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Forest Service Funds Urban Tree Projects in California

Local young people prepare the ground for tree plantings at the Urban Releaf ceremony in Oakland, Calif., on Aug. 20.

Local young people prepare the ground for tree plantings at the Urban Releaf ceremony in Oakland, Calif., on Aug. 20.

Urban forests are a vital part of our nation’s cities – they clean the air we breathe, capture pollution and stormwater and beautify our neighborhoods. Urban trees save cities millions of dollars in energy costs every year just from shade alone. U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has called urban trees “the hardest working trees in America.”

Tidwell underscored that statement during a recent visit Oakland, Calif. to view Urban Releaf’s greening and community-building efforts. He presented Kemba Shakur, executive director, a check for $181,000 to support education and demonstrations projects, as well as tree planting and maintenance throughout the Oakland area. Read more »

Maine USDA Rural Development Staff Gears Up to Save Lives

Earlier this month I joined six other USDA staff members in an American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) training session in Bangor, Maine. In addition, 8 other staff was trained at a different facility in Portland, Maine in July. In total 15 staff members were provided with this valuable opportunity to learn how to save a life.

USDA Rural Development is taking a proactive approach to health and wellness and has purchased five AED units, which will be placed in all four area offices and in the state office to ensure the health and safety of its 69 staff members and any members of the public who need emergency assistance.

The training ensured that there was a least one employee educated to use the equipment in the case of an emergency. Read more »

Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 8/24/12

Tropical Storm Isaac as of August 23 at 2pm EDT.

Tropical Storm Isaac as of August 23 at 2pm EDT. Click image to enlarge.

Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA’s Drought Disaster response and assistance.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor, dated August 21, reflects a persistence of drought across the majority of the nation.  Overall conterminous U.S. drought coverage stands at 63%, up slightly from 62% on August 14 but below the July 24 maximum of 64%.  In the last week, U.S. corn in drought climbed a percentage point to 86%, but still below the July 24 peak of 89%.  Soybeans in drought remained steady at 83%, five percentage points below the July 24 high.  Hay in drought remained steady at 63% for the third consecutive week, down from a high of 66% on July 17 and 24.  Cattle in drought rose a percentage point in the last week to 72%, slightly below the July 17 and 24 peak of 73%.  Crops and cattle in exceptional drought (D4) remained nearly unchanged – 8% of the U.S. corn, 10% of the soybeans, 12% of the hay, and 14% of the cattle. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Expanding Access to Credit in Rural America

As drought continues across America, President Obama and I continue doing all we can to help producers. In addition to the actions we’ve already taken, we will continue to call on Congress to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill that gives USDA more tools to help, while providing more certainty for our producers.

Throughout this disaster, USDA has worked hard to offer emergency access to credit for farmers and ranchers.

In the early days of the drought, USDA acted to lower the interest rate for FSA Emergency Loans from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent.  This week, USDA announced that we will modify emergency loans by allowing loans to be made earlier in the season – helping livestock producers to offset increased feed costs, as well as those who have liquidated herds. Read more »

Garden with Native Plant Species on National Planting Day

The People’s Garden Initiative and Keep America Beautiful are asking Americans to join us in supporting local ecosystems by planting species native to their area this fall. The first ever National Planting Day will take place on Saturday, September 8 and will continue with activities happening through November 30. Read more »