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Secretary’s Column: The White House Rural Council: Partnering in Support of Rural America

Rural America faces tremendous uncertainty today. Congress has not yet passed a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, and the current extension of 2008 Farm Bill programs will soon expire. Additionally, thus far, no budget has been provided by Congress to continue funding the Federal government past September 30.

Amid this uncertainty, USDA remains focused on our mission and on our work to revitalize the rural economy.  We have delivered record investments under President Obama’s leadership, and we will continue working to do so.   In a time of reduced resources, we’ve also taken a wide range of new, collaborative approaches with other government agencies—complementing our public-private partnerships and creating better collaboration among state and local partners. Read more »

Nature High Summer Camp Connects Young People, Natural Resource Professionals

Sierra Hellstrom, Nature High Summer Camp director, explains to student about the core sample taken from an aspen tree.

Sierra Hellstrom, Nature High Summer Camp director, explains to student about the core sample taken from an aspen tree.

In a few short years, high school students at Nature High Summer Camp on the Manti-LaSal National Forest in Utah may become newly minted natural resource professionals who make a difference in the world of natural resources.

The 30 high-school students from Utah met as strangers on a Monday morning, but left Saturday as good friends who connected with nature in a way they had never before experienced.

“It’s amazing to see the changes in the students over the course of a week,” said Sierra Hellstrom, camp director who works in the U.S. Forest Service’s Intermountain Region. “They arrive shy and scared, with little knowledge of public land management. They leave enlightened and a very tight-knit group, and have a hard time saying goodbye to one another.” Read more »

How Can Rural Small Businesses Connect with USDA?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Small Business Connections is designed to provide small businesses and small farmer-owned cooperatives with the exposure and insight to help increase contracting participation with the federal government.  USDA’s continued commitment to broadening this access to contract opportunities stimulates small business ownership and economic growth, creates jobs, and results in improving the quality of life across America.

In support of the Obama Administration’s efforts to put Americans back to work and create an economy built to last, on Sept. 24 in Macon, Ga., the USDA Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization will host Rural Small Business Connections. This training event will provide small businesses with educational networking sessions and tips on how to successfully do business with USDA and other federal agencies. Read more »

FSA Keeps Third Generation in the Dairy Business

Eric and Allison are third generation farmers who used an FSA Operating Loan to take the business to the next level.

Eric and Allison are third generation farmers who used an FSA Operating Loan to take the business to the next level.

When Eric Johnson finished high school, he didn’t see cows in his future.

“I wanted a new adventure and I wanted to try something different after being on the farm my whole life,” said Eric. “I tried carpentry and later worked at a nursery as a landscaper laying paver patios and building rock walls.”

Landscaping didn’t employ year-round so he began work at a large dairy.  This is also how he met his wife Alison. “I enjoyed my work on the dairy farm and that’s when I realized I missed working on the farm where I grew up,” said Eric. Read more »