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Small Farmers Embrace New Microloan

Every year, Dustin Schlinsog walks into the Farm Service Agency office in Neillsville, Wis., to apply for a direct operating loan to support his greenhouse operation. It’s a small loan, under $35,000. Yet, he must complete 17 pages of paperwork and meet the same requirements for farm operations applying for loans of $300,000.

Not anymore.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week the start of a new microloan program to assist beginning farmers, veterans and smaller farm operations. The program is designed to provide loans under $35,000 to help launch start-ups, provide needed resources and increased equity so farmers can graduate to commercial credit and expand their operations. Read more »

Preview of Food Price Outlook and Farm Income Sessions at 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum

USDA’s 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum, Feb. 21-22, in Arlington, Va., will host a morning of plenary session speakers on the opening day followed by 25 breakout sessions.  The “Food Price Outlook” breakout session for 2013 will offer perspectives on food price inflation, the factors contributing to food prices, and the consumer implications.

In this session, Dr. Todd Davis, Senior Economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, will discuss the link between this past year’s harvest and the prices consumers pay for food. Joining him will be USDA economist Richard Volpe explaining the relationship between food prices and inflation.  Kurt Collins, Senior Director of Commodity Risk Management for Unified Foodservice Purchasing Co-op, will explore strategies the food industry is using to manage commodity price risks. The “Farm Income” session will focus on general measures of the financial well-being of the farm economy and farm households.

To learn more about the Forum, please visit our website.

Angus Operation Beefs up Conservation Efforts during Drought

Angus Farm owners Larry and Annette Cutliff felt last year’s drought impacts firsthand.

Angus Farm owners Larry and Annette Cutliff felt last year’s drought impacts firsthand.

2012 saw the worst drought in a generation. It was exceptionally dry from the northern Great Plains into the Deep South— nearly three-quarters of the country.

“We knew that the carrying capacity of our pastures for next spring would not support our herd,” says Larry Cutliff, who runs a 45-head cow-calf Angus cattle operation in west Tennessee. “The prospect of drastically reducing our herd size was one option we were considering.” Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Growing Opportunity by Expanding Access to Credit

Today, USDA remains focused on working with Congress to secure a comprehensive, multiyear Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. A comprehensive Farm Bill will allow USDA to carry on our record efforts to support agriculture, conservation, trade, research and rural development efforts – and it will provide needed support and certainty for folks in rural America.

USDA’s credit programs provide a very good example of the positive impact a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would have for our nation.

Through programs authorized under the current Farm Bill, USDA provides access to credit that helps farmers to buy or expand an operation, helps businesses to grow and hire more, helps rural families looking for a good place to live and helps build up rural communities. Read more »

Martin Luther King Day-A Day of Service

In a 1957 sermon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged the congregation, asking:  “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is:  ’What are you doing for others?’ ”

Throughout his lifetime, Dr. King was passionately committed to community and service. On January 21st, USDA Rural Development is proud to join with Americans from all walks of life to honor Dr. King’s legacy through a National Day of Service. The Day of Service — a “day on, not a day off” — is part of United We Serve, President Obama’s national call to service initiative.

At USDA Rural Development, “doing for others” is one of our core rural values, and we encourage everyone in our organization to practice Dr. King’s principals of community, volunteerism and service not just on the Day of Service but throughout the year. In Tennessee, the “Volunteer State,” USDA Rural Development employees in the State Office in Nashville helped the hungry over the past year by donating more than 3,800 pounds of food through the USDA Feds Feed Families food drive to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. State Office employees also helped the food bank, which provides food to about 600,000 people across 46 counties each year, to sort food items for easier distribution. Read more »

Committed to Food Safety: Meet Supervisory Veterinary Medical Officer Dr. Douglas Fulnechek

Dr. Douglas Fulnechek discusses the different states of a disease process at an off-line carcass disposition correlation station.

Dr. Douglas Fulnechek discusses the different states of a disease process at an off-line carcass disposition correlation station.

FSIS is the largest employer of veterinarians in the United States, consisting of 1,100 dedicated Public Health Veterinarians (PHV) who are trained in public health and regulatory medicine. These veterinarians verify the health of the animals destined for the food supply. Dr. Douglas Fulnechek is one of these veterinarians. Read more »