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USDA Expands Its Housing Refinance Program to 15 More States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to Help Rural Homeowners Lower Mortgage Rates

Rural Development is the lead Federal agency that works to ensure that rural families have access to safe, well-built, affordable homes.  In February 2012, the agency initiated a two-year, pilot refinancing program in 19 states hardest hit by the Nation’s housing downturn to help eligible USDA borrowers reduce their monthly housing costs.

Today, USDA announced that the program is expanding to include eligible rural residents in Puerto Rico, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Read more »

Local Foods and Nutritious Diets: USDA’s 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum

Demand for local and regional foods is strong and growing, as consumers across the country are looking for healthy food options grown and raised in their own communities. USDA has long supported this effort along with the procurement of regional foods by schools and helping them increase food literacy among the nation’s children.

These efforts will be the topic of the “Showcasing Local Foods” session at USDA’s 2013 Agriculture Outlook Forum, February 21-22, where Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will moderate a panel of speakers to discuss how local foods can lead to more nutritious diets. Lela Reichart with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will discuss the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which focuses on nutrition knowledge and related topics. USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Deborah Kane will discuss the Farm to School Program that isbringing more locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables into school cafeterias.  Tom Coon, from Michigan State University, will discuss Cooperative Extension’s role in educational programs related to regional and local food systems. Read more »

Access to Land, Capital Biggest Obstacle for Beginning Farmers

“Beginning farmers are a key to twenty-first-century agriculture," says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

“Beginning farmers are a key to twenty-first-century agriculture," says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Clay Blackburn is a 25-year-old Missouri farmer who works several part-time jobs to keep his cow/calf operation growing. He currently leases 200 acres of land until he can build enough capital to buy.

“It’s tough for a young person to get started in farming,” said Blackburn. “Finding land is the most difficult thing, but I’m determined to eventually make this my full-time job.” Read more »