Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager Visits Maine Community Development Projects

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager had a unique opportunity to see the many dynamic things happening in rural Maine communities during his visit earlier this month. Each of the projects he visited represented a different way in which USDA Rural Development’s Programs are playing valuable roles, providing a multitude of benefits, including renewable energy, business sustainability, job creation and retention, distance learning, and telemedicine.

USDA Officials tour a new USDA-funded wind project that meets much of the power needs of a Maine island.

USDA Officials tour a new USDA-funded wind project that meets much of the power needs of a Maine island.

For example, I joined the Under Secretary and the Northeast Region State Directors on a ferry to Vinalhaven, a remote island community 12 miles off the coast of Maine. Once there, we were greeted by Town Manager Marjorie Stratton, and led on tours of the Fox Islands Wind site by Fox Islands Wind CEO George Baker, and COO Bill Alcorn. The three immense wind turbines will generate about as much clean renewable wind power as the Fox Islands use, which is between 10 and 10.5 million kilowatt hours per year. USDA Rural Development provided funding support to make possible the total $14 million wind turbine project. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Strengthening the Rural Economy

This has been an important week for the White House Rural Council – a partnership between multiple Federal agencies, created by President Obama last year to focus and coordinate our efforts to create jobs in rural America and support American agriculture.

We marked the one-year anniversary of the Council on June 11; and on the same day, the Rural Council released a report alongside the White House Council of Economic Advisors and USDA that notes significant progress in our efforts to grow the rural economy.  But President Obama and I also know that there’s more to be done. Read more »

Kicking Off National Summer Food Service Program Week: Closing the Summer Meal Gap

Today marks the 2nd annual National Summer Food Service Program Kick Off Week (June 11-15).  During the school year, more than 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch through the School Breakfast and National School Lunch Programs.  But when school is out, many low-income kids relying on these school meals, go hungry.  To close that gap, USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) helps children get the nutritious meals they need during the summer months so they’re ready to learn when they return to school in the fall.

A teen attending the summer food service site at the Boys and Girls Club of Ada County in Garden City, Idaho enjoys a healthy snack.

A teen attending the summer food service site at the Boys and Girls Club of Ada County in Garden City, Idaho enjoys a healthy snack.

This week, we’ll be sharing SFSP information through Twitter, blogs, and a variety of National Summer Food Service Program kick-off events throughout the country.  Our children’s continued ability to learn, grow up healthy, and reach their full potential will depend on what we do now to secure their future. Read more »

Cutting-edge Technology to Make Traditional Favorites Even Better

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Fresh corn and homegrown tomatoes are as much a part of the traditional American scene as apple pie.  Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have applied cutting-edge technology to learn more about these longtime favorites and, in the long run, make them even better.

As part of an international consortium of 300 researchers, ARS scientists recently sequenced the genome of the domesticated tomato.  This achievement is expected to lower production costs and speed up efforts to improve the United States’ $2 billion tomato crop, making the plant better equipped to combat the pests, pathogens, drought and diseases that now plague growers. That’s good news for tomato fans, because since 2000, Americans have been consuming an average of 19 pounds of tomatoes per person every year. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Healthy, Affordable Meals for Our Children This Summer

As final school bells ring and students across our nation start summer break, the last thing on a parent’s mind should be how they’re going to provide nutritious meals for a child.

During the school year, USDA plays an integral role in being sure our children have enough to eat. Through the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, USDA helps families by providing nutritious school meals to 32 million kids each day.

But when school’s out for the summer, low-income families can have trouble providing food for their children. Read more »

As Bats Swoop, Students Swoon to Learn More About Them During USDA Webcast

Consider the bat – you know, the flying type that swoops out of urban eaves or rural caves usually at dawn or dusk. What do you know about the central roles they play in controlling insect populations, balancing ecosystems or pollinating flowers, fruits and vegetables?

Rob Mies, author, director, and founder of the Organization for Bat Conservation gives a presentation sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service in U.S. Department of Agriculture's, Jefferson Auditiorium, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, May 16, 2012. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

Rob Mies, author, director, and founder of the Organization for Bat Conservation gives a presentation sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service in U.S. Department of Agriculture's Jefferson Auditiorium, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, May 16, 2012. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

Last week, students in grades four through eight and educators from around the country did more than just consider the bat. They met a number of live bats via an hour-long Washington, D.C., Bats!LIVE distance learning seminar (view online video) including a little brown bat, a vampire bat and a straw-colored fruit bat with a six-foot wingspan. They asked questions of bat biologists, learned about threats to bats and what everyone can do to help bats in their own communities. Read more »