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Secretary’s Column: Celebrating America’s Farmers Markets

Over the first week of August, local markets across the country celebrated National Farmers Market Week.

Farmers markets are an important part of America’s diverse agriculture sector, providing unique benefits to communities across our nation. They give Americans a chance to learn about agriculture by meeting some of the people who grow and raise our food. They provide valuable marketing opportunities for small and beginning farmers – many of whom scale up to larger regional markets and other institutions.  And they help expand access to locally-grown foods that are in greater demand than ever before. Read more »

USDA Grasshopper Warrior Wins Prestigious Award for Life’s Work

Nelson Foster inspecting cages used to test the effectiveness of different baits used to suppress grasshoppers.

Nelson Foster inspecting cages used to test the effectiveness of different baits used to suppress grasshoppers.

Grasshoppers and Mormon crickets of the West beware: R. Nelson Foster, of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is roaming the rangelands looking for you, and when he finds you, he’ll stop your feeding frenzy right in its tracks.

Foster serves as Assistant Laboratory Director at APHIS’ Center for Plant Health Science and Technology in Phoenix, Arizona. For over forty years, he has worked in the lab and in the field conducting groundbreaking research mainly on grasshoppers and similar insects such as Mormon crickets. Read more »

USDA Partners With Service Organizations to Help Veterans Find Careers in Agriculture

Veterans returning home from overseas tours-of-duty face many challenges as they readjust to civilian life, and one of the most daunting ones is finding employment. Last year, a new program — the Soldiers to Civilians (S2C) Project — was started in rural west Tennessee to give local veterans the training and skills they need to enter into the field of precision agriculture. Thanks to grant assistance from the Department of Agriculture (USDA), project leaders will now be able to expand the S2C program beyond west Tennessee to help even more veterans living in the rural delta areas of east Arkansas and west Mississippi.

The expansion was funded, in part, through USDA’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program, which promotes development of small and emerging businesses in rural areas. Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno announced the award during a visit to the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, a bioscience-oriented nonprofit organization that is a partner on the S2C project. Memphis Bioworks is one of more than 130 projects in 30 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico that are receiving RBEG funds. Read more »

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie Program Brings Kids Closer to Nature

Participants get an up-close look at one of the critters before it’s released. (Photo courtesy of El Valor)

Participants get an up-close look at one of the critters before it’s released. (Photo courtesy of El Valor)

The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie offers lots of unique educational experiences and opportunities to get involved throughout the year – through public tours, volunteer days and special events.

As part of the “Midewin for Kids” activity series, kids are invited to the prairie for an exploratory hike with a Forest Service environmental education specialist. Read more »

USDA Serving Montana Ranchers, Farmers

Ben Hofer, Rockport Colony Secretary, with a Kangal. NWRC researchers are studying the potential of these livestock guard animals for use where large predators include wolves and grizzly bear. The Kangal breed is gentle and trustworthy with their people or animals, but if the need arises they can become very protective. (USDA Photo by Under Secretary Edward Avalos)

Ben Hofer, Rockport Colony Secretary, with a Kangal. NWRC researchers are studying the potential of these livestock guard animals for use where large predators include wolves and grizzly bear. The Kangal breed is gentle and trustworthy with their people or animals, but if the need arises they can become very protective. (USDA Photo by Under Secretary Edward Avalos)

USDA plays an important and vital role in supporting rural communities throughout the country.  On my recent trip to Montana, I saw firsthand how the work, services and programs provided by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) directly impact stakeholder day-to-day operations.

After a listening session in Cut Bank, I was invited to the Rockport Colony, by Ben Hofer, the Secretary for the Hutterite community near Pendroy, Montana.  This impressive communal farming/ranching operation includes sheep, cattle, hog and poultry production, a dairy, and meat-processing facility, as well as fruit, vegetable, and grain production.  I quickly learned USDA is an important partner, providing support for water lines, fencing, and wildlife damage management. Read more »

SNAP Combats Food Insecurity, Improves Long-Term Health Outlook for Low-Income People

In the largest survey of food security and food spending among SNAP participants to date, researchers from Mathematica Policy Research found that participation in SNAP for about six months was associated with a significant decrease in food insecurity.  The study was funded through a contract from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. Infographic credit: Mathematica Policy Research. Click to enlarge image.

In the largest survey of food security and food spending among SNAP participants to date, researchers from Mathematica Policy Research found that participation in SNAP for about six months was associated with a significant decrease in food insecurity. The study was funded through a contract from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. Infographic credit: Mathematica Policy Research. Click to enlarge image.

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is America’s first line of defense against hunger and new research released today makes it clear that SNAP improves food security, particularly among low-income children.

The study, funded by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and conducted by researchers at Mathematica Policy Research, found that participating in SNAP for about six months corresponded with a significant decrease in food insecurity. That effect was even more pronounced in households with children. Read more »