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Alaskan Brewery Caps Bottles and Costs with USDA Energy Grant

Using a first-of-its-kind steam boiler fueled by spent grain, the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau will reduce its use of fuel oil by over 65 percent.  The boiler was funded in part through the USDA Rural Energy for America (REAP) Program.   Photo credit: Alaska Brewing Company photo.

Using a first-of-its-kind steam boiler fueled by spent grain, the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau will reduce its use of fuel oil by over 65 percent. The boiler was funded in part through the USDA Rural Energy for America (REAP) Program. Photo credit: Alaska Brewing Company photo.

In Alaska, it’s all about great beer and the Alaska Brewing Company, LLC (ABC) in Juneau is the 12th largest craft brewery by sales volume in the U.S.  According to their website, the Alaskan Brewing Company became the 67th operating brewery in the United States and the only brewery in Alaska in 1986. Read more »

Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold seated on rimrock above the Rio Gavilan in northern Mexico while on a bow hunting trip in 1938. (Photo courtesy Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Aldo Leopold seated on rimrock above the Rio Gavilan in northern Mexico while on a bow hunting trip in 1938. (Photo courtesy Aldo Leopold Foundation)

Over his 40-year career as a forester, scientist, teacher, and writer, Aldo Leopold brought a greater understanding of our relationship with the natural world at a time when the technological advances of the 20th century increasingly shut people off from their surroundings. Read more »

NRCS Staff Brings Mississippi Needles to Oregon Native Americans

NRCS Soil Conservation Technician Allen Hughes mails longleaf pine needles from the forest in his Miss. backyard to Oregon to be used to make baskets, a Native American tradition across the U.S.

NRCS Soil Conservation Technician Allen Hughes mails longleaf pine needles from the forest in his Miss. backyard to Oregon to be used to make baskets, a Native American tradition across the U.S.

Members of the Puget Salish Tribe in the Northwest are now using Southeastern longleaf pine needles from Mississippi to build baskets, all because of a connection made between two employees of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)—from the Gulf Coast to the West Coast. Read more »

USDA Rural Development Honors the Memory of a Crew Member During Martin Luther King Day of Service

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

Those words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. seem particularly prophetic for staff at USDA Rural Development in Arizona.

As staff was planning for the federal Martin Luther King Day of Service, we received news that our friend on the USDA Phoenix building cleaning crew, Elia Zepeda, was ill and in the hospital. Within days she slipped into a coma and died.

Elia’s cheerful personality greeted many USDA Rural Development employees at the Arizona State Office as they entered or exited the building each day. Although we never saw her in anything but her blue Goodwill uniform, it was clear that, although she loved her job, she was much more than a “cleaning lady.” Read more »

Investing in SNAP Integrity: Examining the Adequacy of SNAP Benefits

As the Federal agency responsible for carrying out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s mission, we are constantly taking actions to improve program integrity. In 2012, we enacted tougher financial sanctions to punish those who abuse the program; sent letters to the CEOs of Ebay, Facebook, Twitter and Craigslist to engage their help in preventing the sale or purchase of SNAP benefits online; and began requiring increased documentation for high-risk stores applying to redeem SNAP benefits. Last year, the program reached a record level of payment accuracy, and fraud has been reduced to the lowest rate in the history of the program. In 2013, we expect to do even more to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used wisely.

But spending taxpayer dollars with integrity also means ensuring that the benefits provided through SNAP are actually able to do what they’re intended to do—provide healthy food to families. While the program has a strong track record of success, its size and reach underscore the importance of periodic review to ensure that the resources it provides accurately reflect the real-world circumstances in which SNAP households find themselves today; circumstances that directly affect their ability to make healthy food choices within a limited budget. Read more »

Strong Rural Communities, Stronger America

Last week, the Department hosted several members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) at USDA headquarters in Washington to highlight the findings of a new report, Promoting Growth in All Regions, that says investments in rural places are vital for aggregate national economic growth and in many cases, such investments have found that rural regions have, on average, enjoyed faster growth than urban regions.

For an OECD policy brief that outlines the report’s findings visit this link.

In this time of economic challenges, the United States and other members of OECD cannot leave significant growth opportunities in rural regions untapped.   The authors of the OECD report are in  Washington this month to launch the report and urge policy makers not to overlook this reality when crafting economic policy for the country. Read more »