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White House Rural Council Growing Rural Economies, Creating Jobs

Cross posted from the White House Blog:

This week is National Small Business Week. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), along with agencies across the Obama Administration, are hosting events in five cities. These events provide expert advice, mentoring and explore topics ranging from access to capital to exporting. Small businesses across the country can tune into these events via livestream at sba.gov.

America’s small businesses create two out of three net new private sector jobs in our economy. And today more than half of all working Americans either own or work for a small business. Our goal is to ensure that the positive economic benefits of entrepreneurship can reach every corner of the country. Read more »

Goats Grazing for Fuels Reduction on the Cleveland National Forest

Goats on the Cleveland National Forest nibble on vegetation to defend communities against wildfire by reducing regrowth. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Goats on the Cleveland National Forest nibble on vegetation to defend communities against wildfire by reducing regrowth. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Recently, 1,400 goats reported for duty with the U.S. Forest Service. Their mission:  Lend their appetites to the removal of fuels buildup on the Cleveland National Forest.

The goats were a part of a 100-acre forest-thinning project that begin in late April to clear a 300-foot community fuel break area between  the San Vicente/Barona Mesa communities and the forest. Read more »

Long-Term Agriculture Science Investment Is Seeing Pay-offs in Georgia

Today, I am in Athens, Georgia, visiting the University of Georgia (UGA) and meeting with university leaders, faculty, and students to learn about the great work being done here to advance agriculture and solve some of our most pressing challenges.

NIFA has a long history of investing in agricultural science, and for much of the research it takes years to see the payoff. I’d like to highlight two projects at the University of Georgia NIFA has funded that are seeing real outcomes today. Read more »

A Virtual Roundtable to Bring the StrikeForce Initiative to New Communities

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) StrikeForce Initiative Director Max Finberg listen to StrikeForce Initiative Beneficiary Colorado farmer Carol Baker Olguin discuss the benefits she and her family received through the USDA StrikeForce program during a Google+ Hangout at USDA in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Jun. 17, 2013.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) StrikeForce Initiative Director Max Finberg listen to StrikeForce Initiative Beneficiary Colorado farmer Carol Baker Olguin discuss the benefits she and her family received through the USDA StrikeForce program during a Google+ Hangout at USDA in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Jun. 17, 2013.

Every day, USDA provides assistance to help grow American agriculture and increase opportunities for rural communities. Unfortunately, 90 percent of America’s persistent poverty counties are in rural America.

Earlier this year, we launched the StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity, which targets rural areas of persistent poverty where USDA staff work with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of programs, target resources and leverage partnerships to promote economic development and job creation.  The initiative is now operating in sixteen states in the Southeast, Southwest, Great Plains and Alaska. As I travel the country, I am heartened to learn of the impact StrikeForce programs have had in these communities and hear stories from the people who have benefitted. Read more »

South Carolina Conservation Partnership Buzzing About Pollinators

This wildflower field at Dirt Works Incubator Farm, on John’s Island, in Charleston, S.C., provides important habitat for pollinator species. Photo by Nikki Seibert, Lowcountry Local First.

This wildflower field at Dirt Works Incubator Farm, on John’s Island, in Charleston, S.C., provides important habitat for pollinator species. Photo by Nikki Seibert, Lowcountry Local First.

Eighty-five percent of all flowering plants depend on pollinators, like bees and bats, to reproduce.

But these critical pollinators are in trouble as habitat loss, disease, parasites and environmental contaminants are causing a decline of many species, including some of the more than 4,000 species of native bees in North America.

That’s why USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in South Carolina and the Xerces Society, with the support of a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant, are promoting the benefits of pollinators through hands-on workshops targeted to employees of NRCS, soil and water conservation districts, cooperative extension agents and many others involved in agricultural production. Read more »

Agroecology Program: Ag Research is More than Farming

Florida International University Agro-Ecology graduate student Thelma Velez, right, explains an agricultural research project to area high school students.

Florida International University Agro-Ecology graduate student Thelma Velez, right, explains an agricultural research project to area high school students.

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 portfolio.

Some say careers in agriculture are a thing of the past, but don’t tell that to Krish Jayachandran, a professor and co-director of Florida International University’s (FIU) Agroecology Program. He will tell you that agriculture is the wave of the future—and he is backing that statement with nearly a decade of work to ensure the next generation of agricultural scientists are ready.

“If we are going to feed more than 9 billion people in the future, we have to get creative in how we use our soil and water resources—not to mention our over-reliance on the same kind of germplasm decade after decade,” Jayachandran said. “I tell students that agriculture research is not farming, it is science and technology. It’s thinking about bio-geo-chemical processes and nutrient cycling; on-farm and off-farm remediation measures, surface and groundwater management, and bioenergy.” Read more »