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The ‘Dream of Homeownership’ is More than a Cliché for a Kentucky Family

USDA Rural Development Kentucky State Director Thomas Fern, Easton and Shawna Barnett, and Josh Speight of Kentucky Baptist Fellowship with volunteer builders in the background. USDA Photos.

USDA Rural Development Kentucky State Director Thomas Fern, Easton and Shawna Barnett, and Josh Speight of Kentucky Baptist Fellowship with volunteer builders in the background. USDA Photos.

Imagine for a moment you are a child surrounded by kind strangers – trailers coming and going with large pieces of structure, big cranes lifting and moving objects, women and men pounding nails into wood, saws ripping through timbers and groups of people working together to upright walls that will someday hold your toys.

Imagine being a child who only understands all this commotion through the explanation by his mother and father this will soon be their home. He doesn’t understand words like, “wealth creation”, “equity”, “dream of homeownership”, or other adult terms we use to define the values of owning a home. To him, it is about having a place where he can go outside and play in the yard, a place where his room becomes his refuge on occasion, and a place where he creates and records the moments in life that later become the memories recanted to his children and grandchildren.  For Easton, watching all of this commotion and seeing the kindness of strangers, will be a memory that he will long remember. Read more »

Laotian Farmer Becomes National Voice for N.C. Hmong Community

Maykia Yang (right), is trying to educate Hmong farmers in North Carolina about Farm Service Agency programs. Pictured with Maykia is her husband Jim (left) and son Marcus.

Maykia Yang (right), is trying to educate Hmong farmers in North Carolina about Farm Service Agency programs. Pictured with Maykia is her husband Jim (left) and son Marcus.

It’s not a pleasant memory for Maykia Yang. Fleeing on foot from her native home of Laos at age eight and following her family to Thailand where she spent two years in a refugee camp.

“My father was a soldier and worked for the CIA during the [Vietnam] war. After the CIA pulled out, the Vietnamese took over Laos and we fled on foot for about a month,” said Yang, who now owns a chicken farm in North Carolina. Read more »

USDA Needs Your Help To Keep Kids From Going Hungry This Summer

Three children enjoy lunch freshly prepared and served on-site by a food service management company at the Inter Metro Summer Recreation Program in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Three children enjoy lunch freshly prepared and served on-site by a food service management company at the Inter Metro Summer Recreation Program in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The summer months are here. Families are making plans for vacations and leisure time spent at the local pool or beach. But for many parents and caregivers, summer is also a time of anxiety as they wonder if they’ll be able to put enough food on the table without school lunch and breakfast to supplement mealtimes. That’s why USDA’s summer meals programs, which provide free meals to disadvantaged kids while school is out, is so important.

Today kicks off Summer Food Service Program Week, an opportunity to spread awareness about the prevalence of child hunger. This summer, we have set a goal of feeding 5 million more meals to eligible kids across the country through our partnerships with state agencies and local organizations. I’m proud to say that last year our partners served 161 million summer meals, feeding approximately 3.5 million children on a typical summer day. Read more »

Trade Mission Highlights Growing Prospects for Ag Products in Turkey

With its rapidly developing economy and expanding middle class, Turkey has become an important market for U.S. food and agricultural products over the past decade. It’s also the destination of the latest USDA agricultural trade mission from June 10-14 as Acting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse leads a U.S. delegation to promote U.S. agricultural exports.

Representatives from six state departments of agriculture and 20 U.S. companies will attend. During the mission, the delegation will travel to Istanbul and Ankara to learn about market conditions and regulations to help U.S. companies develop export strategies for Turkey. They’ll visit retail locations and tour various facilities including a U.S. hardwood importer. Read more »

From Orphaned Cub to Internationally Known Forest Service Icon, Smokey Bear Turns 70 Years Old Next Year!

Arriving in Washington, DC, the little hotfoot victim was greeted by a pouring rain, Lyle F. Watts, Chief of the Forest Service (center) and Stanlee Ann Miller of Albuquerque. N.M., who represented the school children of her state. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Arriving in Washington, DC, the little hotfoot victim was greeted by a pouring rain, Lyle F. Watts, Chief of the Forest Service (center) and Stanlee Ann Miller of Albuquerque. N.M., who represented the school children of her state. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Sometimes, a story speaks for itself. Although Smokey Bear was created on August 9, 1944, when the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council agreed that a fictional bear named Smokey would be the symbol for their efforts to promote forest fire prevention – what later happened is simply amazing.

Imagine this. The year is 1950, and a fire has been spotted in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico. The responding fire crew quickly realized that the blaze was more than they could handle. Word quickly spread that they needed help. Area forest rangers, Army soldiers, Native American crews and assorted state and local volunteers gathered together in an attempt to contain the inferno that was fueled by increasingly gusty winds. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Creating Modern Solutions to Environmental Challenges

Our farmers and ranchers are the most productive on earth, largely due to their innovation and their ability to adapt to new challenges. As new threats emerge for American agriculture, USDA will be there to provide assistance – and this week, we announced new steps to help producers create solutions to meet modern environmental threats.

We’re already seeing these new challenges emerge. Last year was the second most intense year in our history for extreme weather events. It was also the warmest on record for the continental United States. Read more »