA National Organic Standards Board and is the manager of Driscoll’s national organic program. Read more »

On its 150th Anniversary, Indiana Honors USDA with a Proclamation

Indiana State Office staff members of Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Rural Development, and the Risk Management Agency gathered in Indianapolis earlier this week to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Department of Agriculture.

Following a luncheon, “Women in Agriculture and Natural Resources,” Indiana Lt. Governor Becky Skillman congratulated USDA attendees for their ongoing efforts and dedication to Indiana’s rural communities.  Additionally, Skillman presented a Proclamation from Governor Mitch Daniels which declared May 15, 2012, as “United States Department of Agriculture Day” in the State of Indiana. Read more »

City Girl Goes Organic in South Georgia with Help from USDA

After years of working in corporate America, Relinda Walker volunteered to be laid off to come home to Georgia and take over the family farm.

After years of working in corporate America, Relinda Walker volunteered to be laid off to come home to Georgia and take over the family farm.

Being first can have its advantages and disadvantages. Relinda Walker knows that all too well.

Walker’s Organic Farm was one of the first organic operations in South Georgia. It took root in 2005 during a time when eating organic was for foodies and white table cloth chefs. Read more »