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Microloan Helps South Dakota Man Transition from Desk to Farm

David Hoff left his job to return to the farm and help his father. The Microloan helped Hoff acquire operating inputs when other lenders wouldn’t take a chance on him.

David Hoff left his job to return to the farm and help his father. The Microloan helped Hoff acquire operating inputs when other lenders wouldn’t take a chance on him.

This post is part of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog.  Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

For David Hoff, farming was in his blood.  It had been 14 years since he worked on his family’s South Dakota farm.  He went off to college, earned a degree in business, landed a position in sales and, over the next 10 years, held leadership positions in sales for several companies.  But he had been thinking long and hard about returning to the 2,000 acre farm and rejoining the family operation.

Then in 2012, Hoff received the sad news of his uncle’s death.  His uncle had farmed with Hoff’s father in Hutchinson County, S.D. for years.  That’s when Hoff decided to return and help his father with the farm.

“This was a big change for us. I was used to bringing home a paycheck every two weeks and now that was going to change in a big way,” said Hoff. “There are no guarantees in farming and you can’t write down what you are going to make each year. My wife likes to have a clear plan and that was a challenge for her to overcome.” Read more »

On the Path to New Dietary Guidance Recommendations

The process to review the science that will support the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is currently underway.

The process to review the science that will support the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is currently underway.

“Eat more fruits and vegetables.”

“Choose a variety of protein foods like lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans, peas and unsalted nuts and seeds.”

“Make at least half your grains whole grains.”

“Reduce Sodium intake to 2300 mg.”

These are just some of the nutrition recommendations that are the foundation of our current Federal nutrition guidance and policy. The process to review the science that supports these recommendations is currently underway.

Every five years, the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services are required* to jointly develop and publish the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which form the basis of Federal nutrition policy. The next edition is scheduled to be released in 2015. To ensure that the Dietary Guidelines are based on the most up-to-date scientific and medical knowledge, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (governed by the Federal Advisory Committee Act) has been established to review the current policy and advise the government. This advice comes in the form of a Federal Advisory Committee Report, which includes evidenced-based recommendations and rationales. Officials within USDA and HHS utilize this report, along with comments from the public and other Federal Agencies to develop the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, policy document. In short, while the work of the DGAC is instrumental to the revision process, it is also solely advisory in nature. Read more »

Hunters with Disabilities Enjoy Annual Hunt on National Forests in East Texas

U.S. Forest Service employees Michael Sowell (right) and Lanton Chumley plan where to locate hunter blinds. The goal is to ensure sites are accessible to accommodate hunters with varying disabilities. (U.S. Forest Service/Mandy Chumley)

U.S. Forest Service employees Michael Sowell (right) and Lanton Chumley plan where to locate hunter blinds. The goal is to ensure sites are accessible to accommodate hunters with varying disabilities. (U.S. Forest Service/Mandy Chumley)

For some people with physical limitations, being able to participate in hunting season is a distant memory. But thanks to the Angelina and Sabine national forests employees and retired agency volunteers in East Texas, a group of local hunters have an opportunity to create new memories each December as part of an annual two-day hunt.

“For the past five years, we’ve enjoyed being a part of the Angelina Wheelin’ Sportsman hunt for deer and hogs,” said Jason Engle, a district wildlife biologist for the Angelina National Forest who leads the event planning efforts for the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas. “We want to ensure these eager hunters enjoy a great hunting experience, and we’re here to help them enjoy their national forests.” Read more »

USDA, Partners Gearing Up for Summer Meal Service

Children enjoy lunch freshly prepared and served on-site at the Inter Metro Summer Recreation Program in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Children enjoy lunch freshly prepared and served on-site at the Inter Metro Summer Recreation Program in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Last week, about 250 Ohio lawmakers, educators, nonprofit directors, community leaders and others came together at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank for the third annual statewide Summer Food Service Summit. The focus of this summit was USDA’s Summer Food Service Program, as efforts are ramping up to ensure that all eligible children have access to healthy meals this summer.

In Ohio, over 630,000 children receive free or reduced-price school meals (based on family income) through the National School Lunch Program during the school year. Yet, only about 60,000—less than one in ten–participate in the Summer Food Service Program. This means that well over half a million children across the state may be at risk of food insecurity or hunger during the summer months, when they no longer have access to meals at school. Read more »

Acting Local, Growing Global for Good Food

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center.  The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center. The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

For over a century, my hometown of Chicago has been a cultural, financial, and agricultural hub.  And as a hub, it has a long history of supporting innovation and opportunity.  From the first cattle drives came the great Chicago Stockyards that supplied meat to the nation.  From the early trading of the Chicago Butter and Egg Board came the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The city’s richly-woven tapestry of cultural diversity and the success of its food businesses prove Chicago’s value as an ideal business cultivator.

That is why it was so fitting that AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal and I were invited to present at the Good Food Festival & Conference in Chicago on March 14. Hosted by Jim Slama of FamilyFarmed.org, the event is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America. Each year it brings together stakeholders including farmers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and food industry representatives. Read more »

Good News about Early Childhood Obesity Rates

Recent studies indicate that obesity rates among young children are finally starting to decline.

Recent studies indicate that obesity rates among young children are finally starting to decline.

USDA believes in giving children a foundation for life-long health through access to healthy food and quality nutrition education.  So, that’s why we are encouraged by a couple of recent studies that indicate that the rates of obesity among young children are declining.  One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that rates of obesity among young children ages 2-5 years have declined in the last decade, while another found that obesity is declining in low-income preschoolers in 19 states.  These results suggest that we are making progress in our efforts to improve the health of our next generation!  These findings were noted by Dr. Bill Dietz, former Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity during his presentation at the 3rd meeting of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on March 14, 2014.

Efforts to turn the tide of obesity, both within the Federal government and in communities across the country, are having an impact in the preschool population.  The USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services programs are an important part of these efforts.  Through the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, USDA is making critical changes to the foods available to children – even the picky eaters. Read more »