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Secretary’s Column: Disaster Assistance Sign Up for Farmers and Ranchers to Begin April 15

Over the past several years, livestock producers have suffered through long-term drought, blizzards and other extreme weather-related disasters. Without the surety of disaster assistance programs, severe weather has caused economic hardship for producers and many have struggled to survive.

Since the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which restored and strengthened disaster assistance programs, USDA has made quick implementation of these programs a top priority. I am pleased to say that thanks to the hard work of Farm Service Agency employees across the country to stand up these programs, farmers and ranchers can begin signing up for disaster assistance starting this Tuesday, April 15. Read more »

Where Do Kids Eat When School is out in Summer? FNS Partners with the Department of Education to Find Solutions

Federal partnerships, like the one between USDA and the Department of Education, work to provide healthy summer meals solutions for our nation’s children.

Federal partnerships, like the one between USDA and the Department of Education, work to provide healthy summer meals solutions for our nation’s children.

As we approach the summer season, USDA is vigorously preparing to fill the nutrition gap faced by millions of kids across the country. While 21 million of our sons and daughters receive free and reduced-priced lunches during the school year, only a small percentage participate in the summer meals programs, leaving too many of our most vulnerable without a nutritious meal.

A new partnership between the USDA and the Department of Education seeks to transform these alarming rates of food insecurity for the better. Last week I had the pleasure of convening with Dr. Jonathan Brice, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education in the Department of Education. This meeting was the first of the current administration, solidifying the strong partnership in summer meals and placing an emphasis on school participation. Read more »

Microloan Helps Navajo Couple Continue Farming Tradition

Marilyn and Erik Simpson returned to the Navajo Reservation in Torreon, N.M., to help Marilyn’s aging parents and to grow their own farming operation that would benefit their family.

Marilyn and Erik Simpson returned to the Navajo Reservation in Torreon, N.M., to help Marilyn’s aging parents and to grow their own farming operation that would benefit their family.

This post is part of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Marilyn Simpson grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Torreon, N.M., where she learned all about farming from her parents who raised sheep and cows.

The youngest of eight children, Marilyn left the reservation, and her parents, to go to college in Arizona. That’s also where she met her husband Erik. After graduating, she and Erik moved back to Torreon to help Marilyn’s parents. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service: Responding and Adapting to Wildland Fire

The U.S. Forest Service has burned more than 480 acres in the Flying J Project, an effort on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona to protect the community of Tusayan. The project is outside the Grand Canyon National Park and represents a small part of a larger effort to use controlled burns on more than 4,500 acres of the forest. So far, nearly 1,900 acres have been treated. (U.S. Forest Service/Holly Krake)

The U.S. Forest Service has burned more than 480 acres in the Flying J Project, an effort on the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona to protect the community of Tusayan. The project is outside the Grand Canyon National Park and represents a small part of a larger effort to use controlled burns on more than 4,500 acres of the forest. So far, nearly 1,900 acres have been treated. (U.S. Forest Service/Holly Krake)

The loss of property and firefighters during wildfires are a reminder of the challenges we face in reducing the risks associated with large, unpredictable wildfires. Climate change, drought, insect infestations, changing land-use patterns, and other factors have contributed to increases in the complexity and in the numbers of wildfires across the United States.

Over the past four decades, some states such as Arizona and Idaho have seen the number of large fires burning each year more than triple. In many other western states, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Wyoming, the number of large fires has doubled, according to a report by Climate Central. Average spring and summer temperatures across 11 Western states have increased by more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, contributing to higher wildfire risks. In Arizona, spring temperatures have warmed faster than any other state in the U.S., rising nearly 1 degree per decade since 1970, which likely played a role in the increasing number of fires in the state. Read more »

Iowa Veteran, Farmer and Local-Foods Advocate Recognized by White House as a “Champion of Change”

Sonia Kendrick of Cedar Rapids, IA. Leader. Veteran. Champion of Change.

Sonia Kendrick of Cedar Rapids, IA. Leader. Veteran. Champion of Change.

Sonia Kendrick, who founded Feed Iowa First, a non-profit organization in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was among a small group of local leaders across the nation recognized by the White House recently as “Women Veteran Leader Champions of Change.” The event on March 25 honored women veterans, highlighting their incredible contributions to the country’s business, public and community-service sectors.

Kendrick served in Afghanistan and upon her return was drawn to fighting hunger issues in Iowa through locally-grown food.  By identifying available land around churches and other sites in the Cedar Rapids area and securing access to it, she and other volunteers have grown, harvested and donated thousands of pounds of fresh produce to local food pantries and the Meals on Wheels program. Read more »

Kentucky Couple Says Thank You Berry Much

Jeff and Kim Essig gave their blueberry farm a boost with a microloan to help purchase equipment that will further expand their operation.

Jeff and Kim Essig gave their blueberry farm a boost with a microloan to help purchase equipment that will further expand their operation.

This post is part of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog.  Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

USDA’s Microloan program allows beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access up to $35,000 in loans using a simplified application process, and up to seven years to repay. Through the Farm Service Agency (FSA) USDA is focused on increasing opportunities for farmers and ranchers and has made several modifications to farm loan programs, including making Microloans to beginning farmers and veterans exempt from direct loan term limits. Producers have more flexible access to credit for initial start-up expenses, family living expenses, minor farm improvements and hoop houses to extend the growing season.

Kentucky couple Kim and Jeff Essig, owners of Middlebridge Blueberry Farm, know about the benefits of the Microloan program first-hand. Kim shares their story: Read more »