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USDA Water Program Funds Assist a Mississippi Community

Last month, Mississippi Rural Development State Director Trina George organized an event in the town of Leland which spotlighted a loan and grant combination awarded to Black Bayou Water Association. Read more »

Discussing the Power of Telemedicine

I am very pleased to launch our latest effort to encourage more widespread use and understanding of the life-saving field of telemedicine through our Power of Telemedicine web discussion.  Telemedicine has grown steadily over the past decade. The USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has participated consistently along the way, supporting innovation in telemedicine as early as 1993 with our Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program. Our telemedicine program is designed specifically to meet the health care needs of rural America.  Through loans, grants and loan and grant combinations, advanced telecommunications technologies provide enhanced health care opportunities for rural residents.  It, together with our Distance Learning program, has funded over 900 projects in 48 states and several US Territories totaling over $300 million. Read more »

WOW! Western Oklahoma Wireless

Like many of you, I spend a lot of time on my Blackberry and computer both at work and home. I use this access for business, for play, and a host of other applications that I can’t imagine living without. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack Meets Farmers, Tours Biofuel Facility and Discusses Recovery Act Business Support During Pennsylvania Visit

Friday, a beautiful spring day in Pennsylvania, it was my pleasure to welcome Secretary Vilsack and his wife Christy to Pennsylvania for a tour and rural discussion. We started the day at Middletown Biofuels for a facility tour along with Congressman Tim Holden and other local and state officials. Middletown Biofuels recently received over $17,000 from USDA for producing biodiesel fuel from soybean oil. The facility is located in the heart of Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry, providing ready access to soybean and other vegetable oil feedstocks.  We then traveled to the state capitol in Harrisburg where the Secretary announced that in Pennsylvania, the Recovery Act has guaranteed $35.6 million in business loans that are expected to save or create more than 450 jobs. In total, USDA has provided loan guarantees to 350 U.S. businesses in the last seven months that will create or save nearly 23,500 jobs. Read more »

Apps for Healthy Kids “Game Jams” Coming to a City Near You

Cross-posted from the White House OSTP Blog by Robynn Sturm

In unveiling the Childhood Obesity Task Force action plan earlier today, First Lady Michele Obama underscored the need to “marshal every resource” to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. Two new partnerships announced today as part of the Apps for Healthy Kids competition will give Americans across the country a chance to join the First Lady in her Let’s Move! campaign—and to help give kids the healthy lives they deserve.

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would partner with the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) to host game jams on the weekend of May 21-23 in major U.S. cities, including Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Atlanta. The game jams will draw game developers, graphic artists, and local youth together to brainstorm ideas and produce video game prototypes from scratch in just 48 hours. The prototypes will be displayed at the sixth annual Games for Health Conference, further refined, and ultimately submitted to theApps for Healthy Kids competition before that competition’s June 30th deadline. You can find out more about jams near you on the Health Games Challenge website.

Launched by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the White House Office of the First Lady, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on March 10, 2010, the Apps for Healthy Kids competition challenges software developers, game designers, students, and other innovators to develop innovative, fun, and engaging tools and games that help kids and their parents to eat better and be more physically active.

The game jams—which will be scheduled in a number of additional cities soon—will be great opportunities for amateur and experienced game developers to collaborate on competition entries and refine their creations before submitting them. But you don’t need to travel to join in creative collaboration! Developers across the country can now get targeted feedback from the toughest of critics—tweens—anytime and anywhere. Recognizing that kids can’t be beat when it comes to judging whether a game will capture the imagination of their peers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has partnered with Numedeon, Inc. to create a space within the virtual world where hundreds of thousands of tweens will be able to play, rate, and submit feedback to Apps for Healthy Kids contestants. Developers seeking feedback can post their game prototypes in the Whyville Game Arcade.

By creating opportunities for our nation’s most creative and talented innovators to work together and with our nation’s children, the two new partnerships announced today will maximize the number of high-quality submissions throughout the remaining 60 days of the Apps for Healthy Kids contest.

Robynn Sturm is Advisor for Open Innovation to the Deputy Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Alaskan Businesses “REAP” the Benefits of Renewable Energy Grants and Loan Guarantees

Several months ago, Vice President Biden said:   “I’m pleased to report that the administration is laying the foundation for a clean energy economy that will create a new generation of jobs, reduce dependence on oil and enhance national security.” If you want proof, check out USDA’s   Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).  USDA Rural Development awards grants through this Farm Bill program on a competitive basis and they can be up to 25 percent of total eligible project costs. Grants are limited to $500,000 for renewable energy systems and $250,000 for energy efficiency improvements.  The program also provides loan guarantees. Read more »