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It’s Not Small Potatoes for Them

An opportunity to reach a new market is a big deal for any company, but this is especially true when it comes to our nation’s 23 million small businesses. In their search to reach new markets, they not only compete against each other they also compete with larger establishments. To help them meet their goals, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) offers some contracts exclusively for small businesses. This allows companies with less than 500 employees to compete against similar sized organizations to provide a service or product to the government. Small businesses are the glue that holds our economy together and AMS is committed to supporting them.

Our Commodity Procurement Staff (CPS) recently purchased 25 million pounds of fresh russet potatoes in one of our small business procurements. While reducing a potential surplus in the market caused by a nearly 9 percent increase in U.S. potato production from the previous year, the purchase also enabled small businesses to sell products to the USDA. These companies sent their products to food and nutrition programs like the National School Lunch Program and food banks. Read more »

Forest Service Recognizes United Nations’ International Day of Forests

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state. (Robert Westover/U.S. Forest Service Photo)

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state. (Robert Westover/U.S. Forest Service Photo)

Try going one full day without using a product derived from a tree.

You won’t be able to use a pencil or paper or sit on your couch or at a desk. You won’t be able to check the mail or drink coffee while reading the newspaper. Read more »

People’s Garden in Ohio Provides Habitat for Native Pollinators

Tiger swallowtail on phlox. The Wayne National Forest People’s Garden includes a native prairie, shade and several pollinator gardens.  (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Tiger swallowtail on phlox. The Wayne National Forest People’s Garden includes a native prairie, shade and several pollinator gardens. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Next time you’re in the Midwest  and thinking of hiking, all-terrain vehicle riding, mountain biking or horseback riding, visit the Wayne National Forest in the hills of southeastern Ohio. It’s there you’ll find more than 300 miles of trails to do those things and much more. Read more »

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 »