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REAP: Working Well in North Carolina

Joel Olson (left), President of O2 Energies, Inc. of North Carolina speaking with USDA staff

Joel Olson (left), President of O2 Energies, Inc. of North Carolina speaks with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) staff in front of one of O2's solar projects. O2 worked with local North Carolina lender Surrey Bank & Trust and USDA Rural Development to finance the project.

USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP as we call it, is one of the flagship programs found in the energy title of the Farm Bill. Through REAP, USDA helps rural agricultural producers and small businesses improve their financial bottom line through increased energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources.

We wanted to share two great examples of this investment and development in North Carolina. In Mt. Airy, NC, local lenders took advantage of REAP’s loan guarantees to finance O2 Energies and build a solar farm that can provide up to 20% of the power needed by the community. Read more »

SNAP Farmers Market Webpage Streamlined, Updated

Farmers’ market in Texas

Shoppers explore the healthy food choices available at one of America’s farmers markets.

Expanding access to the healthy foods available at farmers markets and farm stands for those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been – and continues to be – a USDA priority. For several years now, we’ve provided funding to equip farmers markets and direct marketing farmers with the electronic technology they need to redeem SNAP benefits. The results speak for themselves. In 2008, there were only 753 SNAP-authorized markets and farmers. Today, that number has grown to more than 6,400 – more than eight times the number of SNAP-authorized farmers markets compared to when the Obama Administration first took office. Read more »

USDA Launches a One Stop Shop for its “One Health” Approach to Zoonotic Threats

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) graduate student Jacquelyn Escarcha

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) graduate student Jacquelyn Escarcha inserts samples developed from cattle fecal waste into a solution that detects Salmonella on Dec. 6, 2002. USDA photo by Peggy Greb.

At USDA, we use a One Health approach that embraces the idea that problems arising at the intersection of the health of humans, animals, and the environment can be solved only through a coordinated multidisciplinary approach.  This approach embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment only can be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions.

Because the One Health work that we do spans across many USDA agencies, we are launching a centralized web portal page to better help our stakeholders and the public better access our information.   This page features USDA’s collective body of work on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), avian influenza and swine influenza as well as other One Health resources. Read more »

UC Sheep Shearing School Prepares Students for Gainful Employment

A flock of sheep

Unshorn sheep await their turn. Image courtesy of Jeanette Warnert

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers the Smith-Lever capacity grant program. The Smith–Lever Act established the cooperative extension services program administered through land-grant universities. Today, a guest blog from Jeanette Warnert, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, tells us how this program supports a unique rural economic opportunity:

Sheep shearing is like a dance. It requires strength, flexibility, a tender touch, and the right moves. Once mastered, the skill can open the door to gratifying and high-paying seasonal work.

Sheep shearers will never be unemployed and never be poor. They can earn $50 to $100 per hour and can start a business with a $3,000 investment in equipment, says John Harper, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) natural resources advisor in Mendocino County. Read more »

Celebrating the Highbush Blueberry’s Centennial

A winter-hardy, black-fruited blueberry

Nocturne, a winter-hardy, black-fruited blueberry developed by ARS. USDA-ARS photo by Mark Ehlenfeldt.

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.

You probably don’t think there’s anything special about picking up a tub of fresh blueberries at the store or the farmers market—the quality of the product, the freshness and the convenience of it all. If only you had to go pick the fruit from the wild yourself!

Up until 1911, blueberries had to be picked from the wild, and bushes were dug from the wild that might or might not survive when transplanted elsewhere. True domestication—reproduction at the will of the grower and breeding to improve desirable traits—was beyond reach until USDA botanist Frederick Coville unlocked a longstanding mystery in 1910. Read more »

Loan Applications Continue at USDA Farm Service Agency

Matt McCue and Lily Schneider of Shooting Star CSA, an organic farm in California

Matt McCue and Lily Schneider of Shooting Star CSA, an organic farm in California, received an FSA loan. Their operation is chemical and pesticide free and they rely on practices that reduce impact on the environment.

What do siblings Kenna and Peyton Krahulik, organic farmers Lily Schneider and Matt McCue, and livestock producer Brian Morgan have in common? They worked closely with USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to obtain loans, giving them the working capital they needed to grow or maintain their operation.

FSA makes and guarantees loans to family farmers and ranchers to promote, build and sustain family farms in support of a thriving agricultural economy. It’s an important credit safety net that has sustained our nation’s hard working farm families through good and bad times. Read more »