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Rural America: Moving Forward Through Inspiration and Innovation

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to join members and guests of the Farm Credit Council at their annual meeting in San Diego. It was a great opportunity to see some old friends and make new ones.

But it was also a time for me to continue to share the story of how critically important rural America is to our nation and why we can’t afford to allow rural areas to be left behind in the nation’s forward march to progress.

In meetings before large national farm and business groups, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack often speaks about how agriculture continues to change and innovate. He notes how it has transformed from a two-dimensional approach that used to focus on production and livestock, to a multidimensional approach that now also emphasizes specialty crops and niche market opportunities, exports, developing fuel and energy crops through a bio-based economy, supporting local and regional food systems, and committing to conservation and outdoor recreational opportunities. Read more »

Forest Service Helps Hollywood Go Green

Forest Service research led to the creation of Hollywood’s first 100 percent sustainable studio set.

Forest Service research led to the creation of Hollywood’s first 100 percent sustainable studio set.

Hollywood’s first 100 percent sustainable studio set was created for 20th Century Fox’s  comedy series “Raising Hope” thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory  and NOBLE Environmental Technologies, a long-term collaborator with the laboratory.

NOBLE Environmental Technologies’ patented ECOR® panels, which were developed in partnership with laboratory researchers, were used to create a modern hotel suite for a two-part episode of the show.  ECOR® is a recycled, lightweight panel product that is strong but weighs as little as one-fourth the weight of conventional wood product panels. The product is 100 percent, USDA-certified bio-based and made with 100 percent cellulose fibers including post-consumer paper, wood and agricultural raw material sources. ECOR® contains no toxic additives or adhesives. Read more »

Celebrate Bird Health Awareness Week

Did you know Feb. 24 through March 2 is Bird Health Awareness Week? USDA’s Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) invites you to celebrate by joining poultry experts on a webinar called, “Growing Chicks Into Healthy Chickens: Getting Ready for Spring,” to be held on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 2 p.m.  This webinar is hosted by the Chicken Whisperer, an Extension veterinarian and an APHIS veterinarian. Registration is required and details are here.

The Chicken Whisperer raises backyard birds in rural Georgia.  He started years ago with a few hens and ducks, and this year is starting a new flock of 40 birds at his new home. Andy Schneider (the Chicken Whisperer’s real name), has helped countless bird lovers with their own flocks, has a radio show about backyard bird care, and runs the Atlanta Backyard Poultry MeetUp group which has over 1,600 members. Read more »

Florida Students Go Back in Time on Their National Forest

Juliann and Matthew Krogh, members of the Coast Guard Historic Ship’s Company, give a living history presentation to Franklin County, Fla., middle school students recently at historic Fort Gadsden on the Apalachicola National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service Photo/Susan Blake)

Juliann and Matthew Krogh, members of the Coast Guard Historic Ship’s Company, give a living history presentation to Franklin County, Fla., middle school students recently at historic Fort Gadsden on the Apalachicola National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service Photo/Susan Blake)

More than 100 Franklin County middle and high school students got to explore the life of an 18th century sailor through a living history program presented by employees of the National Forests in Florida and the U.S. Coast Guard. Read more »

Disability Is an Important Risk Factor for Food Insecurity

Family of three dines outdoors. ERS research found that among households that included an adult with a work-preventing disability, a third were food insecure in 2009-10.

Family of three dines outdoors. ERS research found that among households that included an adult with a work-preventing disability, a third were food insecure in 2009-10.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

In 2011, close to 15 percent of U.S. households had trouble meeting their food needs. This phenomenon is known as food insecurity, and it means that at some time during the year, these households lacked adequate food for one or more household members due to insufficient money or other resources for food. Read more »

A Biobased Economy for Rural America

Secretary Vilsack receives the National Energy Leadership Award from the National Biodiesel Board.  The award is given periodically to individuals who demonstrate exemplary vision and leadership in development of the renewable fuels industry.  Pictured left to right are Ed Ulch, Governing Board Member, National Biodiesel Board; Secretary Tom Vilsack; and Joe Jobe, CEO, National Biodiesel Board.

Secretary Vilsack receives the National Energy Leadership Award from the National Biodiesel Board. The award is given periodically to individuals who demonstrate exemplary vision and leadership in development of the renewable fuels industry. Pictured left to right are Ed Ulch, Governing Board Member, National Biodiesel Board; Secretary Tom Vilsack; and Joe Jobe, CEO, National Biodiesel Board.

In the days after the Super Bowl it is not unusual for spectators to “Monday morning quarterback” the advertisements, as well as the plays that were called.  For the members of two renewable fuels industries, however, there was no disputing the message of the now famous “God made a farmer” ad featuring Paul Harvey.  Last week in Las Vegas, the Renewable Fuels Association and the National Biodiesel Board both led off their meetings with this ad before Secretary Vilsack spoke. It became a starting point to discuss the Secretary’s compelling vision for rebuilding the rural economy, furthering efforts to develop advanced new biofuels, and creating more jobs in our small towns to grow and strengthen the middle class. Read more »