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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 »

Surveying America’s Farmers Online – An Innovation in Collecting Ag Stats

NASS’ Donald Buysse demonstrates the newly updated EDR to complete the Census of Agriculture survey online.

NASS’ Donald Buysse demonstrates the newly updated EDR to complete the Census of Agriculture survey online.

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.

2013 is the International Year of Statistics. As part of this global event, every month this year USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will profile careers of individuals who are making significant contributions to improve agricultural statistics in the United States.

Although the first Census of Agriculture dates back to 1840, the way the data is collected is most assuredly not stuck in the past.  Historically, the main mode of data collection for the ag census has been by mail. There is one reason for this – it has always been cheaper!  With advancements in technology, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service has tapped into more cost-efficient ways to collect information. Read more »

You Are What You Eat: Functional Foods’ Role in Improving Health

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.

For a lot of people, the food we eat gives us energy to get through the day. However, it’s important to realize that food is more than just calories; there are compounds in food that are essential to strengthening our bodies and improving our health. Food is functional. These compounds may not be essential for normal functioning in humans, but they do have a beneficial effect on disease prevention and general health.

Scientists at Ohio State University (OSU) have conducted research on two foods that could aid in the fight against prostate cancer: tomatoes and soy. With support from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Center for Advanced Functional Foods Research and Entrepreneurship at OSU has developed a cancer-fighting tomato soy juice. Read more »