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With Some Help from USDA, a Small Oregon Town Brings Shoppers Back to Main Street

Cottage Grove residents stand under an arch welcoming visitors to the newly restored downtown area.

Cottage Grove residents stand under an arch welcoming visitors to the newly restored downtown area.

Like so many small towns these past few decades, downtown Cottage Grove, Oregon has seen its vitality as the community’s economic and social center fade as retail, building occupancy and overall traffic on Main Street have declined. The historic city center was laid out and constructed as the community’s small, but bustling hub near the turn of the last century. Over the years, changes in lifestyle, business models, traffic patterns, and overall growth diverted activity away. In addition, the small town of under 10,000 is conveniently located on an interstate just 20 miles from a major population center. As such, Cottage Gove today is home to many who prefer a quiet, small-town residential environment, but who work, shop and do business in the nearby Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area. Read more »

Why I Became an Inspector in APHIS’ Animal Care Program

Animal Care inspector Bob Markmann conducts an inspection at a commercial dog breeding facility.

Animal Care inspector Bob Markmann conducts an inspection at a commercial dog breeding facility.

USDA/APHIS’ Animal Care program enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act, which sets standards for humane care and treatment that must be provided for certain animals that are exhibited to the public, bred for commercial sale, used in biomedical research, or transported commercially. Individuals/entities that operate facilities using animals in these ways must provide their animals with proper veterinary care, adequate housing, appropriate nutrition, etc. Read more »

Forest Service Botanist Shares Fall’s Native Plant Diversity on South Dakota’s Black Hills National Forest

Fall needle cast is natural for many conifers, including ponderosa pine. The trees shed their oldest leaves each fall, but the leaves at the branch tips remain green.  Pine trees that lose their newer leaves at the branch tips may be stressed or diseased. Photo by Jill Welborn.

Fall needle cast is natural for many conifers, including ponderosa pine. The trees shed their oldest leaves each fall, but the leaves at the branch tips remain green. Pine trees that lose their newer leaves at the branch tips may be stressed or diseased. Photo by Jill Welborn.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think many people are relieved to see the fall colors and relish the cool mornings here on the Black Hills National Forest. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A Thank You to America’s Veterans

Americans will soon come together on Veterans Day to honor our nation’s returned service members, including more than 22 million living American veterans.

For generations, American service members across every branch of our military have made tremendous sacrifices to defend our freedom and liberty.   This weekend, it’s important that all of us take time to remember their service.

In particular, earlier this year, President Obama honored our Vietnam-era veterans when he proclaimed a 13-year period – May 28, 2012, through Nov. 11, 2025 – as the “Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War.”  This gives all of us a special opportunity to recognize these veterans, who too often were not properly thanked when they came home. Read more »

Celebrating Years of Service - at USDA and as Military Veterans

From left to right: Jeffery Ishmael, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran; Joseph Hastings, served with the U.S. Army Special Forces; Tracy Sulton, a member of the U.S. Navy in front of a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter; Lauren Hilliker (right) with Col. Mike Malone served with the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve.

From left to right: Jeffery Ishmael, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran; Joseph Hastings, served with the U.S. Army Special Forces; Tracy Sulton, a member of the U.S. Navy in front of a CH-53 Super Stallion helicopter; Lauren Hilliker (right) with Col. Mike Malone served with the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve.

Each Veteran’s Day, the country takes a moment to recognize our troops for their commitment and dedication to the nation. The experiences of our veterans show how military service intersects with the mission of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in unexpected ways. As we prepare for the holiday, AMS would like to thank all of our veterans for their service and their sacrifice and also highlight a few members of our staff willing to share their stories. Read more »

Collaboration Key to Aiding Hurricane Sandy Victims

Tough times and dire circumstances have a longstanding history of bringing America’s communities and organizations together.  The recent storms that descended on much of the nation’s Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions have underscored these important partnerships.

For many of the stricken areas, including the urban centers in the Northeast, natural disasters of this scale are relatively rare.  And households containing the very young, elderly and those with special needs are of particular concern to USDA and our many partners engaged in these emergencies.

To aid those in Hurricane Sandy’s crosshairs, USDA swiftly coordinated with FEMA, States, and partner organizations to provide disaster nutrition assistance in 13 states.  By issuing automatic, mass replacement of SNAP benefits to certain households hit by the storm – for instance – SNAP individuals and families currently participating in SNAP will be able to replace their food purchased with SNAP benefits that spoiled due to flooding and power outages.  In the severely affected areas of New Jersey and New York SNAP recipients will be granted a waiver to purchase hot foods with their benefits.  In addition, USDA has worked with retailer trade associations to ensure SNAP authorized stores are aware of this waiver and eligibility for the purchase of hot foods through the month of November.  Meanwhile, several other States have been granted extensions to report loss of food purchased with their SNAP benefits and to request replacement benefits. Read more »