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Secretary’s Column: Partnering with Communities to Alleviate Poverty

At the U.S. Department of Agriculture we’re working hard to strengthen the economy across rural America – and in recent years, we have seen positive signs of growth.

At the same time, we know that areas of high poverty still exist, and many of these are in our small towns and rural communities. In fact, nine out of ten persistent poverty counties in our nation are in rural America.

That’s why USDA launched the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative.

Through StrikeForce, we provide intensive care for communities that suffer from high poverty. USDA identifies areas with over 20 percent poverty for the StrikeForce effort. We join together with communities in these areas that are working to build opportunity for their citizens. Our staff partner with local organizations and civic leaders, providing them with technical support and assistance to help them successfully apply for USDA programs. Read more »

Deputy Under Secretary Visits StrikeForce State of Mississippi, Says Public-Private Partnerships Build a Stronger Rural America

Earlier this week, USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien met with local and regional officials in Mississippi to discuss ways USDA can help businesses create jobs and stimulate local economies. Mississippi was one of the first states in the nation to be designated a StrikeForce state by USDA and last Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will launch its “StrikeForce” initiative in ten additional states.

The primary goal of the StrikeForce initiative is to increase partnership with rural communities and leverage community resources in targeted, persistent poverty areas. Vilsack noted that through the StrikeForce initiative, USDA will do more to partner with local and state governments and community organizations on projects that promote economic development and job creation. Read more »

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Is eating healthy too expensive? It doesn’t have to be if you are willing to follow three simple reminders — Plan, Compare and Prepare.   If you follow these, you and your family can save money and eat healthier.

USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov includes information to help consumers like you get started toward a healthier lifestyle that can fit just about anyone’s budget.  The tips and resources available can make it easier to control what you eat and how much you spend.

Consider these tips to get you started:

  • Plan
    Before you go shopping, take 15-20 minutes each week to plan your meals and make a grocery list of what and how much to buy.  Consider breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the week.  Easy to fix recipes are available online.  Include foods and beverages from the five food groups so you can get the nutrients you need.  Read the Nutrition Facts label on the packaging, and go easy on foods with added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.  Consider meals like soups, salads, stews, or even stir-fries to “stretch” expensive items into more portions.
  • Compare
    Check the local paper or search online for coupons, sales and specials.  Use store loyalty cards and always bring your grocery list. For double savings, use manufacturer coupons during a store sale.  Take time to compare unit prices listed on shelves to ensure you are getting the best price. Try to do your grocery shopping when you are not hungry and not too rushed. This will help you avoid impulse buying and convenience foods which will increase your food bill.
  • Prepare
    Cut up fresh fruits and vegetables for quick snacks.  Prepare meals that can be done in advance.  Double up your recipes and freeze the leftovers for meals later in the week. For example, last night’s roasted chicken can easily become chicken salad or a chicken quesadilla later in the week.

Eating healthier and spending less is a breeze if you follow these tips to Plan before you shop, Compare options to find the best price, and Prepare meals that stay within your budget. Check out this press release for more information about how the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to help Americans eat healthier on a budget. For more helpful tips, check out our new 10 tips sheet: Eating better on a budget: 10 tips to help you stretch your food dollars.

Organic 101: Almost 25,000 Certified Operations at Your Fingertips

In 2012, there was significant growth in the number of operations in California, Iowa, and New England, and only slight growth in the number of operations in the southeastern United States.  This map shows the concentration of organic operations within the U.S.

In 2012, there was significant growth in the number of operations in California, Iowa, and New England, and only slight growth in the number of operations in the southeastern United States. This map shows the concentration of organic operations within the U.S.

This is the eleventh installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Last week the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) published the 2012 list of certified organic operations. Our online database now provides information on 17,750 certified USDA organic farms and processing facilities in the United States. That’s almost a 240 percent increase since the NOP began tracking this data in 2002. Worldwide, there are now close to 25,000 certified organic operators representing more than 100 countries. Read more »

NRCS Program Prevents Fuel Spill Disaster in Alaska

The relocated tank farm on a higher and drier site, away from the river’s edge. Photo courtesy Crowley Petroleum Distribution.

The relocated tank farm on a higher and drier site, away from the river’s edge. Photo courtesy Crowley Petroleum Distribution.

When a flood damaged the banks of the Yukon River in Fort Yukon, Alaska, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service stepped in to help prevent a major environmental catastrophe.

The citizens of Fort Yukon are predominantly Alaskan Natives who live a subsistence lifestyle, relying on fish from the Yukon River as one of their main food sources. The community is not accessible by road and all supplies are either barged in during the short summer or flown in at extreme expense. An entire year’s fuel supply for the village’s vehicles, heating and power is held in a 750,000 gallon tank farm. Read more »

USDA and Community-Based Organizations Partner for Ag Census

For a decade, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and community-based organizations (CBOs) have placed a high priority on improving the cover­age and response of minority and hard-to-reach farm and ranch operators in the Census of Agriculture. CBOs partner with NASS to help reach these underserved agricultural producers and encourage them to participate in the Census. As the CBOs educate and motivate the producers they serve to complete their Census forms, these producers become part of the data that represent the accurate picture of agriculture across the nation. The partnerships are serving both the CBOs’ mission of providing service to every producer and NASS’s goal of counting every farmer and rancher in the Census of Agriculture. In the following blog, one of NASS’s longstanding CBO partners, Ralph Paige, shares his thoughts on the importance of the ongoing 2012 Census of Agriculture. Read more »