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USDA Rural Development Supports New York Water Quality Improvement Effort

Water Quality Agreement:  From left, Liz Van Buren, Saputo Dairy Foods; Richard Maxey, Delhi mayor; James Thompson, Delaware County; SUNY Delhi President Candace Vancko and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. USDA Photo.

Water Quality Agreement: From left, Liz Van Buren, Saputo Dairy Foods; Richard Maxey, Delhi mayor; James Thompson, Delaware County; SUNY Delhi President Candace Vancko and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. USDA Photo.

Late last month, I had the privilege of joining New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Delhi College President Candace Vancko, Chairman James Thomson of Delaware County and Saputo Dairy Foods USA Manager Liz Van Buren to discuss the Center of Excellence in Watershed Applications and Technology Based Economic Revitalization (COE in WATER) Initiative.

The COE in WATER is an innovative partnership with the State University of New York (SUNY), the local business community as well as federal, state and local governments who are committed to stimulating economic development and creating jobs in rural upstate NY. Read more »

Thanks to USDA, Rural Arkansas Residents and Businesses Have Safer Water

Administrator Padalino speaking at the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority Treatment Plant in Arkansas. The opening marked completion of the 500th water and environmental project completed by USDA through the Recovery Act. USDA photo.

Administrator Padalino speaking at the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority Treatment Plant in Arkansas. The opening marked completion of the 500th water and environmental project completed by USDA through the Recovery Act. USDA photo.

USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator John Padalino recently visited the 500th water and wastewater project completed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “The Recovery Act has brought improved water and wastewater services to nearly 1.7 million rural residents,” said the Administrator.

Administrator Padalino made his remarks at the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority Treatment Plant in Arkansas.

Most people in the U.S. take for granted the fact that safe drinking water is readily available for use by simply turning on a tap, or pushing a button on a fountain.  However, many rural communities within the U.S. must deal with negative impacts associated with contaminated water sources at their homes and schools. Read more »

Partnering with Cooperative Extension to Support Farm to School

Adam McCurry, Agricultural Technician for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Yancey County conducts a lesson about local apple varieties before taking students outside to plant an apple tree at Bald Creek Elementary School in Burnsville, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Asheville, North Carolina)

Adam McCurry, Agricultural Technician for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Yancey County conducts a lesson about local apple varieties before taking students outside to plant an apple tree at Bald Creek Elementary School in Burnsville, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Asheville, North Carolina)

Kids are headed back to school and so are county Extension agents.

As schools continue to teach kids where their food comes from and bring local and regional products into the school cafeteria, one group they may want to partner with on their farm to school activities is their local or regional Cooperative Extension office. Cooperative Extension Systems are administered by each state’s Land-Grant University System. Programs are available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. and most states have local or regional Extension offices that are staffed by one or more experts, often referred to as Extension agents or Extension educators.

Nationally, more and more Cooperative Extension Systems are devoting key resources to supporting farm to school activities. Of the 68 fiscal year 2013 USDA Farm to School Grants distributed, 25 percent included partners from Cooperative Extension. State Extension Systems such as Ohio, Minnesota, and Illinois have already dedicated resources and personnel to leading their states farm to school programs. And at the upcoming national Extension conference, farm to school and local foods are sure to be a major themes discussed. Read more »

Calling All Ag Supporters: Tell us What’s at Stake Without #MyFarmBill

At USDA, we remain committed to sharing with all Americans the need for a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill to keep up momentum in American agriculture, grow the rural economy and create jobs.  And today, we launched Instagram, @USDAgov, to highlight photos and videos from around the country that bring into your home the dynamic beauty of rural America and the hard work of people who live there.

But that’s not all – we want to hear from you! Read more »

Job Creation on Tap in Rural Oregon

Today, Deschutes Brewery operates a large-scale production facility pictured here in Bend, Oregon, along with brew pubs in Bend and Portland. (Photo used with permission)

Today, Deschutes Brewery operates a large-scale production facility pictured here in Bend, Oregon, along with brew pubs in Bend and Portland. (Photo used with permission)

When it comes to beer, Oregon is known far and wide as a hub of innovation and artistry or, as we locals call it, “beer-topia.” Since the 1980s, small breweries have been popping up across Oregon thanks to the state’s pristine water, abundant hops and grain fields, forward-thinking craft brewing policies, and talented foodies. In the process, Oregon’s brewers have tapped a powerful economic engine. According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, the state’s beer industry today generates $2.83 billion in economic activity in the state and employs 29,000.  And the future shows even more promise. The Brewers Association notes nationwide growth of the craft brewing industry in 2012 at 15 percent by volume and 17 percent by dollars.

Deschutes Brewery, Inc. is one of the pioneering businesses that helped establish the state’s craft brewing industry.  Gary Fish founded the company in 1988 with 12 employees and a brew pub in downtown Bend, Oregon.  By 1993, the increasing demand for their craft beers led Fish to build a separate brewery across town. With the added capacity, the company enjoyed increasing sales in a burgeoning market for artisanal products. Read more »

Full Disclosure: Changes to Poultry Inspections Needed to Protect Public Health

Cross posted from Food Safety News:

For the past 15 years, USDA conducted a pilot project to inform how we modernize our inspection process – all to ensure that meat and poultry is safe to eat. Today, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), released a report on the project, known as the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), and how FSIS has relied on it to propose a modernized approach to inspecting poultry.

While an initial scan of the press coverage may lead you to believe that GAO discredits this proposal, that is not the case. GAO gave HIMP a thorough review and made just two recommendations, both of which FSIS is already working to fulfill.

GAO chose not to include some facts that also deserve public disclosure. FSIS put forward this proposal because data shows that a system like HIMP will prevent at least 5,000 more foodborne illnesses annually. The study that FSIS has conducted of HIMP provides an appropriate basis on which to judge the merits of this system. Approximately 10 years ago, FSIS asked an independent group of experts in poultry microbiology, statistical evaluation, poultry food safety and public health to evaluate our study. Read more »