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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 »

Preventing Disease Spread through International Collaboration

Dr. Fernando Torres, (left) APHIS Director of the Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL), shows Under Secretary Avalos (center) and Jessica Mahalingappa (right) a sample to demonstrate one diagnostic tool that staff use at FADDL.

Dr. Fernando Torres, (left) APHIS Director of the Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL), shows Under Secretary Avalos (center) and Jessica Mahalingappa (right) a sample to demonstrate one diagnostic tool that staff use at FADDL.

Two departments, one mission.  That’s the reality for scientists working at Plum Island Foreign Animal Disease Laboratory in New York.  The island—owned and operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—is critical to the USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) mission to protect U.S. livestock from the introduction and spread foreign animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.  It provides a biologically safe and secure location for APHIS scientists to diagnose animal diseases.  For two weeks this spring, Plum Island was the site of an important component of our agriculture safeguarding system: sharing expertise and experience to build and strengthen the training, skills and capabilities of other nations, also known as international capacity building.

USDA and DHS welcomed 26 veterinarians responsible for evaluating animal disease outbreaks from 11 Spanish-speaking countries to a training called the International Transboundary Animal Disease (ITAD) Course, funded by the Organismo International Regional de Sanidad Agropecuaris (OIRSA).  The course, provided entirely in Spanish, helps familiarize veterinarians with ten of the most serious animal diseases. The trainings provide a highly-trained global network capable of readily identifying and containing these diseases around the world, minimizing damage to animal agriculture and people’s livelihoods. Read more »

Join A White House Rural Council Forum on Regional Food Economies; June 9, 12:45 ET

Tune in for a White House Rural Council Conversation on Local Food on Monday, June 9 at 12:45pm ET.

Tune in for a White House Rural Council Conversation on Local Food on Monday, June 9 at 12:45pm ET.

How is investing in regional food economies an investment in rural America? How can rural America benefit from the growing demand for local food?  How are local food systems supporting the economy in your town?

On Monday, June 9 at 12:45 ET, the White House Rural Council will host Regional Food Economies: Building Market Opportunities for Rural America, a conversation between USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, US Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Dan Carmody of Detroit’s Eastern Market Corporation, and Melissa Rivers of the East Arkansas Planning and Development District moderated by Doug McKalip of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Read more »