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You’re Invited: Secretary Vilsack Hosts Google+ Hangout on StrikeForce Opportunities

On Monday, Jun. 17, 2013, you are invited to join Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as he sits down to his very first Google+ Hangout to discuss opportunities available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity.

On Monday, Jun. 17, 2013, you are invited to join Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as he sits down to his very first Google+ Hangout to discuss opportunities available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity.

Are you a community-based organization or farmer in a rural community that faces persistent poverty, or just someone who wants to improve life in Rural America? Do you have questions on how you can partner with USDA to take advantage of community resources and promote economic development in your community?

On Monday, June 17, you are invited to join Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as he sits down to his very first Google+ Hangout to discuss opportunities available through USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity. The Secretary will discuss USDA’s work to date and how YOUR community can get involved. We’ve assembled a panel of experts with different perspectives to help provide guidance and best practices for partnering with USDA – whether you want to apply for programs and services, or want to help communities and individuals benefit from available assistance. Read more »

Adapting to Climate Change and Drought Risk

Some regions of the United States seem to experience drought more often and more severely. Farmers in more drought-prone regions are adapting to their higher exposure. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Some regions of the United States seem to experience drought more often and more severely. Farmers in more drought-prone regions are adapting to their higher exposure. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

Economists working on climate change spend a lot of time trying to predict how farmers are going to adapt.  Without knowing how farmers will react to higher average temperatures or different rainfall patterns, we cannot accurately say what climate change will mean for the future.  Farmers have many adaptation options available.  They can change the mix of crops they grow, as well as their production practices, and production might be redistributed across regions. The Economic Research Service (ERS) has looked at potential impacts including how some regions will be impacted through commodity price changes resulting from climate-driven crop acreage changes farmers make in other regions. Read more »

Water Quality Trading in the Chesapeake Bay: Partnerships for Success

Water quality improvements in the Chesapeake Bay benefit the many species of wildlife that call it home. Photos by Tim McCabe, NRCS Maryland.

Water quality improvements in the Chesapeake Bay benefit the many species of wildlife that call it home. Photos by Tim McCabe, NRCS Maryland.

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed, the largest estuary in North America, covers 64,000 square miles and includes more than 150 rivers and streams that drain into the bay. Roughly one quarter of the land in the watershed is used for agricultural production, and agricultural practices can affect the health of those rivers and streams, and ultimately the bay itself.

While the health of the Chesapeake Bay has improved since the 1970s, excess nutrients and sediment continue to adversely affect water quality in local rivers and streams, which contributes to impaired water quality in the bay. Read more »

The ‘Dream of Homeownership’ is More than a Cliché for a Kentucky Family

USDA Rural Development Kentucky State Director Thomas Fern, Easton and Shawna Barnett, and Josh Speight of Kentucky Baptist Fellowship with volunteer builders in the background. USDA Photos.

USDA Rural Development Kentucky State Director Thomas Fern, Easton and Shawna Barnett, and Josh Speight of Kentucky Baptist Fellowship with volunteer builders in the background. USDA Photos.

Imagine for a moment you are a child surrounded by kind strangers – trailers coming and going with large pieces of structure, big cranes lifting and moving objects, women and men pounding nails into wood, saws ripping through timbers and groups of people working together to upright walls that will someday hold your toys.

Imagine being a child who only understands all this commotion through the explanation by his mother and father this will soon be their home. He doesn’t understand words like, “wealth creation”, “equity”, “dream of homeownership”, or other adult terms we use to define the values of owning a home. To him, it is about having a place where he can go outside and play in the yard, a place where his room becomes his refuge on occasion, and a place where he creates and records the moments in life that later become the memories recanted to his children and grandchildren.  For Easton, watching all of this commotion and seeing the kindness of strangers, will be a memory that he will long remember. Read more »

Laotian Farmer Becomes National Voice for N.C. Hmong Community

Maykia Yang (right), is trying to educate Hmong farmers in North Carolina about Farm Service Agency programs. Pictured with Maykia is her husband Jim (left) and son Marcus.

Maykia Yang (right), is trying to educate Hmong farmers in North Carolina about Farm Service Agency programs. Pictured with Maykia is her husband Jim (left) and son Marcus.

It’s not a pleasant memory for Maykia Yang. Fleeing on foot from her native home of Laos at age eight and following her family to Thailand where she spent two years in a refugee camp.

“My father was a soldier and worked for the CIA during the [Vietnam] war. After the CIA pulled out, the Vietnamese took over Laos and we fled on foot for about a month,” said Yang, who now owns a chicken farm in North Carolina. Read more »

USDA Needs Your Help To Keep Kids From Going Hungry This Summer

Three children enjoy lunch freshly prepared and served on-site by a food service management company at the Inter Metro Summer Recreation Program in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Three children enjoy lunch freshly prepared and served on-site by a food service management company at the Inter Metro Summer Recreation Program in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The summer months are here. Families are making plans for vacations and leisure time spent at the local pool or beach. But for many parents and caregivers, summer is also a time of anxiety as they wonder if they’ll be able to put enough food on the table without school lunch and breakfast to supplement mealtimes. That’s why USDA’s summer meals programs, which provide free meals to disadvantaged kids while school is out, is so important.

Today kicks off Summer Food Service Program Week, an opportunity to spread awareness about the prevalence of child hunger. This summer, we have set a goal of feeding 5 million more meals to eligible kids across the country through our partnerships with state agencies and local organizations. I’m proud to say that last year our partners served 161 million summer meals, feeding approximately 3.5 million children on a typical summer day. Read more »