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10 Reasons Why Congress Must Act to Pass a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill

Getting a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill passed this year is essential – and it can’t fall victim to politics as usual. Too much is at stake, and too many people lose out if Congress can’t act.  Here are 10 good reasons why Congress must take action as soon as possible to achieve passage of a Farm Bill this year:

1. America’s farmers, ranchers and producers need certainty about the next five years of U.S. farm policy, to continue the recent momentum of the U.S. agricultural economy and rising farm income. Read more »

A Healthier Generation Through Smart Snacks in Schools

Today, USDA is furthering its commitment to improving the way that our youngsters eat by establishing science-based, common-sense standards for snacks sold in schools. The new “Smart Snacks in School” nutrition standards will positively impact more than 50 million American youngsters by ensuring that they are offered only healthier foods at school. Read more »

USDA Small Business Grant Leads to Erosion Control Breakthrough

June through September is wildfire season in the United States and on June 18 there were already 16 active major fires consuming more than 102,000 acres.  As much damage and destruction these fires cause, even more may be on the way when future rains cause mudslides from soil erosion on barren hills.  That’s where “Woodstraw” comes in.

WoodStraw® is a wood-based erosion control product that was developed by Forest Concepts, in Auburn, WA, using a Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grant administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  This material is made from low-grade waste wood veneer and resembles oversized pick-up sticks.  Wood-based erosion control products have many advantages over traditional grass straw as an erosion-control material because it is heaver and will not blow away, is 100 percent seed and weed-free, and is effective on slopes of up to 70 percent grade. Read more »

White House Rural Council Growing Rural Economies, Creating Jobs

Cross posted from the White House Blog:

This week is National Small Business Week. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), along with agencies across the Obama Administration, are hosting events in five cities. These events provide expert advice, mentoring and explore topics ranging from access to capital to exporting. Small businesses across the country can tune into these events via livestream at sba.gov.

America’s small businesses create two out of three net new private sector jobs in our economy. And today more than half of all working Americans either own or work for a small business. Our goal is to ensure that the positive economic benefits of entrepreneurship can reach every corner of the country. Read more »

A Virtual Roundtable to Bring the StrikeForce Initiative to New Communities

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) StrikeForce Initiative Director Max Finberg listen to StrikeForce Initiative Beneficiary Colorado farmer Carol Baker Olguin discuss the benefits she and her family received through the USDA StrikeForce program during a Google+ Hangout at USDA in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Jun. 17, 2013.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) StrikeForce Initiative Director Max Finberg listen to StrikeForce Initiative Beneficiary Colorado farmer Carol Baker Olguin discuss the benefits she and her family received through the USDA StrikeForce program during a Google+ Hangout at USDA in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Jun. 17, 2013.

Every day, USDA provides assistance to help grow American agriculture and increase opportunities for rural communities. Unfortunately, 90 percent of America’s persistent poverty counties are in rural America.

Earlier this year, we launched the StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity, which targets rural areas of persistent poverty where USDA staff work with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of programs, target resources and leverage partnerships to promote economic development and job creation.  The initiative is now operating in sixteen states in the Southeast, Southwest, Great Plains and Alaska. As I travel the country, I am heartened to learn of the impact StrikeForce programs have had in these communities and hear stories from the people who have benefitted. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A Food Farm and Jobs Bill to Grow Local and Regional Markets

This week, the U.S. Senate acted in bipartisan spirit to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act – a balanced, comprehensive bill that will drive continued growth in rural America.  The House of Representatives now has another important opportunity to stand with rural America and pass their version of a bill.

People often call this the Farm Bill – but it’s much more than that. This is a conservation bill. It’s a trade promotion bill. It’s an innovation bill. It’s a jobs bill.

And it’s a bill that will help continue a tremendous increase in markets for locally-grown foods. This includes creating more farmers markets, building additional regional food hubs and strengthening farm-to-institution programs. Read more »