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Secretary’s Column: All Americans Benefit from Local and Regional Markets

One very important reason for Congress to expedite work toward a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is to continue today’s rapid growth in local and regional marketing opportunities for American agriculture.

From local farmers markets to regional food hubs, these new opportunities benefit a wide range of Americans from all walks of life.

They benefit farmers and ranchers who are looking to start selling locally or scale up to regional sales. Farmers markets and regional food hubs have a particularly positive impact for small and limited-resource producers. Sales of local foods are growing rapidly, creating a multibillion-dollar market opportunity for producers. Read more »

Drought Stricken Areas to Benefit from USDA, NOAA-Led Initiative

The Ramirez Viejo Ranch in Penitas, Texas is a decades-old ranch. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

The Ramirez Viejo Ranch in Penitas, Texas is a decades-old ranch. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

While addressing the effects of the 2012 drought, USDA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other federal partners are preparing proactively for the next one.

As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the Obama Administration today announced an interagency National Drought Resilience Partnership to help communities better prepare for future droughts and reduce the impact of drought events on livelihoods and the economy.

Spearheaded by USDA and NOAA, members of the National Drought Resilience Partnership will coordinate the delivery of Federal Government policies, programs, information and tools designed to help communities plan for and respond to drought. Other partners in this effort include the Department of the Interior, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Read more »

Reaching Back to Traditional Native American Cooking in Search of Healthier Meals

The curly tips of the fiddlehead fern can be found in early spring before they open to reveal a full taste akin to asparagus. U.S. Forest Service photo.

The curly tips of the fiddlehead fern can be found in early spring before they open to reveal a full taste akin to asparagus. U.S. Forest Service photo.

Elizabeth Nelson tasted then added more spice to a soup made with fiddlehead ferns, those curly leaves of a young fern that resemble the scrolled neck of a superbly crafted violin.

Although Nelson has made the soup hundreds of times before, her culinary prowess this day is being documented for a project called Mino Wiisinidaa!, or Let’s Eat Good! – Traditional Foods for Healthy Living.

“When we were kids, my mom would send us all out with a bucket. And she said, ‘Don’t you kids come back until that bucket is filled,’ ” said Nelson, a member of the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians Reservation in Northwest Wisconsin. “And we would go and fill them with cow slips and fiddlehead ferns. And that was our supper for the night. That was how we lived.” Read more »

Packing the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree for Ride ‘Home’ is no Easy Feat

In a staging area, workers carefully begin the process of wrapping the tree to protect it during the 5,000-mile journey from Colville National Forest to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

In a staging area, workers carefully begin the process of wrapping the tree to protect it during the 5,000-mile journey from Colville National Forest to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

The 88-foot Engelmann spruce tree that will grace the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol as a gift from the people must first get from Colville National Forest in Washington State to Washington, D.C.

That means careful packing with special attention paid to cocooning the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree so the thick branches stay intact and nothing hangs over the side of the trailer it is placed on.

“What does it take to wrap an 88-foot-tall Engelmann spruce?” said Franklin Pemberton of the Colville National Forest. “Also a lot of hard-working volunteers, 4,000 feet of parachute cord with a 550-pound breaking strength and a huge building.” Read more »

USDA Rural Development Celebrates New Tribal Administration Building

Retiring of colors at the end of the ceremony by the Sisseton-Wahpeton Vietnam Veterans Kit Fox Society honor guard.

Retiring of colors at the end of the ceremony by the Sisseton-Wahpeton Vietnam Veterans Kit Fox Society honor guard.

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh recently joined Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribal and community members for the dedication of the Tribe’s new administration building, which was constructed with a $31.2 million Community Facilities loan from USDA. The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe resides on the Lake Traverse Reservation in northeastern South Dakota and southeastern North Dakota, primarily in Roberts County.

“This impressive building is the result of the largest Community Facilities loan that Rural Development in South Dakota has ever made,” Kunesh said. “The building will serve as a central hub to help Tribal members with their social, educational, and housing needs.” Read more »

Range of Bull Trout in Oregon’s McKenzie River Indicates Improved River Health

Bull trout spawn in a spring of the Middle Fork Willamette River. They were transferred from the McKenzie River to historic habitats in the Middle Fork. (U.S. Forest Service)

Bull trout spawn in a spring of the Middle Fork Willamette River. They were transferred from the McKenzie River to historic habitats in the Middle Fork. (U.S. Forest Service)

The bull trout in the McKenzie River on the Willamette National Forest have a survival story to tell, thanks to U.S. Forest Service stewardship of local rivers and fresh, healthy sources of groundwater.

“We’re reintroducing the top predator back into the river ecosystem,” said Ray Rivera, the district fisheries biologist on the forest’s McKenzie River Ranger District. “Their presence means two things to us. First, because bull trout are very sensitive to environmental changes compared to other salmonid fishes, their existence means the river’s water quality is excellent and the physical quality of their habitat is also good. Second, since bull trout are the top predator and they are doing well this means the overall ecosystem is doing well. Their presence is an excellent barometer of a river’s health.” Read more »