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USDA Celebrates Rural Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs During National Small Business Week

National Small Business Week began yesterday with a proclamation from President Obama recognizing the small businesses across the Nation which, especially in our rural and small-town communities, making vital contributions to communities and the American economy.

Individually, the impact of a small business may seem minor in comparison with conglomerates. The Small Business Administration (SBA), however, estimates that more than half of our American workforce either owns or is employed by a small business, and two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year is created by–you guessed it–a small business. It’s clear this portion of economy is significant, but in rural towns and areas where each job and transaction has an effect on the community, small business is essential.  In rural America, the entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops, agri-businesses, small-scale manufacturers, and other enterprises are the local economy. Read more »

USDA Works with Other Groups to Restore one of Montana’s Largest Wetlands

NRCS and other partners are working to restore the wetlands located at the headwaters of O’Dell Creek in Montana. NRCS photo.

NRCS and other partners are working to restore the wetlands located at the headwaters of O’Dell Creek in Montana. NRCS photo.

The headwaters of O’Dell Creek in Madison Valley, Mont. serve as a perfect example of the benefits of implementing good conservation practices. Considered one of the largest wetland areas in Montana, O’Dell Creek was drained in the 1950s for land to raise livestock.  But now, ranchers, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other partners are restoring the wetland.

Historically grazed all year, the O’Dell Creek and Madison River floodplain provided abundant forage, flowing water and refuge from harsh weather. Over the years, the draining and livestock uses took a toll.

“I could see the degradation,” said Jeff Laszlo, one of the owners of Granger Ranches LP — where the creek is located.  “There was a decline in both the grass production of our river bottoms and the overall health of our riparian area. Although I really didn’t know what to do about it, I felt that there had to be a better way of managing and taking care of one of the ranch’s most important assets.” Read more »

White House Report says Climate Change Increases Forest Vulnerability, but Adaptive Management can Help

Warm Fire, 2006. Over the last three decades, fire season lengths have increased by 60-80 days and annual acreages burned have more than doubled to over 7 million acres annually. In addition, growing housing development in forests has put more people and houses in harms’ way, also making firefighting efforts more expensive. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service, Southwestern Region, Kaibab National Forest.

Warm Fire, 2006. Over the last three decades, fire season lengths have increased by 60-80 days and annual acreages burned have more than doubled to over 7 million acres annually. In addition, growing housing development in forests has put more people and houses in harms’ way, also making firefighting efforts more expensive. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service, Southwestern Region, Kaibab National Forest.

Forests significantly contribute to our quality of life, but climate change is adversely affecting natural resources in rural and urban areas across the U.S. A new report released by the White House, the National Climate Assessment, explores many related issues including how a warming planet affects our forests.

With contributions from U.S. Forest Service scientists, the report is one of the most comprehensive examinations of climate change and its effects on forested land. It concludes that a warming climate will complicate future management of public, private and tribal forests. Read more »

Rural Small Business Connects with USDA at Upcoming Event in Arkansas

A small business training event will be held in Arkansas in June. It's a chance for small business owners to learn how to contract with the Federal government. Here, Alphonso (Al) Hooks and his son, Demetrius, host field days to share his success story with others interested in expanding their small farming businesses on the family’s farm in Shorter, AL., on Feb. 16, 2012. NRCS photo.

A small business training event will be held in Arkansas in June. It's a chance for small business owners to learn how to contract with the Federal government. Here, Alphonso (Al) Hooks and his son, Demetrius, host field days to share his success story with others interested in expanding their small farming businesses on the family’s farm in Shorter, AL., on Feb. 16, 2012. NRCS photo.

It’s National Small Business Week!

In support of the Obama Administration’s efforts to put Americans back to work and create an economy built to last, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), Office of Small Disadvantaged Business Utilization will host Rural Small Business Connections, a training event to provide small businesses with educational networking sessions and opportunities on how to successfully do business with USDA and other Federal agencies. Read more »

Rural Electric Cooperatives: Leaders in Renewable Energy

America’s rural electric cooperatives provide electricity to more than 42 million people living and working in rural communities across the country. Co-ops, with support from USDA, have embraced renewable energy production. Today, they deepened that commitment by announcing new solar projects that will generate more than 150 megawatts of new solar capacity by 2020.

At an event in California, President Obama was joined by two West Coast industry leaders—Plumas-Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) based in Portola, California, and Okanogan County Electric Cooperative (OCEC), based in the state of Washington—to highlight industry efforts to expand renewable energy production.

USDA has been an advocate and partner in co-ops’ efforts to diversify their portfolios and expand their renewable fuel sources. Since 2009, USDA has funded over $1 billion in renewable energy projects that will generate  more than 447 MW – enough energy to power 160,603 American homes annually. Read more »

Renewable Energy: Bringing New Opportunities to Indian Country

A tractor tills the soil among wind turbines in Oklahoma on August 13, 2009. USDA photo by Alice Welch.

A tractor tills the soil among wind turbines in Oklahoma on August 13, 2009. USDA photo by Alice Welch.

In rural communities across the country, USDA Rural Development is bringing new energy efficiency and cost saving opportunities to Indian Country.

Choggiung Limited, a Native American Corporation in southwest Alaska, received a $20,000 energy assistance grant from USDA Rural Development to install a wind turbine at the courthouse in Dillingham – a Native-owned building and leased to the state – that has reduced its energy costs by 80 percent and is saving Choggiung about $20,000 a year.  Choggiung is a for-profit Native corporation serving Tribal residents in Dillingham, Ekuk, and Portage Creek, Alaska. “This wind turbine marks a new approach to sustainable business management and renewable energy in Dillingham,” Choggiung CEO Doug Calaway said.

In the southwest, USDA awarded the Arizona-based Navajo Tribal Utility Authority a $100,000 grant to conduct energy audits that helped farmers, ranchers, and small business owners across the Navajo Nation make their operations more energy efficient and economical. Read more »