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Beginning Rancher Applies Tribal Traditions and USDA Risk Management Tools to Help Grow Her Business

James McCuen, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Shawna Kalama

James McCuen and Shawna Kalama discuss business opportunities available for beginning ranchers. USDA-RMA photo by Jo Lynne Seufer.

Shawna Kalama is a proud member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She’s also a beginning rancher, pursuing her dream the past few years near the Cascade Mountains on the Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington State. Kalama has successfully leveraged several USDA programs to simultaneously support both her entrepreneurial education goals and her growing livestock operation.

She began earning her business degree at Heritage University, and recently participated in a risk management education program, sponsored by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). This week, the agency announced that $8.7 million in cooperative agreement funding is available for the risk management education program for fiscal year 2016. The program introduces the agency’s risk management tools, crop and livestock insurance programs and educational partnerships to new and beginning, and traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers. The curriculum includes an overview of RMA’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis tool, which identifies potential problems, and finds solutions and resources to help beginning farmers and ranchers manage risks. Nearly 90,000 producers participated in risk management education events in 2015. Read more »

USDA Celebrates National Small Business Week

Grand Union Hotel owner Cheryl Gagnon giving Under Secretary Lisa Mensah a tour of the renovated historic hotel in Fort Benton, Montana

Grand Union Hotel owner Cheryl Gagnon gives Under Secretary Lisa Mensah a tour of the renovated historic hotel in Fort Benton, Montana. The Gagnons used a Business & Industry Loan Guarantee to finance the rehabilitation, along with financing from a revolving loan through Bear Paw Development funded by USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program. Just another example of how USDA Rural Development helps America's rural small businesses.

America’s economy rides on the wheels of small businesses.

The U.S. Small Business Administration says more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. The contributions of these firms will be honored May 1-7 during National Small Business Week — #DreamSmallBiz — and USDA Rural Development is proud to join in the celebration.

As the leading federal agency working exclusively to foster economic opportunity in rural America, Rural Development knows Main Street businesses drive the rural economy. Money earned and spent at a small town “mom-and-pop” store, or a small-scale manufacturer gets re-invested locally. Read more »

Future of Agriculture: Creating Change from the Ground Up

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Congresswoman Gwen Graham standing with others at the 2016 North Florida Farm Tour

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Congresswoman Gwen Graham standing with others at the 2016 North Florida Farm Tour.

The face of agriculture is changing. At USDA, we want you to know that whether you come from a farming background or not, grew up in a rural, suburban or urban area, that there are opportunities for you to get involved in agriculture. It is my highest priority as Deputy Secretary to ensure that beginning farmers and the growing ranks of agriculture – women, young people, immigrants, minorities, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees – have access to the programs and support they need.

That is why yesterday, I joined Congresswoman Gwen Graham at Florida A&M University to talk about the importance of diversity in agriculture. There are a host of resources available at USDA and beyond, especially now that Florida has been named a StrikeForce state. I also announced that farmers can now use our popular microloans to gain access to land. These are just some of the tools that are helping new farmers succeed. Read more »

FSA Partnership Helps New Farmer Connect to the Land

Maria Moreira (left), executive director of World Farmers and Flat Mentor Farm, with Sangiwa Eliamani

Maria Moreira (left), executive director of World Farmers and Flat Mentor Farm, partnered with FSA to help Sangiwa Eliamani build his farming operation.

Growing up in Tanzania, East Africa, Sangiwa Eliamani became a skilled farmer producing rice, millet and cotton throughout the year, using typical hand tools. He had no concerns about seasonal timing or finding markets for his crops, until he moved to the United States and attempted to farm in Massachusetts.

“Over there [in Tanzania] it’s very different,” he said. “We don’t have this limited time to grow.  We have easier access to land and markets to sell our products.” Read more »

Agriculture Is a New Mission for a U.S. Marine Veteran

Michael McCarthy working with clams

Michael McCarthy used an FSA Microloan to help expand his clam business.

Raising clams was always a part of Michael McCarthy’s life — until Sept. 11, 2001.

McCarthy was working with the New York/New Jersey Harbor relay program, purging and harvesting clams, when terrorists crashed two airplanes into the World Trade Center. “You could look across the water and see the towers. That was my motivation. We were shut down for a couple of weeks and that’s when I decided to join the Marines. I knew I wasn’t going to do it for the rest of my life, but I felt like I did something to help a little bit.” Read more »

How Sacrifice and Sense of Duty Drive Our Veterans

Kevin Brown, NRCS State Conservationist and Deputy Secretary Harden talk with Jason Seaton, Sevier County landowner, about the conservation practices he has installed on his farm

Kevin Brown, NRCS State Conservationist and Deputy Secretary Harden talk with Jason Seaton, Sevier County landowner, about the conservation practices he has installed on his farm. NRCS photo.

I would like to take a moment to recognize the hard work and dedication of America’s veterans.  After serving our country so honorably, many of our veterans feel a sense of duty to continue to give back to the land they love and have fought so hard to protect. And we want all veterans to know about the many ways USDA can support military veterans and their families.

USDA offers incentives and other benefits for veterans interested in everything from farm loans to conservation programs to nutrition assistance to rural rental housing and home ownership opportunities. We also offer a wide variety of loans, grants, training and technical assistance to veterans who are passionate about a career in agriculture. That is why this fall, USDA and the Defense Department came together in an effort to enable every single one of the more than 200,000 service members who leave the military each year to access the training they need to start their own farms or ranch businesses. Read more »