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Secretary’s Column: Growing the #RuralMade Economy

Those of us who call rural America home know that there’s more to the rural economy than just farms and ranches. From biobased products to rural manufacturing, the potential to grow and make innovative products in rural America is limitless.

As part of our commitment to strengthening rural economies, USDA this week released a new series of state-by-state “Made in Rural America” factsheets. Each state factsheet is a snapshot of how USDA investments help to build a better atmosphere for small business in rural America. Read more »

Co-op Month: Much to Celebrate, But Much More to Do!

Doug O'Brien, Acting Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development addresses attendees at a National Co-op Month forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Lillian Salerno, Administrator for Rural Business & Cooperatives Programs and Charles Snyder, President of National Cooperative Bank are on the right.

Doug O'Brien, Acting Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development addresses attendees at a National Co-op Month forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Lillian Salerno, Administrator for Rural Business & Cooperatives Programs and Charles Snyder, President of National Cooperative Bank are on the right.

There is so much to celebrate during National Cooperative Month in October, as the U.S. co-op business sector is generating about $650 billion in annual sales and accounts for more than 2 million jobs. But the cooperative business model remains a “best-kept secret” for far too many people who could be benefitting from membership in co-ops.

It is thus imperative that everyone involved with cooperatives make co-op education and outreach a major priority in the year ahead. That was one of the primary messages of a National Co-op Month forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, sponsored by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA). Read more »

How USDA Celebrated National School Lunch Week

Last week, USDA celebrated National School Lunch Week from October 12 -18 with exciting local events across the country.  It was a chance for USDA staff to meet with students and hear what they think of the newer, fresher options in the lunch room.  It was also an opportunity for USDA officials to say “thank you” to the hardworking school food service professionals who make healthy school lunches possible.

Healthy meals at school are an essential part of every child’s health, development, and academic success.   Students’ ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy and reach their fullest potential depends on the environment they learn in.  And that is why Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, so that all our nation’s students can experience a healthier school environment with more nutritious options. Read more »

Protecting a California Legacy

San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles County, CA. USDA USFS photo.

San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles County, CA. USDA USFS photo.

It has now been a couple of weeks since President Obama declared the San Gabriel Mountains in California a National Monument, and I’m still very excited about the great prospects ahead for that area based on this historic proclamation. This is another rare opportunity for the Forest Service to manage a national treasure with national monument status and – more importantly – it’s an opportunity for us to do more to protect and showcase the San Gabriel Mountains for millions of visitors and local residents each year.

This recent designation is a terrific way to celebrate an area that represents significant archeological, cultural, historical and scientific heritage for California and the nation, and it brings along extra benefits as well. National monument status will help enhance recreational access and interpretative and environmental education for millions of visitors each year near one of the major metropolitan areas in the nation, while helping to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the region. Monument designation is a tremendous recognition and opportunity for the Forest Service, for the region, and for everyone who enjoys the forests. Read more »

Organic 101: “Organic” in the Brand Name…Organic in the Package

By clarifying expectations for organic certifiers, USDA’s instruction ensures that all organic products are labeled consistently, assure consumers that all organic labeling requirements are being met and provide a fair market for all organic operations.

By clarifying expectations for organic certifiers, USDA’s instruction ensures that all organic products are labeled consistently, assure consumers that all organic labeling requirements are being met and provide a fair market for all organic operations.

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

When consumers see the word “organic” on a product package or label, they have expectations about what is inside the package.  The National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), protects the integrity of the organic label by ensuring that organic producers and handlers meet consumer expectations.  The NOP recently published an instruction that will bring more clarity to products with brand names containing the word “organic.”

Organic products have strict production and labeling requirements.  They must be produced and handled by operations that are certified as complying with the USDA organic regulations; made without the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge; and use substances allowed by the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List). Read more »

New Southeast Climate Hub Website Contains Information for Producers and Partners

Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) Initiative participant Steve Barlow looks over the longleaf pine forest on his property in Levy County, FL.

Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) Initiative participant Steve Barlow looks over the longleaf pine forest on his property in Levy County, FL.

As of this week, there is a new online resource for information about the USDA Climate Hubs: http://climatehubs.oce.usda.gov/. The site features a variety of national and regional content on climate variability and its effects on working lands-including a new suite of pages specific to the Southeast Hub.

Within the Southeast Hub pages, you’ll find info on important regional assessmentsdata and research products, and key educational materials to help farmers, land managers, Extension agents, and other partners adapt to climate related stressors. Read more »