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South Dakota Producers Work with USDA to Recover From Flooding

Joe Fillaus and sons, Cole and Carter, standing in front of their June 2013 corn crop after restoration was made to their field. USDA photo.

Joe Fillaus and sons, Cole and Carter, standing in front of their June 2013 corn crop after restoration was made to their field. USDA photo.

Two years after the Missouri River flooding of 2011, several Charles Mix County, S.D. producers are still working to get their flooded crop land back to full production. When the flood waters receded in the fall of 2011 portions of the river bottom crop land were covered with one to six feet of sand debris. The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) for debris removal was one tool that was utilized in this restoration effort.

The Emergency Conservation Program assisted the flooded farmers with cost-share of up to 75 percent for the expense of removing this debris. Charles Mix County farmer Joe Fillaus and sons Cole and Carter had substantial sand debris to deal with. He used his own equipment to spread out and till in the areas with a foot or less sand. Read more »

Administrator Approves Alaska College Student Center Transfer to Fine Arts Group

In June, Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Rural Housing and Community Facilities, traveled to Sitka and Ketchikan, Alaska for National Homeownership Month and discussions with community leaders on the intent of the USDA StrikeForce initiative in Southeast Alaska.

Ms. Treviño also took time in Sitka to visit the historic Sheldon Jackson College campus, a private Christian liberal arts college that was an historic Alaska Native trade school in its inception in the 1800’s. The college stopped operating several years ago.  On the campus are two facilities, a student center and a day care center, funded through USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities program. With the college closure, its board of trustees elected to transfer the entire remaining campus over to popular and growing fine arts nonprofit – Alaska Arts Southeast, Inc. Read more »

Former Cop is a Smooth Negotiator

Bob Goodwin, a former California Highway Patrol officer, now works for the U.S. Forest Service as a Tribal relations advisor. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Bob Goodwin, a former California Highway Patrol officer, now works for the U.S. Forest Service as a Tribal relations advisor. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

During his 21 years as a California Highway Patrol officer, Bob Goodwin eased tensions during traffic accidents, issued verbal warnings and made arrests—all in a calm and cool way.

Now, as Tribal relations advisor for the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region, Goodwin is again relying on those valuable people and negotiating skills to build relations between Tribal entities and the federal government. Goodwin’s easy-going demeanor, “can do” attitude, and ability to resolve challenging issues make him perfect for the job. Read more »

Serving Summer Meals Requires Hard Work and a Big Heart

Before kids sit down to eat a nutritious summer food service meal, adults have to do important work behind the scenes.

Before kids sit down to eat a nutritious summer food service meal, adults have to do important work behind the scenes.

As a public affairs specialist, promoting and publishing information about federal nutrition assistance programs to partners, media and the public is a key part of the job. But I don’t often get to see the real day-to-day operation of these programs. I have attended summer program kick-off events and visited other program sites for special events. But, I recently got another perspective. I accepted an offer from our regional Special Nutrition Programs branch to participate in a Summer Food Service Program review.

This cross-training experience provided a first-hand look at how the program works from the inside. I learned how our regional staff and state partners monitor sponsors and sites to make sure they are in compliance with rules and regulations to ensure program integrity and healthy summer meals for kids. Regional Food and Nutrition Service staff is responsible for program oversight and must conduct reviews of new private, non-profit sponsors and sites, often alongside the state agency. At last count, there were 17 of these new sponsors approved in Texas, with 61 new sites. Read more »

Easement Ensures Family Farm Will Be Preserved

This 12-acre constructed wetland provides wildlife habitat for migrating waterfowl and a nesting area for animals.

This 12-acre constructed wetland provides wildlife habitat for migrating waterfowl and a nesting area for animals.

Editor’s Note: As USDA shares stories of program accomplishments from across the country, Secretary Vilsack continues to remind Americans of the importance of the Farm Bill to many of these efforts. The success of the Wetlands Reserve Program in Iowa and across the nation is another reminder of the importance of Farm Bill programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy – and Secretary Vilsack continues to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.

A unique wetland in northeastern Iowa is helping to filter out upland sediment and other agricultural runoff flowing into the Little Cedar River. The wetland, on a farm outside Charles City, is also preserving the land and providing a wildlife haven.

In 2009, landowner Carol Savage enrolled about 70 percent of the 200-acre farm in a permanent easement through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Wetlands Reserve Program, in the process expanding an already-present wetland on the property. Read more »

Feral Swine Removal Demonstration Project

Recently I traveled to New Mexico to meet with APHIS-Wildlife Services’ personnel for a firsthand view of their Feral Swine Removal Demonstration Project that aims to eliminate feral swine from the state.  Feral swine are an invasive species with a population that has grown from approximately 1 million in 17 states in the 1980s to more than 5 million across 38 states today.  If left unchecked, their numbers could exceed 10 million by 2018.  Feral swine carry more than 30 diseases that pose a potential threat to humans, livestock, and wildlife, and the total cost of feral swine damage to U.S. agriculture, livestock facilities, private property, and natural resources is estimated to be $1.5 billion annually.

Wildlife Services’ demonstration project is benefitting from tremendous cooperation with federal, state, tribal, and nongovernmental partners, including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, New Mexico State Land Office, and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, as well as with the Mescalero Apache Tribe, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, New Mexico Wool Growers’ Association, affected counties and private land owners, among others. Read more »