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USDA Direct Home Loan Helps Hard-working Single Mom Become a Homeowner

Tony Hernandez (left), Administrator for USDA Housing Programs, and Georgia Rural Development State Director Quinton Robinson congratulate Telisha Mack on her new home in recognition of National Homeownership Month.

Tony Hernandez (left), Administrator for USDA Housing Programs, and Georgia Rural Development State Director Quinton Robinson congratulate Telisha Mack on her new home in recognition of National Homeownership Month.

In 2011, Telisha Mack was ready to take the leap into homeownership.  She put mortgage applications at three different banks, but was not approved because she didn’t have a huge down payment or a co-signer. She lost her chance to purchase two different homes she liked.

As a single mother with three children while working a full-time job, Telisha managed to overcome a number of hurdles to obtain an Associate’s Degree in Accounting, a Bachelor’s Degree in Management, and a Master’s Degree in Human Resources. She maintained good credit and budgeted wisely. She knew she could overcome the hurdle of entering homeownership, but wasn’t sure exactly how or when. Then, she heard from a friend how USDA Rural Development helps families break into the housing market. Read more »

Connecting Rural Businesses with International Customers

Logs from the U.S. being shipped overseas are unloaded near the Port of New Orleans in New Orleans, LA on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

Logs from the U.S. being shipped overseas are unloaded near the Port of New Orleans in New Orleans, LA on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

2013 was a record year for America agricultural exports, with $141 billion in sales and an additional $180 billion in related business activity. We expect even greater things in 2014, when international sales of U.S. farm and food products are expected to reach $149.5 billion. Taken as a whole, these numbers are impressive – but they impress me even more when I think about all the American companies who made this happen.

Many of these companies are based in rural communities, and they employ more than a million U.S. workers to produce products that are valued throughout the world. It’s amazing to think about those individuals, from small towns across America, who produce everything from cheese to pet food to distillers dried grains. It makes me proud of the work USDA is doing to connect these rural producers to international markets. Read more »

Drought Assistance Helps Nebraska Rancher Get Back on Track

Like many ranchers suffering from the effects of drought, LaNelle Martin paid $5,000 more for high-priced hay and feed to keep her small operation running.

Like many ranchers suffering from the effects of drought, LaNelle Martin paid $5,000 more for high-priced hay and feed to keep her small operation running.

This post is part of a disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Wednesday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

When enrollment opened for the USDA disaster assistance programs this April, LaNelle Martin was one of the first to sign up at the Kimball County FSA office in Nebraska.

“After two years of a severe drought our pastures are limited and haven’t grown,” said Martin. “We need the pasture to support our cattle and the cost of feed and hay is pricey.”

Nebraska, along with portions of the southern and western parts of the United States has suffered one of the longest and most devastating droughts in history. Kimball County’s worst seasons were 2012 to 2013, when the area was named a primary natural disaster area by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. This year, some snow and spring rains provided a little relief, “But as most of our producers say, we are only four to six weeks away from another disaster,” said Patricia Perry, FSA program technician in the Kimball County office. Read more »

Kentucky Youngster Sees Firsthand the Importance of Wetland Restoration

Wetland sites like this one provide  outdoor recreation opportunities including bird watching and hunting. NRCS photo.

Wetland sites like this one provide outdoor recreation opportunities including bird watching and hunting. NRCS photo.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps private landowners return fields and pastures that were drained for agricultural use back to their natural state – wetlands. This is because of the value that wetlands provide: they filter and store water, they prevent floods and they provide vital homes to wildlife.

Mark Putman in Christian County, Ky. is seeing the benefits on land he enrolled into a conservation easement with NRCS. Thanks to the wetland restoration project, he and his 10-year-old cousin, A.J., have a great story to tell.

Putman owns and operates a guided and non-guided hunting operation, so restoring the land to attract more wildlife was important. He and his family also enjoy hunting deer, ducks and turkey. Read more »

Looking Back While Preparing to Move Forward with Summer Meals

A group of young people at an indoor summer site enjoy a nutritious meal. They know that Summer Food Rocks!

A group of young people at an indoor summer site enjoy a nutritious meal. They know that Summer Food Rocks!

This week is National Summer Food Service Program Kickoff Week, an important time to emphasize USDA’s commitment to ensure children and teens have access to safe, nutritious meals when school lets out. Through the Summer Food Service Program, federal assistance is provided for state agencies and non-profit sponsors to help children in eligible high-need areas get the proper nutrition they need during the summer when schools are not in session.

Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act, students across the country are getting healthier school meals with more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium.  With more than 90 percent of schools meeting the healthy meal standards, children are getting the nutrition needed to reach their full potential. But poor nutrition during the summer months can also affect children’s academic performance during the school year.  USDA’s summer feeding programs help children get the nourishing food they need all year long so they come back to school in the fall ready to learn. Read more »

Changing the Way 650,000 Students Eat in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Unified School student enjoying tasty new meals.

Los Angeles Unified School student enjoying tasty new meals.

Cross posted from the Let’s Move blog:

The city of Los Angeles is known all around the world for Hollywood, Beverly Hills, celebrities as well as glitz and glamour.  There are more than 125,000 millionaires and more than 20 billionaires in this city I now call home.

But the reality is there is still a big discrepancy in quality of life between the elite and the majority of students I serve as food services director at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest school district in the country.

Of the 650,000 students we serve daily, 80 percent qualifies for free and reduced meals, which means the students and their families live in circumstances of poverty.  In addition, 14,000 of our students are certified homeless with no fixed address. Read more »