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Pioneer in American Samoa

Sosene Asifoa is a farmer on the island of Tutuila in American Samoa. He raises pigs and grows vegetables such as dryland taro, cucumbers, tomatoes and cabbage. He’s also a regular supplier of top soil to the American Samoa Community College Land Grant Extension Service for their greenhouse operations.

For years, Asifoa had been using vetiver grass to control erosion on his steep cropland fields, which are typical in American Samoa. In 2009, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service gave him funding to continue planting and propagating this grass around his 10.4-acre property. He even helped the American Samoa Soil and Water Conservation District propagate the vetiver for other farmers to use. Such vegetative barriers have since become one of the standards for controlling erosion in steep farming situations in American Samoa.

Asifoa also received funding to construct new dry-litter piggery facilities. He typically has 80–100 pigs at any given time and, prior to building these facilities, he washed manure out of the pigs’ stalls, causing a runoff of nutrients into nearby streams and ponds. Read more »

Tax Guide Updated for Forest Landowners

The updated Forest Landowners’ Guide to the Federal Income Tax is now available online and includes updated information on Federal income tax as it pertains to timber and forest land planning.

“The main purpose of this guide is to foster good management of family-owned forest land by providing an explanation of provisions and incentives related to forest ownership and management under Federal income tax law,” says Emeritus Research Forester John Greene. Greene authored the guide and is a volunteer for the Forest Service Southern Research Station Forest Economics and Policy unit now that he is retired.

The guide, co-authored by William Siegel, William Hoover and Mark Koontz, updates and takes the place of a previous publication of the same name, incorporating new tax laws and changes through Sept. 30, 2012.  It introduces tax planning and basic tax considerations and explains the Federal income tax as it pertains to timber and forest land. Included in the guide: Read more »

Thanks, Mr. President: Niche Farmers Send Appreciation Letter to Obama for Boosting Their Business

When Kathy Patterson and Stacey Schuett decided to write President Obama a letter, it wasn’t about the economy or climate change. They didn’t give their views on gun control and they didn’t express their feelings about the gridlock in Congress.

They simply said thank you.

“We are writing to express our heartfelt appreciation for the microloan program that was put into place in January,” the letter stated. “While $35,000 is tiny compared to other programs, for a two-family farm like ours, it is a game changer.”

Kathy and Stacey, owners of Sebastopol Microgreens, were the first in Northern California to receive the new microloans developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to help beginning, small and niche farmers. The loans ease certain requirements, streamline the application process and provide a faster turnaround time for approvals, when compared to regular operating loans.

“This program is like having a partner give you a boost when you need it most,” said Kathy. Read more »

Women Partners Power Innovation in Nutrition Assistance in the Midwest

Bonnie Dotson and her husband Josh sell fresh fruits and vegetables from their farm at Division Street Market in Chicago, IL.

Bonnie Dotson and her husband Josh sell fresh fruits and vegetables from their farm at Division Street Market in Chicago, IL.

Last summer I witnessed an amazing group of partners – the majority women, coincidentally – making a big difference in the lives of those who suffer from hunger. It all started with USDA’s effort to expand the availability of wireless technology at farmers markets not currently accepting SNAP benefits.

It’s sometimes difficult for markets to accept SNAP, because they need Electronic Benefit Transfer equipment and electricity to process benefits from the card. The funding can be used to help markets purchase the processing equipment, and to pay for wireless service so the equipment can be used without a power source. This is really exciting because it means more SNAP participants can access fresh, affordable and local produce and more American farmers can expand their client base. Read more »

Forest Service Chief Tidwell Delivers Pinchot Distinguished Lecture

More than 108 years have passed since Gifford Pinchot became chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Yet today, with Tom Tidwell filling that role in a very different era, some of the same issues persist, along with others Pinchot might not have imagined.

“We’re fortunate that we have an organization that can handle complex issues, like our Research and Development branch of the Forest Service (efforts) to sustain private and international Forest systems,” said Tidwell.

Pinchot headed the Division of Forestry under the Department of Interior for seven years before the agency became the Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture. At the time, the nation’s forests were seen as inexhaustible, but Pinchot did not see it that way. Read more »

Arizona Revolving Loan Roundtable Aims to Help Small Businesses Expand and Create Jobs

Nobody in the audience was checking emails or text messages. No one was squirming and looking at the clock. In fact, all of the attendees were riveted to the presentations.

The event was a recent Revolving Loan Fund Roundtable sponsored by USDA Rural Development in Phoenix, Arizona.

Lyle Frederickson with Great Western Bank observed the attentiveness and speculated that was because the lenders in the room represented small communities…and rural communities are crying out now more than ever for help capitalizing their small businesses. Read more »