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From an Idaho Youth Loan to National Youth Leader

Shane Kerner used an FSA Rural Youth Loan to purchase cattle, including her ‘best show’ heifer shown here. From that point, she built a thriving commercial herd.

Shane Kerner used an FSA Rural Youth Loan to purchase cattle, including her ‘best show’ heifer shown here. From that point, she built a thriving commercial herd.

Shane Kerner applied for her first USDA Farm Service Agency Rural Youth Loan at age 14. Now, at age 20, she not only reached adulthood, but financial independence to grow what was once a 4-H project into a thriving cattle operation.

“I never thought I would get as far as I am today with my cattle,” said Shane. “It is truly a privilege to have the opportunity to start at a young age and see the growth of your animals from seed stock to a small commercial herd, right outside your door.”

Shane refers to her operation as a passion for finding the highest genetics for breeding Angus cattle. With the proceeds from the sale of seven grass-fed calves she purchased with the youth loan, she bought more cattle, including her best show heifer. This started the foundation for growing a registered Angus herd. Read more »

Finding the Future of Agriculture

During the North American Indian Days Celebration in Montana, Under Secretary Ed Avalos (foreground), witnessed the pride and commitment of youth as they celebrated their cultural and agricultural roots.

During the North American Indian Days Celebration in Montana, Under Secretary Ed Avalos (foreground), witnessed the pride and commitment of youth as they celebrated their cultural and agricultural roots.

Agricultural producers in rural America represent less than 1% of the U.S. population, yet they produce almost 75% of the food we eat in this country and much of the food eaten throughout the world. Among that 1%, the average age of the American farmer is 57 years old—making it imperative for us to engage and encourage young people to pursue agricultural careers.

Earlier this summer, while visiting Browning, Montana, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Billie Jo Kipp, President of the Blackfeet Community College (BCC) and Mr. Terry Tatsey, Director of Agricultural Programs at the college.  Their efforts and commitment to educate local students and keep young people in agriculture is inspiring. Read more »

USDA Partners with a Michigan Town to Improve Quality of Health Care

Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow speaks at the ground-breaking for the new USDA-supported Cassopolis Family Clinic. USDA photo.

Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow speaks at the ground-breaking for the new USDA-supported Cassopolis Family Clinic. USDA photo.

Cassopolis, located in southwest Michigan, recently celebrated the ground-breaking for the new USDA Rural Development supported Cassopolis Family Clinic.  Like many rural communities, Cassopolis has limited facilities for health care, particularly for low-income residents.  The Cassopolis Family Clinic was founded more than 50 years ago to serve the surrounding community and the facility will bring that service into the future.

USDA Rural Development was represented at the event by Paw Paw Sub-Area Office Team Leader Lisa Epple, who was joined by local leaders and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. Read more »

A ‘Tree-fecta’ with the Oldest, Biggest, Tallest Trees on Public Lands

Dave and Bethany trying to absorb the magnitude of a giant Sequoia.

Dave and Bethany trying to absorb the magnitude of a giant Sequoia.

For me, Take your Daughters and Sons to Work Day has a different meaning as an employee of the U.S. Forest Service.  With a passion for our nation’s natural resources and the great outdoors, I want Bethany Atkins, my daughter, to have the opportunity to explore America’s treasured public lands more often than visiting me at work one day a year. So we embarked on a summer family journey to explore some nearby national forests and parks. I am proud to share part of her journal from this experience and I encourage others to find a national forest or grassland near you to explore.

The grey winters of Portland, Ore., often prompt me to look simultaneously forward and backward. I look forward to what adventures I might plan for the lengthy days of the summer. I will always look back on recent trip to visit the oldest, the biggest and the tallest trees on earth; a trip my pun-friendly family quickly dubbed “The Tree-fecta.” Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Continuing the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Ensuring the health and well-being of our nation’s children is a top priority for President Obama, and for all of us at USDA. We have focused in recent years on expanding access, affordability and availability of healthy foods for families and children.

Recently, we learned of some promising new results in the fight against obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of obesity among young, low-income children appears to be declining. In 19 states, the obesity rate among low-income preschoolers has dropped for the first time in decades – and in many other states the obesity rate has leveled off. Read more »

USDA and the HACU National Internship Program: A Recipe for Success

AMS Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst Keven Valentin, a former HACU intern at work. Valentin was an intern with AMS for two years through the HACU National Internship Program. Photo Courtesy of Hakim Fobia, AMS Public Affairs

AMS Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst Keven Valentin, a former HACU intern at work. Valentin was an intern with AMS for two years through the HACU National Internship Program. Photo Courtesy of Hakim Fobia, AMS Public Affairs

Reach one, teach one. That is the approach that USDA has taken in its partnership with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) National Internship Program. As a current employee with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and a former HACU intern, I am glad to help continue this tradition.

The HACU National Internship Program helps talented students in more than 400 colleges and universities gain valuable experience through paid internships at federal, private, and non-profit organizations. USDA has been a leading organization working with the program, hosting nearly 1900 HACU student interns since 1994. I am part of the nearly 46% of former HACU interns who earned the opportunity to stay on board with the federal government after finishing my degree. Read more »