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Deputy Secretary Discusses Food Hubs, New Orleans Style

Nathan Cann volunteers at Hollygrove Market and Farm (HGMF) in exchange for a box of fresh produce valued at $25.00 in New Orleans, LA on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. USDA photo by Karen Lawson.

Nathan Cann volunteers at Hollygrove Market and Farm (HGMF) in exchange for a box of fresh produce valued at $25.00 in New Orleans, LA on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. USDA photo by Karen Lawson.

New Orleans is known for many special things, not the least of which is its food.

That’s why Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan chose the crescent city this week to release a new report on the importance of food hubs in America.  The report finds that there is an increasing demand for fresh, local foods and the popularity of food hubs is growing quickly.  In fact, there are well over 200 across the country now, including Hollygrove Farm and Market in downtown New Orleans. Read more »

South Dakota Stronger Economies Together Training Provides an Opportunity to Plan Regionally

Come to Wall Drug! From the far reaches of the nation, these words are on billboards beckoning visitors to come and experience this tourist hotspot in Wall, South Dakota.  Community members that make up the Bad River/Badlands region in western South Dakota were in Wall this month for a different reason.

A training team made up of staff from South Dakota USDA Rural Development and South Dakota State University Extension were on hand to deliver the third training of a nine part series as part of the Stronger Economies Together (SET) regional economic development initiative. Read more »

Aggressively Fighting Fraud in the SNAP Program

USDA is serious about good stewardship of tax payer dollars and is doing its part to support the Obama Administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste. That means, among other things, making sure Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are used by recipients and retailers the way the program was intended.

USDA has just issued a final regulation that updates the legal definition of trafficking. Put simply, recipients of SNAP benefits can now be kicked out of the program for indirectly obtaining cash for benefits.  This includes activities like so-called “water dumping,” which involves the purchasing of beverages in deposit containers, wasting the contents, and returning the containers for the cash deposit.  Such actions undermine this important program and will not be tolerated. Read more »

Inspiring Recovery

Deputy Secretary Merrigan surveys produce being grown by urban farmers in New Orleans.

Deputy Secretary Merrigan surveys produce being grown by urban farmers in New Orleans.

Earlier this week, I traveled to New Orleans with Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan to meet with the local farming and fishing community. What I saw at the Mary Queen of Vietnam Community Development Corporation (MQVN) was inspirational. Read more »

Energy Department and USDA Partner to Support Energy Efficiency in Rural Communities

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, state energy and extension staff are teaching farmers to use modern sensors to improve irrigation management. In this picture, Darrel Siekman and Gary Zoubek install Watermark Sensors and a data logger. | Photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska.

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, state energy and extension staff are teaching farmers to use modern sensors to improve irrigation management. In this picture, Darrel Siekman and Gary Zoubek install Watermark Sensors and a data logger. | Photo courtesy of the University of Nebraska.

Cross posted from the Department of Energy blog:

Each year, urban households in the U.S. combined use more than three times the total energy that America’s rural households do. Yet, the Energy Information Administration estimates that rural families spend about $400 more per year in energy bills compared to the typical urban household. Unlocking new opportunities to save energy will help rural Americans save money, while improving our energy security, creating jobs and protecting our air and water. Read more »

SNAP Remains a Safety Net for Veterans and Families in Need

Cross posted from the disability.gov blog:

Today, I was thinking about the last entry I wrote for Disability.gov’s blog just about a year ago and considering our accomplishments in 2012 and the opportunities that are ahead for 2013.

The need for food assistance remained high in 2012, with an average of 47 million people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) every month. Program participation increased in response to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana and Hurricane Sandy in the New England states. However, overall the program grew at a slower rate and even flattened toward the end of the year. SNAP continues to be the cornerstone of the national hunger safety net by helping those in need put healthy food on the table. Read more »