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Home for the Holidays: A Pennsylvania Mom’s Story

Misty Allen (right), her daughter Deanna and puppy Odysseus are ready for family and friends to share the holidays in their new home. (USDA photo)

Misty Allen (right), her daughter Deanna and puppy Odysseus are ready for family and friends to share the holidays in their new home. (USDA photo)

A year ago this week, Misty Allen and her daughter Deanna came home to the American Dream they thought would forever be out of reach.

“It was magical!” said Allen. “This house is more than I could ever have asked for. I never imagined I could have a three-bedroom house for less than I was paying in rent.”

Flooded out of their most recent apartment and facing a significant rent increase to offset repairs, Allen learned about Rural Development’s 502 Direct Home Loan Program through her local Realtor. Just before Christmas, she and Deanna settled into their picturesque Athens, Pa., neighborhood, their new puppy Odysseus joining Loki, the mischievous German Shepherd, in the mix. Read more »

What Will Become of Your Forest Land When You are Gone?

Family forest owners may use consulting foresters or state extension foresters for advice on the technical details of land management, but many owners shy away from thinking about how best to pass their forest on to the next generation.

Poor estate planning – or no planning at all – can result in a tax bill that requires selling timber or forest land, which in turn can lead to subdivision and development.

Estate Planning for Forest Landowners is a free publication developed by the U.S. Forest Service that provides a comprehensive guide to estate planning specifically designed for forest landowners. Read more »

Expanding the American Brand

The American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide. The last four years represent the strongest in history for agricultural trade, with U.S. agricultural exports exceeding $478 billion. This international success is critical to achieving one of USDA’s core missions – fostering economic opportunity and innovation that will continue to help American agriculture grow and thrive in a global economy.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) plays a key role in this area by opening new markets for American producers. We enjoy a close working relationship and collaborate on many projects with our colleagues at USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).  Through our export certification and verification programs, we create opportunities for American farmers and businesses to succeed by connecting them with foreign markets. Read more »

StrikeForce Helps S.C. Family Protect & Preserve Forest Land

NRCS District Conservationist Frank Stephens talks with brothers Martin and Oliver Smith about their forest management plan. NRCS photo.

NRCS District Conservationist Frank Stephens talks with brothers Martin and Oliver Smith about their forest management plan. NRCS photo.

The soil in Marlboro County, S.C. is known to be fertile, and legend has it that the land was once so productive it was sold by the pound instead of the acre.

In this agricultural oasis, brothers Oliver and Martin Smith are continuing the farming tradition that has been in their family for three generations.

Oliver Smith credits his grandmother, a freed slave, for starting the family farm on 400 acres of land in the state’s Pee Dee region. Now, he and his brother manage the forestry operation, which their father helped grow by another 50 acres. They’re working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to use conservation to help their operation and the environment. Read more »

Helping Small Businesses Make a Trade Impact

Alex Weiss from Caledonia Spirits, Arnold Coombs from Bascom Family Farms, and Jeremy Stephenson from the Vermont Cheese Council, attend the Food and Hotel China Show in Shanghai to exhibit their agricultural products. The small businesses attended the trade show with the help of one of the State and Regional Trade Groups – coalitions of state departments of agriculture – that use USDA market development program funds to provide support for about 30,000 companies annually. (Courtesy Photo)

Alex Weiss from Caledonia Spirits, Arnold Coombs from Bascom Family Farms, and Jeremy Stephenson from the Vermont Cheese Council, attend the Food and Hotel China Show in Shanghai to exhibit their agricultural products. The small businesses attended the trade show with the help of one of the State and Regional Trade Groups – coalitions of state departments of agriculture – that use USDA market development program funds to provide support for about 30,000 companies annually. (Courtesy Photo)

Recently, USDA announced that U.S. agricultural exports for fiscal year 2013 finished at another record level, continuing the strongest five-year period for such exports in our nation’s history. Much of this success is due to small businesses, which Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack noted are the backbone of the economy in rural communities, small towns and big cities.

USDA’s efforts with small businesses is helped by the work of four State Regional Trade Groups – coalitions of state departments of agriculture – that use USDA market development program funds to provide support for about 30,000 companies annually. Read more »