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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 »

Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 8/16/12

U.S. cattle areas located in drought.

U.S. cattle areas located in drought. Click 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 14, indicates that some drought-affected areas of the United States have begun to turn the corner with respect to the historic drought of 2012.  During the seven-day period ending August 14, conterminous U.S. drought coverage fell to 61.8%, down from a July 24 peak of 63.9%.  Continental U.S. coverage of extreme to exceptional drought (D3 to D4), the two worst drought categories, dipped to 23.7%, less than one-half of a percentage point below last week’s peak.  However, U.S. exceptional drought (D4) coverage actually rose in the last week, from 4.2 to 6.3%, on the strength of worsening conditions in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.  In fact, Missouri leads the nation—according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service—in very poor to poor ratings for pastures (98% VP to P), corn (84%), and soybeans (75%). Read more »

Secretary Vilsack to Talk Drought Live Tonight From the Iowa State Fair

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks with stakeholders at the Iowa State Fair during the White House Rural Forum. USDA Photo by Darin Leach.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks with stakeholders at the Iowa State Fair during the White House Rural Forum in 2011. USDA Photo by Darin Leach.

Tonight, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will join RURAL TV and RFD-TV live at the Iowa State Fair to discuss the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s continuing efforts to assist farmers and ranchers impacted by drought.

As part of continuing steps by the Obama Administration to assist livestock producers in response to the historic drought, USDA will utilize nearly $16 million in financial and technical assistance to immediately help crop and livestock producers in 19 states cope with the adverse impacts of the historic drought. In addition, USDA will initiate a transfer of $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program. These funds can be used to assist in moving water to livestock in need, providing emergency forage for livestock, and rehabilitating lands severely impacted by the drought. Together these efforts should provide nearly $30 million to producers struggling with drought conditions. Read more »

Missouri USDA’s “Can” Do Attitude with Feds Feed Families

The annual Feds Feed Families food drive is a summer-long effort, but USDA employees in Missouri donate to the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri all year long. Eight years ago, Tara Griffin, a Missouri Farm Service Agency state office employee, took the initiative to organize USDA employees to volunteer once a month at the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri. Employees repackaged bulk food for individual use and sorted food products, giving them the chance to see first-hand the impact the food bank has on local communities.  The experience was so powerful that Missouri USDA employees have continued to volunteer at the Food Bank once a month ever since.

Thus, it is no surprise that Missouri USDA employees are so eager to give back to the food bank each year through the Feds Feed Families campaign.  Collaboration between USDA agencies within the Missouri office has allowed for friendly competition and spurred the generation of creative ideas to help make the state’s Fed Feed Families campaign a success. Read more »

Landowner and Land Manager Working to Help Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Ranchers who are protecting the lesser prairie-chicken while improving their operations: Tom Turner (left), Glen Mull, and Amy Harter.

Ranchers who are protecting the lesser prairie-chicken while improving their operations: Tom Turner (left), Glen Mull, and Amy Harter.

A Kansas family and their neighbor  are working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to increase habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken—while also benefiting their grazing lands.

Glen Mull and his daughter, Amy Harter, collaborate with Tom Turner to co-manage the grassland they own and the grassland he manages next door. Together, the Mulls and Turner have enrolled roughly 3,000 acres in Edwards and Stafford counties in the Lesser Prairie Chicken Initiative. Read more »

Secretary Meets with Energy and Rural Development Officials During a Nebraska Swing

Late last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack went to Omaha, Nebraska to discuss the President’s “All of the above” energy strategy, and meet with wind energy and rural development officials.  Speaking to members of the American Coalition for Ethanol, he said that while the drought is severe and the Obama Administration is moving to help affected farmers and ranchers, we won’t know the impact of this drought until harvest time – but we do know that working together, we will get through this challenge.

The Secretary noted that Nebraska has been hit hard by drought. Today, USDA declared an additional 172 additional counties across the United States as primary natural disaster areas due to drought – and as of today, all of the State of Nebraska is covered by primary or contiguous disaster designations for drought.

Read more »