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The Real Story Behind Bats

A California leaf-nose bat captures a cricket. (Copyright photo used with permission/Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International, www.batcon.org)

A California leaf-nose bat captures a cricket. (Copyright photo used with permission/Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International, www.batcon.org)

As Halloween approaches, it is easy to get caught up in the mystery and fear that surround bats, but the truth about bats is that they are fascinating animals vital for a healthy environment and economy.

As we celebrate National Bat Week, set your concerns aside. We need bats, and bats need us – now more than ever.

Bats occupy almost every habitat in the world. They devour tons of insects nightly, pollinate flowers, and spread seeds that grow new plants and trees. They are our most important natural predators of night-flying insects, consuming mosquitoes, moths, beetles, crickets, leafhoppers and chinch bugs, among others. Many of these insects are serious crop or forests pests, while others spread disease to humans or livestock. Every year, bats save us billions of dollars in pest control by simply eating insects. Read more »

WIC: The Foundation of Healthy Families Since 1974

Forty years ago, WIC was established to improve health outcomes for pregnant women, infants and young children.  Today, the program officially known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, continues to be one of the nation’s most successful, cost-effective and important nutrition intervention programs. USDA’s new infographic demonstrates why WIC Works for our children and for our country! Read more »

Opening Doors for #WomeninAg

Earlier this week, I hosted a White House Rural Council discussion with farmers, business owners, board members, commodity groups, youth leaders and academics to discuss opportunities for women in agriculture. The group included women and men, conventional farmers and organic producers and organizations like Food Corps, the Future Farmers of America Foundation and the American Farm Bureau.  There were major corporations including Coca Cola and Land O’ Lakes as well as smaller operations like Sandy Oaks Olive Orchards from Texas.

In preparation for the meeting, I asked the participants to use #womeninag to identify inspiring women in agriculture.  The overwhelming response on Twitter stimulated our discussion and motivated the group to identify what we can do to continue supporting women in agriculture. Read more »

Still Made in Rural America: Steel in California Gold Country

Del Oro High School in Loomis, CA, boasting a new Performing Arts Building and Gymnasium—as well as 400 tons of Metal Works steel. (Photo courtesy Metal Works)

Del Oro High School in Loomis, CA, boasting a new Performing Arts Building and Gymnasium—as well as 400 tons of Metal Works steel. (Photo courtesy Metal Works)

Small town Oroville, California sits on the banks of the Feather River at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was established to supply the thousands of prospectors headed to Bidwell Bar, one of the first gold rush mines in the state. Today, this community of 16,260 people produces much more than just gold dust.

At the edge of town, what started in 1989 as a backyard blacksmith shop by owners Michael Phulps and Sean Pierce has become a 82-employee steel manufacturing company called Metal Works, thanks to a little help from USDA Rural Development. Fourteen years ago, Metal Works received their first Business & Industry loan guarantee to purchase a 20,000 square foot fabrication shop and office building on a little over 18 acres. Since then, they’ve converted their original 9,400 square foot building to a retail steel shop, and added another 20,000 square foot fabrication shop, burn table, and a modern, high-precision drill and beam line. Now, they’ve leveraged a new Rural Development guaranteed loan to refinance, save tens of thousands of dollars annually, and hire 10 new employees as a direct result of those savings. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Growing the #RuralMade Economy

Those of us who call rural America home know that there’s more to the rural economy than just farms and ranches. From biobased products to rural manufacturing, the potential to grow and make innovative products in rural America is limitless.

As part of our commitment to strengthening rural economies, USDA this week released a new series of state-by-state “Made in Rural America” factsheets. Each state factsheet is a snapshot of how USDA investments help to build a better atmosphere for small business in rural America. Read more »

Co-op Month: Much to Celebrate, But Much More to Do!

Doug O'Brien, Acting Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development addresses attendees at a National Co-op Month forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Lillian Salerno, Administrator for Rural Business & Cooperatives Programs and Charles Snyder, President of National Cooperative Bank are on the right.

Doug O'Brien, Acting Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development addresses attendees at a National Co-op Month forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Lillian Salerno, Administrator for Rural Business & Cooperatives Programs and Charles Snyder, President of National Cooperative Bank are on the right.

There is so much to celebrate during National Cooperative Month in October, as the U.S. co-op business sector is generating about $650 billion in annual sales and accounts for more than 2 million jobs. But the cooperative business model remains a “best-kept secret” for far too many people who could be benefitting from membership in co-ops.

It is thus imperative that everyone involved with cooperatives make co-op education and outreach a major priority in the year ahead. That was one of the primary messages of a National Co-op Month forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, sponsored by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA). Read more »