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Secretary’s Column: Rural-Made Goes World Wide

This week, I visited Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a small city outside of my hometown of Pittsburgh to kick off the first of five Made in Rural America forums designed to help rural small businesses access the information they need to grow through exports.

The global appetite for high-quality, American-made products is well established. Over the past five years, rural America has achieved record agricultural exports, but the rural economy is diverse. Last fiscal year, agricultural exports reached a record $140.9 billion and we are on track for another record year, with fiscal year 2014 agricultural exports projected to reach $149.5 billion. Last year was also the fourth-straight record-setting year for U.S. exports as a whole, reaching $2.3 trillion. Read more »

Local Food Investments Expand Market Opportunities Coast to Coast

 

With support from a USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan, the Cellars at Jasper Hill in rural Greensboro, Vermont was able to expand its facility, grow its business and reach new markets.

With support from a USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan, the Cellars at Jasper Hill in rural Greensboro, Vermont was able to expand its facility, grow its business and reach new markets.

Last month, Secretary Vilsack announced a historic level of funding available for local and regional food: $78 million, including $48 million through USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program and $30 million through the newly-expanded Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The 2014 Farm Bill gave USDA these and other tools and resources, expanding our ability to connect rural and urban communities, increase access to healthy foods, and support rural economies through local food systems.

What does this mean for rural economies? Consider Cellars of Jasper Hill in Greensboro, Vermont. The Kehler brothers took their passion for dairy and founded a cheese making operation 10 years ago. Partnering with Vermont’s Community National Bank, USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program helped the company construct a 22,000-square-foot facility and expand its on-farm value-added cheese production. The project helped save 20 existing jobs and created 14 new ones in a town with fewer than 1,000 residents. Read more »

The International Institute of Tropical Forestry Celebrates 75 Years of Research Success

Ray Rodriguez, a collaborator from Para la Naturaleza, talks about the rural-urban ecotone and positive outcomes of community action as participants enjoy a birds-eye view overlooking the Río Piedras River Watershed boundaries in the San Juan metropolitan area, the final stop of an urban field trip on May 20 held as part of the Institute’s 75th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Forest Service)

Ray Rodriguez, a collaborator from Para la Naturaleza, talks about the rural-urban ecotone and positive outcomes of community action as participants enjoy a birds-eye view overlooking the Río Piedras River Watershed boundaries in the San Juan metropolitan area, the final stop of an urban field trip on May 20 held as part of the Institute’s 75th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Forest Service)

Scientists and community members in Puerto Rico recently celebrated 75 years of tropical forestry research with a diamond jubilee of festivities.

Last month, the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF) hosted an urban field trip, where participants explored several field stations within and around the Río Piedras River watershed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to learn about the watershed’s vulnerabilities and values in a social, economic and ecological context from Institute scientists and program collaborators. The field trip was led by Institute Director Ariel E. Lugo. Read more »

With More Than 3,000 Lender Partners, USDA Helps Rural Homebuyers Access Safe, Affordable Home Financing

A USDA Section 502 Home Loan Guarantee helped the Goetz family secure a bank loan on their rural Kansas home.

A USDA Section 502 Home Loan Guarantee helped the Goetz family secure a bank loan on their rural Kansas home.

In rural areas, financing a home can be difficult. There often aren’t as many lenders serving rural locations as there are in more densely populated parts of the country. Also, some rural lenders may require a larger down payment or a higher interest rate to secure a loan. Fortunately, USDA Rural Development partners with more than 3,000 housing lenders to make sure low- and moderate-income rural families have a chance to enter the housing market.

Through the Section 502 Guaranteed Housing Loan Program, USDA Rural Development backs loans made by approved lenders for the purchase, refinance, renovation, or repair of an owner-occupied residence. The USDA guarantee allows lenders to provide 100-percent financing on a safe, low-interest, 30-year mortgage. Read more »

Wyoming Agriculture: Growing Opportunities

Wyoming agriculture is growing big, like the size of their average farm.  Check back next Thursday for the next state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Wyoming agriculture is growing big, like the size of their average farm. Check back next Thursday for the next state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

In May 2014, abundant snow and rain turned Wyoming pastures and crops green. In the same month, the 2012 Census of Agriculture showed that farmers and ranchers grew their opportunities from 2007 to 2012.

Wyoming is one of only 10 states that increased both the number of farms and ranches, up 6.1 percent, as well as the amount of land they operate, up 0.6 percent, between 2007 and 2012. Once again, Wyoming farmers and ranchers operated the largest farms and ranches in the U.S. with an average of 2,587 acres per farm compared with the U.S. average of 434 acres. Not only did the total number of farmers and ranchers increase, but the number of young farmers and ranchers increased, too. The number of Wyoming farmers and ranchers under the age of 35 increased by 17.4 from 2007-2012.

Read more »

USDA Farmers Market Opens with a Recipe to Honor Our Veterans

A beautiful day is forecasted for the 19th year, the USDA Farmers Market opening. The market is a another example of USDA’s commitment to supporting local and regional food systems. We hope that you will join us on Friday, June 6, at 9:30 a.m. for our opening.

A beautiful day is forecasted for the 19th year, the USDA Farmers Market opening. The market is a another example of USDA’s commitment to supporting local and regional food systems. We hope that you will join us on Friday, June 6, at 9:30 a.m. for our opening.

I love farmers markets. The vibrant colors, enticing smells, and vivacious people make me feel so very alive and happy. Local markets also work to bring communities together.  I have been to a number of farmers markets across the U.S., but my favorite one is located right here in Washington, DC—in fact, it’s right here at USDA.

My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, is proud to host the USDA Farmers Market each week, building connections to the vendors, customers, and surrounding community.  Tomorrow, June 6, the USDA Farmers Market opens a new season with a salute to our military, veterans and American agriculture.   We will not only celebrate the bounty of the market, but will also thank our military for serving with valor, courage, and distinction. Read more »