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Secretary’s Column: Growing Opportunity for Small and Mid-Sized Farmers and Ranchers

The recent Census of Agriculture shows that there is tremendous potential for growth among the smaller producers that make up the middle of American agriculture, but they need our support to get there.

That can mean a lot of different things. Some small and mid-sized farms and ranches are happy just the way they are, and simply need stability to help them keep afloat during tough times. Others want to grow and expand, but don’t know how to access support that meets their specific needs.

Recognizing these challenges, we have launched a new package of education, credit, technical assistance, and marketing tools and resources geared specifically to small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers. Read more »

Strengthening Families’ Healthy Eating Habits for 40 Years

The National WIC Association, NWA, is the non-profit education arm and advocacy voice of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): www.nwica.org

The National WIC Association, NWA, is the non-profit education arm and advocacy voice of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC): www.nwica.org

During March, National Nutrition Month, USDA will highlight various nutrition topics that are near and dear to our hearts. We don’t work on these issues alone however. This guest blog post acknowledges the important contribution of the Nation WIC Association and their role in supporting a healthier next generation.

Guest post by
Douglas A. Greenaway, Executive Director of the National WIC Association

This year, during National Nutrition Month, we at the National WIC Association (NWA) are celebrating WIC’s 40th Anniversary, and also rejoicing in recent events that underscore the importance of WIC’s nutrition services for our nation’s health: Read more »

USDA Helps Farmers Make Creative Connection with Students

Farmer, David Sours, poses for the Public House Produce Farmer Trading Card. The back of the card showcases all sorts of facts about Sours’ operation.

Farmer, David Sours, poses for the Public House Produce Farmer Trading Card. The back of the card showcases all sorts of facts about Sours’ operation.

Remember when you were a child and kids would sit around memorizing baseball stats and trading cards or perhaps you’re a bit younger and the big thing was trading Pokémon cards? Well, I’m predicting the next big thing will be Farmer Trading Cards!

In November, I attended the Virginia Farm to Table Conference and on the first day David Sours, a farmer from Luray, VA shyly handed me what I thought was a business card until I took a closer look. In fact, it was a Farmer Trading Card featuring David himself! The card also lists Farmer Stats including contact information, months in operation, farm size, where to buy, and most importantly, type of tractor. Read more »

Building a Healthier Future Through Partnership

Dr. Janey Thornton, FNCS Deputy Under Secretary

Dr. Janey Thornton, FNCS Deputy Under Secretary

On March 12-14 the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) will host their 2014 Building a Healthier Future Summit in Washington, DC. Dr. Janey Thornton, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNCS), will be in attendance on behalf of USDA.

“I’m thrilled to see so many partners coming together in support of a healthier next generation,” said Dr. Thornton.  “Although we have collectively made strides toward reducing the impact of childhood obesity, there is still much work to be done.” Read more »

Expanding Healthy, American-Produced Food Offerings to Our Schools – USDA’s Pilot Program for Greek-Style Yogurt

Protein products, like Greek-style yogurt, are consistently among the most popular items available to schools through the USDA Foods program.

Protein products, like Greek-style yogurt, are consistently among the most popular items available to schools through the USDA Foods program.

The USDA Foods program offers a wide variety of nutritious, 100 percent domestically produced food to help the nation’s schools feed our children and support U.S. agriculture. Each state participating in the National School Lunch Program annually receives a USDA Foods entitlement, which may be spent on any of the over 180 foods offered on the USDA Foods list.   Last year, the Food and Nutrition Service added an additional product to that list through a pilot program to offer Greek-style (i.e., high-protein yogurt) to schools in Arizona, Idaho, New York and Tennessee.

These states were able to order any quantity of Greek-style yogurt they chose for delivery from September to November 2013 within the balance of their USDA Foods entitlement. Not surprisingly, the overall response to the pilot was very positive. The states’ collective orders totaled 199,800 pounds of yogurt. Read more »

Conservation Helps Kentucky Rancher Battle Winter

Brad Steverson uses rotational grazing on his Kentucky farm to help ensure he has food and water for his herd.

Brad Steverson uses rotational grazing on his Kentucky farm to help ensure he has food and water for his herd.

Many people think farmers get to take some time off during the winter, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. For livestock farmers like Brad Steverson, winter months bring significant challenges.

When it’s cold outside, he’s concerned about food, water and shelter for his 80 head of Black Angus. However, those concerns have been minimized recently with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the use of conservation practices.

With technical and financial help from NRCS and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, he implemented a rotational grazing system on his 300-acre cattle ranch in Henry County, Ky. Read more »