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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 »

Now That’s Special: USDA Program Fuels Economic Development

A mother and son shop for veggies and flowers—both specialty crops—at a local farmers market.  Over half the foods we eat are considered specialty crops.  Support for this vital sector of agriculture relies on the stability provided through a comprehensive Farm Bill.  Photo by Melinda Shelton.

A mother and son shop for veggies and flowers—both specialty crops—at a local farmers market. Over half the foods we eat are considered specialty crops. Support for this vital sector of agriculture relies on the stability provided through a comprehensive Farm Bill. Photo by Melinda Shelton.

“Specialty crops”—the label may sound like exotic foods or something reserved for a special occasion, but this area of agriculture represents more than half the foods we eat on a daily basis.  Defined as fruits and veggies, tree nuts, herbs, dried fruit, decorative plants and flowers, these crops are not only a key component of a healthy diet—they are also key to sustaining U.S. farms and agriculture. Read more »

What Would You do to Keep Your Food Safe During an Emergency?

September is National Preparedness Month, and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reminds you to plan ahead in order to keep your food safe just in case you encounter hurricanes, flooding, fires, power outages or other emergencies that threaten storage conditions.

On any given day, maintaining the proper temperature and sanitation of food storage areas should prevent bacterial growth and keep your food safe to eat.  However, severe weather and other emergencies can compromise these conditions.

Knowing what to do during emergencies can minimize the need to throw away food and the risk of getting sick.  You and your family should have an emergency plan in place that includes food and water safety precautionsYou might find  “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes“  helpful as you can print it out and use it as a guide on what to do during a power outage.  You also can get timely food safety information relevant to a particular state or territory on Twitter by following @XX_FSISAlert.  Just replace the XX with each state or territory’s postal abbreviation. Read more »

2013 USDOT TIGER Awards Help Rural Communities Thrive

Rural communities are the life blood of our great nation. Here at USDA we work every day to make sure that rural Americans have access to programs that help them create opportunity across America’s small towns and communities.

Tomorrow, I will sit down with the members of the White House Rural Council to discuss ways we can continue to address the many unique challenges facing rural America. Today, in advance of our meeting, I am pleased to highlight an effort by the U.S. Department of Transportation to strengthen one of the key objectives of the White House Rural Council by increasing access to dependable transportation in rural communities across 23 states.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx explains more about this effort in a blog from the U.S. Department of Transportation Blog: Read more »

Calling All Ag Supporters: Tell us What’s at Stake Without #MyFarmBill

At USDA, we remain committed to sharing with all Americans the need for a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill to keep up momentum in American agriculture, grow the rural economy and create jobs.  And today, we launched Instagram, @USDAgov, to highlight photos and videos from around the country that bring into your home the dynamic beauty of rural America and the hard work of people who live there.

But that’s not all – we want to hear from you! Read more »