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SNAP Remains a Safety Net for Veterans and Families in Need

Cross posted from the disability.gov blog:

Today, I was thinking about the last entry I wrote for Disability.gov’s blog just about a year ago and considering our accomplishments in 2012 and the opportunities that are ahead for 2013.

The need for food assistance remained high in 2012, with an average of 47 million people participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) every month. Program participation increased in response to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana and Hurricane Sandy in the New England states. However, overall the program grew at a slower rate and even flattened toward the end of the year. SNAP continues to be the cornerstone of the national hunger safety net by helping those in need put healthy food on the table. Read more »

In Oregon, Commerce Meets Conservation

Ben Deumling (left) explains Zena Forest Products’ land management, harvest, and milling operations to USDA’s Lillian Salerno (center) and Martin Zone.

Ben Deumling (left) explains Zena Forest Products’ land management, harvest, and milling operations to USDA’s Lillian Salerno (center) and Martin Zone.

USDA and the Obama Administration are committed to creating jobs in rural America, so when a job creation effort also protects family forest lands, preserves important natural habitats, and produces beautiful, sustainable white oak wood products, there is reason to celebrate. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to appreciate such a success during a recent visit with Ben Deumling and his mother Sarah of the family owned Zena Forest Products in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Read more »

California Man Snaps Winning Photo in Sequoia National Forest

A kayaker maneuvers the Seven Teacups on the Kern River in the Sequoia National Forest.  The photo won Glen Maki a trip for four, and his photo will be on the 2013 Federal Recreation Lands Pass. (Photo courtesy Glen Maki)

A kayaker maneuvers the Seven Teacups on the Kern River in the Sequoia National Forest. The photo won Glen Maki a trip for four, and his photo will be on the 2013 Federal Recreation Lands Pass. (Photo courtesy Glen Maki)

Glen Maki of Wofford Heights, Calif., had a camera, a 210 mm lens and just enough time to press the trigger as the digital motor whirred quickly to capture a kayaker maneuver the waters at the Seven Teacups on the Sequoia National Forest.

“I was just taking a lot of pictures,” Maki said. “So when I decided to enter the contest, I had to enter the one I thought was the best. And it turned out pretty well.” Read more »

Agriculture and Rural Main Streets on the Agenda for Smart Growth

Agriculture and food system development were featured agenda topics at the recent New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, an annual conference sponsored by the Local Government Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and several other public and private organizations.

I went to the Smart Growth conference on behalf of USDA Rural Development to demonstrate USDA’s commitment to investing in the future of rural communities.  Smart Growth principles can offer innovative strategies for using scarce federal dollars efficiently to promote sustainable and sound investments on main streets everywhere, and are valuable in helping rural communities consider how to creatively use existing resources and infrastructure to serve and celebrate their unique identities. Read more »

U.S. Soybeans Support Sustainability in Afghanistan

Minnesota soybean farmers and representatives from the Albert Lea Seed House, the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) and Minnesota-based Shelter for Life International gather in Minnesota before the soybean seeds depart for Afghanistan. The shipment is part of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress Program and will provide Afghan farmers with 68.5 metric tons of early maturing soybean seeds to plant. (Photo by Dan Lemke, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council)

Minnesota soybean farmers and representatives from the Albert Lea Seed House, the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) and Minnesota-based Shelter for Life International gather in Minnesota before the soybean seeds depart for Afghanistan. The shipment is part of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress Program and will provide Afghan farmers with 68.5 metric tons of early maturing soybean seeds to plant. (Photo by Dan Lemke, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council)

Minnesota soybean farmers recently gathered at a local seed house to witness final preparations for a shipment of U.S. soybean seeds about to make a 7,000-mile journey to Afghanistan. The shipment is part of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress Program and will provide subsistence farmers in Afghanistan with 68.5 metric tons of early maturing soybean seeds to plant. Read more »

With USDA Assistance, a Historic Mississippi Courthouse gets a New Lease on Life

The inside of the newly restored courthouse and the attendees at the Grand Opening Ceremony. USDA photos.

The inside of the newly restored courthouse and the attendees at the Grand Opening Ceremony. USDA photos.

In 2009, Bolivar County, Mississippi, Administrator William Hooker and a board-delegated crew of local leaders traveled to meet with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., to rally for the financial support to restore the Bolivar County courthouse in Rosedale, MS. They received funding for the project and on April 2, 2012 a ground breaking ceremony was held for the First Judicial District Courthouse located in Rosedale. USDA Rural Development awarded a $350,000 Recovery Act Community Facilities grant. The project also received a $350,000 Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Economic Grant, a $300,000 grant from the MS Department of Archives and History, and $300,000 from the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors. A majority of the money went towards improving the building’s weakening foundation. Installing a new roof and a number of interior retouches were also big parts of the restoration. Read more »