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Secretary’s Column: Expanding Rural Broadband Opportunities

As the drought continues, USDA and other Federal agencies are doing all we can to help farmers, ranchers and communities. Unfortunately, USDA’s tools are limited today. Due to inaction by Congress, many programs authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill expired on October 1. Other aspects of the law will continue to expire in the coming months.

This brings tremendous uncertainty for rural families – particularly livestock producers who have lost access to disaster programs, and dairy producers who no longer have access to dairy support programs.

As we encourage Congress to pass a multi-year Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible, USDA continues our work to strengthen the rural economy.  This includes continuing our record efforts to expand access to broadband internet in rural areas. Read more »

USDA Funded Digester Reduces Pollution, Powers 1,500 Michigan Homes

USDA Rural Development Michigan State Director James Turner joined Senator Debbie Stabenow and local officials this summer in celebrating the opening of the largest commercial-scale anaerobic digester in the United States.

The Fremont Community Digester is an ambitious new use of a proven technology.  Once used chiefly in farms, anaerobic digesters are now coming into their own.

The facility will convert organic waste products – such as farm and food waste – and process it into biogas.  Approximately 1,500 local families will derive their power from this previously untapped energy source. Read more »

Native American Youths in Florida get Behind-the-Scenes Look at Forest Service Careers

The National Forests in Florida hosted Native American teenagers from the Florida Indian Youth Program on the Apalachicola National Forest. The program, sponsored by the Florida Governor’s Council on Indian Affairs focuses on job skills, academic skills, life-skills, social and cultural activities.

The National Forests in Florida hosted Native American teenagers from the Florida Indian Youth Program on the Apalachicola National Forest. The program, sponsored by the Florida Governor’s Council on Indian Affairs focuses on job skills, academic skills, life-skills, social and cultural activities.

Their eyes wide open and their minds prepped to learn, a group of Native American youths from Florida recently glimpsed the skills and knowledge needed for  Forest Service careers during a field trip to the Apalachicola National Forest.

Forest professionals from civil engineering, landscape architecture, archaeology and recreation escorted teenagers from the Florida Indian Youth Program during their visit.  The teens got the stories behind several hiking, biking and fishing day-use areas on the forest. The goal was to give the teens insight in the process of creating user-friendly recreation sites. From idea, to planning, to execution, the employees presented the stages involved in site development. Read more »

Bringing Credit Options to Our Veterans

Althea Raiford retired from the Navy in 2010 and works in Maryland as a police officer. But every month she sends money home to Georgia to buy hogs, chickens and feed, some of which have been purchased at a discount through a network of veterans.

“We [veterans] are a family,” said Raiford, who was able to connect with other veteran farmers to receive 20 chickens for free and purchase two hogs for $30 each to jumpstart an operation that she and her brother started in Georgia four years ago. “We take care of our family and we take care of it the best way we know how.”

Raiford was one of nearly 40 veterans who traveled to Kearneysville, W.Va., on Oct. 10 to attend a symposium co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that provides veterans who have an interest in agriculture with financial and business planning information. Read more »