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Knowledge at Your Fingertips Makes Every Penny Count

Quick Facts for Producers graphic

Quick Facts for Producers graphic (Click to enlarge photo)

America is a nation blessed by agricultural bounty.  Unfortunately, that blessing comes with price-suppressing surpluses being the norm for most of the past century with occasional periods of short stocks, and temporary prosperity for the nation’s grain farmers.  Margins are tight and every penny counts.

Recently I started receiving calls from producers who were experiencing devastating price discounts for wheat – 3 cents per 10th of a pound of test weight below 60.1 pounds – resulting in a 33 cent per bushel discount for 59 pound wheat.  At today’s prices, that is approaching at or very near a ten percent discount on wheat that has a test weight one full pound above the U.S. No. 1 wheat grade standards minimum. Read more »

Unique Mural Captures Essence of the Sustainable Recreation Movement

Sustainable Recreation mural

Sustainable Recreation mural created by artists from the VSA North Fourth Art Center. Photo credit: VSA Arts of New Mexico

Recently, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell visited the agency’s Southwestern Regional Office in Albuquerque, NM, to review the status of a number of different programs. However, on this visit, the setting was very different than the normal business setting of a boring conference room.

This is because the Very Special Arts (VSA) North Fourth Art Center in Albuquerque was asked to paint a mural that represented what sustainable recreation meant to them. The art center immediately embraced and ran with the idea, creating a 6’ x 16’ movable mural that helped bring the outside inside. Read more »

From Recovery to Renewal: Rural America’s Partner for Prosperity

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack swearing into office the new Under Secretary for Rural Development (RD) Lisa Mensah

Secretary Vilsack swore me in to be the Under Secretary for Rural Development (RD), and I'm so proud of the work we've accomplished.

Eight years ago this month, the US economy went into free fall. The crash of the housing market led to a chain of historic levels of bankruptcies and layoffs. The stock market would eventually lose 20% of its value; family incomes, investments, and home values were being crushed. Along with that, the hopes and dreams of many families.

One month after stepping into office, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – the greatest single investment in our nation’s economy since “The New Deal.” Read more »

Discovering New Opportunities in Thailand – from Grains and Greens to Seafood

FAS Administrator Phil Karsting showing U.S. organic produce

FAS Administrator Phil Karsting shows one example of U.S. organic produce from Earthbound Farms, now available at the Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon shopping complex in Bangkok. Photo credit: U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

In mid-August, I traveled to Southeast Asia and witnessed firsthand the great strides being made to help increase food security and trade. I also came to appreciate the immense potential for future trade opportunities in the area. I returned with a reaffirmed sense of urgency to continue building upon recent gains in trade with Thailand.

Thailand purchased a record $1.7 billion in food and agricultural products last year from the United States, making it our 13th largest export market. Overall, U.S. agricultural exports to Thailand have grown by more than 150 percent over the past decade. Throughout my visit, growing demand for both U.S. bulk commodities and consumer products was very clear. Read more »

USDA Proudly Supports the LGBT Community in Oregon and Nationwide

Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker staffing the USDA booth at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival

Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker staffing the USDA booth at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival along with representatives from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service on August 13.

I recently had the privilege of representing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development at the Eugene/Springfield Pride Festival in southwestern Oregon. We stood side-by-side with our counterparts at the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Forest Service. When this festival began 25 years ago, the idea of a government agency participating was unthinkable. At that time, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals had no assurance of equal treatment when requesting government services or financial assistance. In fact, it was not so long ago that federal employees suspected of being gay were fired from their jobs. This sad chapter in our history saw careers destroyed and lives irreparably damaged.

I am deeply proud of the tremendous progress we have made nationally and at home here in Oregon to correct those past mistakes. USDA has been among the first federal departments to participate in Pride festivals across Oregon, and we have been leading the way nationally in the arena of LGBT civil rights. We were one of the first federal departments to enact protections specifically on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. USDA has instituted training for our employees, and we have been making a concerted effort to reach out to our LGBT customers, partners, and potential future employees. As I handed out information on the financial programs in Rural Development and the career opportunities available with USDA in a park festooned with rainbows, I experienced first-hand the incredible strides we have made in recent years toward a new era of civil rights. Read more »

Drought in the Northern Forests?

Drought-stressed saplings

Drought-stressed saplings begin to shed their leaves early in a Michigan forest. Photo credit: US Forest Service

When I hear the word drought I imagine dusty rangelands and drying lakes. But it’s hard to imagine tumbleweeds blowing through the Northern Forests of the Midwest and Northeast regions. In fact, these forests have seen overall wetter conditions in recent decades and their annual precipitation is expected to continue increasing with the changing climate.

So why worry about droughts in these northern forests? Read more »