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Increasing Healthy Food Access, A Community Conversation and a National Challenge

Today I participated in event with Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to highlight the challenge of increasing access to healthy foods. It’s a conversation that I and others at USDA have had many times before.  From small towns to big cities, people are talking about how to get more fresh, healthy food into their communities.  Everywhere I go, parents ask how and where they can get fresh fruits and vegetables for their children.  Schools ask for advice on sourcing healthier food for school meals. Shoppers ask where they can buy healthy foods in their neighborhoods.

According to the Institute of Medicine, 1 in 3 children and 2 out of 3 adults are overweight or obese. The percentage of obese adults in the United States is expected to reach 42 percent by 2030. More than 20 million Americans have diabetes, and 79 million are pre-diabetic. Our nation’s children may be the first American generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents’, due in large part to obesity-related diseases . In addition, the economic costs of obesity and related chronic health issues are staggering at an estimated  $147 billion per year in direct costs, and billions more if indirect costs such as lost productivity are included. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Expanding Farm Credit Opportunities

Today, American agriculture is thriving.  Farm income is strong, and we are in the three best years for agricultural exports in history.

The prosperity of our agriculture sector is driving the economy forward, creating jobs, and ensuring that Americans have the most affordable food supply of any developed nation.  At USDA, we’re committed to supporting the farmers and ranchers who are creating this success.

One issue that is always critical for farmers and ranchers is access to credit – in particular for those who are just starting out or who have smaller farming operations. Read more »

Florida Bat Survey Tests for White-Nose Syndrome and Bat Health

Well into the wee hours of night, for five successive evenings, teams of scientists from across the southeastern United States waited and watched as bats in the Apalachicola National Forest swooped down to feed on their insect prey only to be captured in sheer mist nets.

The scientific teams and U.S. Forest Service wildlife biologists were conducting bat surveys to test for white-nose syndrome and general bat healthiness throughout the region. Read more »

New Alaska Patrol Boat Carries Name of Fallen Law Enforcement Officer

The newly commissioned PV Kristine Fairbanks patrols Alaska’s Prince William Sound as part of the Forest Service’s mission in the Alaska Region May 5, 2012. The boat is named for a law enforcement officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2008. Photo by Milo Burcham.

The newly commissioned PV Kristine Fairbanks patrols Alaska’s Prince William Sound as part of the Forest Service’s mission in the Alaska Region May 5, 2012. The boat is named for a law enforcement officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2008. Photo by Milo Burcham.

The name and memory of U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Kristine Fairbanks has a lot of meaning for the Forest Service law enforcement community and especially to the Pacific Northwest and Alaska regions of the agency. Read more »