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On the Road: Meeting with New Farmers in New York

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden talks to Hearty Roots Farm owner Ben Shute on his farm in upstate New York. (Photo courtesy: Christina Iskandar)

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden talks to Hearty Roots Farm owner Ben Shute on his farm in upstate New York. (Photo courtesy: Christina Iskandar)

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with new farmers across New York to talk about challenges and opportunities in agriculture.  I began my trip with a visit to Eight Mile Creek Farm in Westerlo where the farmer, Pam Schreiber, participates in a variety of USDA programs. Along with her three children and some local interns, Pam runs a 223-acre farm that produces more than 100 crops.

The next stop of the day was to Hearty Roots Farm, where the Shutes raise dairy cows and chickens. They also have row crops on their farm and are in the process of applying for a Farm Storage Facility Loan which will help their produce stay fresh for longer periods of time. Hearty Roots Farm has a strong Community Sponsored Agriculture program. In addition to local deliveries, one of the farmhands drives two hours each way, twice a week to bring produce to CSA customers in New York City. Read more »

Join us for a Google+ Hangout: The Growing Biobased Market — Influencers, Insight, and Impacts

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (right) tours Domtar Inc. in Plymouth, NC on Friday, Aug. 15, 2013. Domtar produces lignin, a biobased material with the potential to create advanced new products and energy. Domtar is working with a number of partners, including the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, on development of lignin applications that includes fuel additives, solid fuels, high performance adhesives and more.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (right) tours Domtar Inc. in Plymouth, NC on Friday, Aug. 15, 2013. Domtar produces lignin, a biobased material with the potential to create advanced new products and energy. Domtar is working with a number of partners, including the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, on development of lignin applications that includes fuel additives, solid fuels, high performance adhesives and more.

Did you know USDA is the federal leader in helping to advance the U.S. bioeconomy through the use of renewable agricultural (plant), marine and forestry raw materials? By using agricultural feed stocks to make everyday finished products like biolubricants, bioplastics, construction materials and cleaners these products, we add value to the agricultural industry and up and down supply chains.  That is, jobs are not created just on the farm or near the farm gate, but throughout the manufacturing process on sales of these biobased products.

Please join me Thursday, December 12, 2 p.m. eastern, as I host a #MyFarmBill Google+ Hangout about the BioPreferred program. We’ll hear from some of the industry standouts working with USDA to create new markets for biobased products.  The Hangout will also include YOUR questions and comments. Read more »

During the Holiday of Plenty, Remembering Those with Less

This morning, Huffington Post published an op-ed from USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon highlighting the continued need for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, particularly around the holidays, and reiterating the need for Congress to act on a comprehensive, long-term Food, Farm and Jobs Bill.

As we gather around the dinner table this holiday season, we are called to reflect on our blessings–a healthy family, a job, a bountiful meal on the table. Yet there are millions of American families who are still rebuilding in the wake of the worst recession in decades–and they still need help.

As a country, we have always prided ourselves on providing–on a bipartisan basis–a responsive food assistance safety net through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP recipients have fallen on tough times, and the program provides temporary help to put healthy food on the table–but what does that mean in real terms?  Read more on Huffington Post.

A New Partnership to Sack Food Waste

Cross posted from the Dairy Good blog:

Across the nation, Americans from all walks of life are taking steps to reduce the amount of food that goes to waste. Part of the solution lies in finding innovative new ways to use food that would otherwise by wasted. That’s where the Cleveland Browns, Ohio State University, the City of Cleveland, the Dairy Innovation Center and other partners are stepping in to help.

On Sunday, November 24, this new partnership will begin taking waste from FirstEnergy Stadium and turning it into clean, renewable energy. Anaerobic digesters like the one in Cleveland are being built in greater numbers across the nation.  In fact, working together with the dairy industry, USDA has provided more than 240 awards since 2009 to construct anaerobic digesters. Read more »

Hangout to Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

At USDA, we know that local and regional food systems are an important part of America’s diverse agriculture sector.   Local and regional food is a multi-billion dollar market opportunity for America’s farmers, ranchers and food businesses. From the produce vendor at one of the nation’s 8,100 farmers markets to the operating  220 food hubs across America to the robust farm to school activities in each state,  the expanding market opportunity for local and regional food continues to gain momentum

USDA stands ready to aid and assist America’s farmers and ranchers who want to participate in this growing sector. We’ve been coordinating our work via the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative. However, our ability to continue supporting the local and regional food marketplace is at stake without the passage of a Food, Farms and Job Bill. Read more »

Ensuring Safety of Imported Processed Chicken from China

On August 30th, FSIS announced the results of our verification audit of China’s poultry processing inspection system, which reaffirmed the equivalence of China’s poultry processing system.  This determination was made after a long and careful review by our expert auditors to ensure that China’s system for processed poultry meets the United States’ safety standards.  FSIS’ core mission is food safety and our staff works hard and diligently to ensure that the U.S. food supply remains safe.  Since the announcement of the audit results, our agency has received several inquires regarding this determination so I want to take the time to explain this process and clarify any misperceptions.

Let me start with explaining what this “equivalence” determination means.  If a country wants to export FSIS regulated product to the United States, as a regulatory agency, we are required to review this request and conduct an audit to determine if their food safety system meets U.S. standards.  The process for determining China’s equivalence began in 2004, when China submitted a formal request to FSIS that the agency evaluate China’s poultry system to assess it equivalence and thus its eligibility to export poultry products to the United States.  After an extensive audit, FSIS granted China “equivalence” for processed poultry in 2006 which meant that China was eligible to export cooked chicken to the U.S. as long as the raw poultry was from an approved source.  FSIS began rulemaking and published a final rule in the Federal Register, adding China to the list of countries eligible to export cooked poultry to the United States.  However, the 2008 appropriations bill prohibited FSIS from using funding to implement the final rule that allowed China to export processed chicken.  In 2010, the appropriations ban was lifted and China submitted a new request for an equivalence audit. Read more »