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Secretary’s Column: Helping Communities Impacted by Disaster

This year, many Americans have been impacted by a wide range of natural disasters. Many have seen their homes perish or their livelihoods turned upside down – sometimes overnight. Tragically, some have lost their lives.

Many Americans don’t know it, but USDA often plays a key role in disaster assistance and recovery. We take this responsibility seriously.  Today, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we’re working to help.

More than 250 U.S. Forest Service personnel have been sent to affected states, to assist in disaster response.  USDA staff members are helping rural electric and water utility companies assess outages and damage.  We are working with impacted States to assess the need for emergency food assistance.  And we are in constant contact with FEMA, additional Federal agencies, and State and local governments to ensure a coordinated response. Read more »

Ute Tribe in Rocky Mountain Region Honors 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree

Seventy-Three foot Engleman Spruce selected from White River National Forest  in Colorado as 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree. PHOTO CREDIT:  Ted Bechtol, superintendent, Architect of the Capitol

Seventy-Three foot Engleman Spruce selected from White River National Forest in Colorado as 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree. Photo: Ted Bechtol, superintendent, Architect of the Capitol.

This year’s Capitol Christmas Tree is coming from the White River National Forest in the Rocky Mountain Region and will be harvested at a private ceremony today, Nov. 2.  Forest Service employees and the non-profit partner Choose Outdoors are hard at work planning the public tree celebration taking place on Nov. 3. Read more »

Colonias Receive Support from USDA Rural Development

For thousands of families and communities along the US/Mexico border, USDA Rural Development (RD) has provided help…and hope.

Over the past four years we have invested more than $1.2 billion dollars in Colonias in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas—financing a range of projects from clinics and hospitals to water and waste water systems, from state-of-the-art energy-saving photovoltaic solar energy systems to child care centers, from local rural businesses to food banks.

Colonias are neighborhoods or communities within 150 miles of the U.S./Mexico border that are economically distressed. For many the basic infrastructure that most Americans take for granted is non-existent. Such was the case on the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona. Most of the homesites on this sprawling reservation are miles from the nearest water/waste water infrastructure. Homes were built years ago without indoor plumbing…and the hope of adding sanitary facilities was stymied by the lack of access to treatment facilities. Read more »

U.S. Agriculture to Benefit from Panama Trade Agreement

Grain exports represent 17 percent of the total cargo that flows through the Panama Canal and 90 percent of those grains are from the United States. Under the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (Panama TPA), which entered into force Oct. 31, U.S. grains and other agricultural products exported to Panama will be completely duty-free within 15 years.

Grain exports represent 17 percent of the total cargo that flows through the Panama Canal and 90 percent of those grains are from the United States. Under the U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (Panama TPA), which entered into force Oct. 31, U.S. grains and other agricultural products exported to Panama will be completely duty-free within 15 years.

The U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (Panama TPA) entered into force Oct. 31, expanding market access for U.S. agricultural exporters in one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. The Panama TPA is the last in a trio of trade agreements (South Korea and Colombia are the others) that altogether are expected to boost U.S. agricultural exports by $2.2 billion when fully implemented. Read more »

Rural Cooperative Development Support Helps Start Harvest Moon Local Foods Co-op in Minnesota

Harvest Moon Local Foods Co-op manager David Giedd shows a selection of locally grown meats to USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer.

Harvest Moon Local Foods Co-op manager David Giedd shows a selection of locally grown meats to USDA Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer.

Like any new venture, there are a number of obstacles to overcome when starting a local foods cooperative. The fact that people in Long Lake, Minn. chose to start a cooperative during the economic downturn in 2007-08 was just another of those obstacles. Read more »

White Mountain National Forest Named a “Treasured Landscape”

Peaceful solace is offered along a lakeshore in the White Mountain National Forest in Maine. It would be difficult for a traveler not to find a site worthy of a great painting or a great photograph. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Peaceful solace is offered along a lakeshore in the White Mountain National Forest in Maine. It would be difficult for a traveler not to find a site worthy of a great painting or a great photograph. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

One of the best destinations to visit in New England is the White Mountain National Forest, with its campgrounds, hiking trails, scenic drives, beautiful landscapes and world renowned fall foliage.

The forest has recently been adopted by the National Forest Foundation as one of its “Treasured Landscapes,” for its on-the-ground restoration needs due to damage from flooding, woody debris, sediment and erosion caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Read more »