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Spreading Sustainable Seafood Practices Overseas

Last month, the Foreign Agricultural Service office in The Hague, Netherlands, partnered with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to highlight the institute’s commitment to sustainable fishing and introduce its new sustainability certification.

There is a growing interest among European consumers in sustainable seafood. Many European retailers require their suppliers to demonstrate that their products don’t deplete ocean fisheries. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Breaking the Gridlock and Securing Our Economic Future

This week, President Obama laid out a vision for America’s economic future.   Since day one, the Obama Administration has been focused on our nation’s economic recovery, and over recent years we’ve seen positive signs of growth.

Businesses have created more than 7 million new jobs over the past 40 months. The housing market is coming back. Led by the tremendous productivity of America’s farmers and ranchers, our nation’s exports are growing.

But we also know that much remains to be done, and there’s no excuse for letting up. The President is squarely focused on building a strong middle class. He is committed to ensuring that every American has the opportunity to secure a good job, a quality education, a dependable place to call home, a secure path to retirement and affordable health care with decent benefits. Read more »

USDA Officials Talk about New Meal and Snack Standards at New York City School

Our children are our most prized possessions and we must do whatever it takes to help them excel in the future. Leading them on the path to becoming part of a healthier generation, USDA revised the standards for meals and snacks served in their schools. Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to a New York City high school to see first-hand how students were adjusting to the new standards.

The changes to the meal and snack standards are in response to the passing of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Implemented in the 2012 school year, the new meal standards made several changes. Now, the 32 million students participating in the National School Lunch Program can enjoy more fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grain foods and leaner proteins. The new smart snack standards, which will be implemented July 1, 2014, set minimum requirements for snacks sold in vending machines or as part of a la carte meals sold on campus during school hours. Read more »

South Dakota Producers Work with USDA to Recover From Flooding

Joe Fillaus and sons, Cole and Carter, standing in front of their June 2013 corn crop after restoration was made to their field. USDA photo.

Joe Fillaus and sons, Cole and Carter, standing in front of their June 2013 corn crop after restoration was made to their field. USDA photo.

Two years after the Missouri River flooding of 2011, several Charles Mix County, S.D. producers are still working to get their flooded crop land back to full production. When the flood waters receded in the fall of 2011 portions of the river bottom crop land were covered with one to six feet of sand debris. The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) for debris removal was one tool that was utilized in this restoration effort.

The Emergency Conservation Program assisted the flooded farmers with cost-share of up to 75 percent for the expense of removing this debris. Charles Mix County farmer Joe Fillaus and sons Cole and Carter had substantial sand debris to deal with. He used his own equipment to spread out and till in the areas with a foot or less sand. Read more »

FFA State Presidents ‘Suit Up’ for Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at a meeting of the White House Rural Council to an audience of the National State President’s Conference of the FFA on Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Secretary Vilsack took questions from the audience and discussed international, national and agricultural production topics with the FFA State President’s. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at a meeting of the White House Rural Council to an audience of the National State President’s Conference of the FFA on Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Secretary Vilsack took questions from the audience and discussed international, national and agricultural production topics with the FFA State President’s. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Editor’s Note: Yesterday, Secretary Vilsack had the opportunity to speak with some of our nation’s brightest young leaders at the National FFA Organization’s State Presidents’ Conference. He discussed USDA’s efforts to revitalize the rural economy and recognized the officers for their commitment to leadership, personal growth and career success. Below is a blog post submitted to USDA by Clay Sapp, 2012-13 National FFA President. Read more »

Administrator Approves Alaska College Student Center Transfer to Fine Arts Group

In June, Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Rural Housing and Community Facilities, traveled to Sitka and Ketchikan, Alaska for National Homeownership Month and discussions with community leaders on the intent of the USDA StrikeForce initiative in Southeast Alaska.

Ms. Treviño also took time in Sitka to visit the historic Sheldon Jackson College campus, a private Christian liberal arts college that was an historic Alaska Native trade school in its inception in the 1800’s. The college stopped operating several years ago.  On the campus are two facilities, a student center and a day care center, funded through USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities program. With the college closure, its board of trustees elected to transfer the entire remaining campus over to popular and growing fine arts nonprofit – Alaska Arts Southeast, Inc. Read more »