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Secretary’s Column: Supporting American Jobs by Increasing Exports

As drought continues across America, President Obama and I continue doing all we can to help producers. In addition to the actions the Administration has already taken, we will continue to work with Members of Congress toward passage of a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill – because USDA needs tools to help, and producers need certainty in this difficult time.

While we know that the ongoing drought will impact yields, we also know that thanks to technology and the innovation of producers, many producers may still see a good year – we won’t know until harvest time. Meanwhile, USDA continues doing all we can to support a strong rural economy and a thriving agriculture sector.

A big part of this work is ensuring strong markets for quality American agricultural products. President Obama and I know that supporting strong markets for U.S. agricultural exports is crucial to continuing economic growth in rural America. Read more »

Council for Native American Farming and Ranching Begins Work

Natural Resources/Range Manager of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Blackfoot, ID., Mark Wadsworth, speaking, was voted as the President of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Council for Native American Farming and Ranching (CNAFR) held at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012. CNAFR was created to advise the Secretary on ways to eliminate barriers to participation for Native American Farmers and Ranchers in USDA programs. The Council was established as part of the Keepseagle settlement, and is conducted under the oversight of USDA's Office of Tribal Relations under the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Natural Resources/Range Manager of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes in Blackfoot, ID., Mark Wadsworth, speaking, was voted Chairman of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Council for Native American Farming and Ranching (CNAFR) held at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012. CNAFR was created to advise the Secretary on ways to eliminate barriers to participation for Native American Farmers and Ranchers in USDA programs. The Council was established as part of the Keepseagle settlement, and is conducted under the oversight of USDA's Office of Tribal Relations under the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

An intensive two day public meeting wrapped up earlier this week in Washington, D.C., as the recently appointed members of the Council for Native American Farming and Ranching met face-to-face for the first time. Read more »

Bikes, Bananas and Conservation–Earth Team Volunteers Contribute to Annual Iowa NRCS Partnership

RAGBRAI riders traveling down the road toward the tent site. More than 9,500 people ride RAGBRAI each year.

RAGBRAI riders traveling down the road toward the tent site. More than 9,500 people ride RAGBRAI each year.

Each July, more than 9,500 people pedal across the state of Iowa, covering a total distance of more than 400 miles in just seven days. The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) attracts cyclists from across the globe.

Cyclists travel from one Iowa town to the next, enjoying the Midwest hospitality. Iowa residents living along the route can watch the swarms of bicyclists ride by for hours straight. Read more »

In Pennsylvania, Farmers Markets Offer Opportunity to Producers and Communities

Pennsylvania is among the country’s top ten states represented in the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.  I recently completed a trip through the Fruit Belt to the Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia to see how USDA’s support of farmers market development is impacting communities and helping farmers across the Keystone State.

My first stop was Camp Hill, a small town outside Harrisburg, to visit a new farmers market developed with the assistance of community organizations including   Capital Resource and Conservation & Development Area Council (Capital RC&D).  Capital RC&D received a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant to help farmers markets improve their consumer outreach and receive EBT and debit payments to expand micro-business opportunities for the area’s local farmers.  The market, which just opened in May, is off to a great start with over a dozen vendors selling local bread, meat,  dairy and produce from Pennsylvania’s fruit belt. Read more »

USDA Official, Center for Rural Strategies, Discuss Ways Rural Areas can Attract and Retain Creative Young Americans

Kelle Jolly of the Carpetbagger Theater in Knoxville, TN shares her perspective with other rural arts practitioners at the Double Edge Theater in Ashfield, MA. Photo Courtesy Center for Rural Strategies

Kelle Jolly of the Carpetbagger Theater in Knoxville, TN shares her perspective with other rural arts practitioners at the Double Edge Theater in Ashfield, MA. Photo Courtesy Center for Rural Strategies

This past week, I had the opportunity to join a group of rural arts leaders at a conference in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.   The event had a number of objectives, including some hearty brainstorming about the crucial role rural arts organizations and artists play in buoying small town economies and enhancing the livability of rural places.  Additionally, since there were a number of talented and inspiring young people in the group, this was a chance for them to learn and share their experiences.  While there was no USDA sponsorship of this event, the Obama Administration can certainly feel inspired by the positive energy these practitioners bring to the country. Read more »