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Cultivating Seeds of Success in a Global Marketplace

The international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.

The international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.

Did you know that corn and soybeans account for 50 percent of the harvested acres in the United States?  Together, these two commodities had $106 billion in sales in 2012—not bad for products that start off as humble seeds.  The U.S. seed industry is valued at more than $7 billion, and accounts for 34 percent of the world’s international seed trade.  Our top seed exports are corn, soybean and sunflower seeds.  And the international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.

In today’s global market, limitations in manufacturing capabilities, shifts in climate, or simple geography all impact a country’s ability to satisfy all of its own needs.  This means economies and agriculture systems around the globe are interconnected. Through trade, countries are able to market their resources to boost their economies and ensure access to a stable supply of food and products. Read more »

June is Pride Month, National Homeownership Month: USDA Brings Homeownership Assistance to Rural LGBT Communities

Lissa Biehn (left) with FSA and Ramona Mitchell, Rural Development, discuss USDA’s dedication to civil rights in employment and program delivery at the Northwest Pride Festival in Portland, OR, on June 14.

Lissa Biehn (left) with FSA and Ramona Mitchell, Rural Development, discuss USDA’s dedication to civil rights in employment and program delivery at the Northwest Pride Festival in Portland, OR, on June 14.

June marks the 2014 celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.  USDA is taking this opportunity to recognize the immeasurable positive contributions made by the LGBT community — including our coworkers, partners and clients — to help rural America innovate and thrive, protect our natural resources and promote sustainable agricultural production to help feed the world. In addition, we are demonstrating our commitment to treating our LGBT customers and coworkers fairly and respectfully through educational events, outreach efforts and listening sessions across the country.

June is also National Homeownership Month, and the theme is “Own Your Future. Own Your Home.”  With concurrent Pride and Homeownership Month observances, it’s a great time to raise awareness among LGBT communities about USDA home mortgage and home repair programs that can help rural residents own their future. Read more »

US Forest Service Waives Fees for National Get Outdoors Day

A family sets up camp on the 3,450-acre Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area in Michigan’s lower peninsula. (U.S. Forest Service)

A family sets up camp on the 3,450-acre Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness Area in Michigan’s lower peninsula. (U.S. Forest Service)

As chilly winter weather gives way to the green of springtime, thousands of people are expected to experience the benefits of the great American outdoors by participating in the 7th annual National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day), Saturday, June 14, 2014. In the spirit of GO Day, the Forest Service is encouraging outdoor activity by participating in a “fee-free day.”

“Working with our partners, we are able to provide a variety of opportunities for kids and adults to learn enjoy and explore on our national forests and grasslands,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “From Alaska to the Rockies to the Great Plains to the East Coast, we are hosting events and providing opportunities that stimulate the mind as well as the body.” Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Local Markets, Local Growth

Many consumers want to “buy local” and support their local economy with their purchases. When local food marketing opportunities exist for rural producers, they cause ripple effects throughout the rural economy.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture results indicate that nearly 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, and 50,000 are selling to local retailers. Today, local food is a more than $7 billion industry and growing, according to industry estimates. The excitement around this market is drawing young people back to rural communities, generating jobs, and improving quality of life. Read more »

Strength in Numbers: USDA Employees Join Delaware Residents Who Are Building Their Homes in Order to “Own” Their Future

USDA Rural Development employees join Mutual Self-Help Program participant Michelle Mosely for a break from installing floor beams to Michelle’s future home.

USDA Rural Development employees join Mutual Self-Help Program participant Michelle Mosely for a break from installing floor beams to Michelle’s future home.

A stormy sky didn’t dampen spirits as a crew of us from USDA Rural Development’s national headquarters celebrated National Homeownership Month by helping Mutual Self-Help Housing Program participants build their own homes in Lincoln, DE.

USDA Rural Development’s Self-Help Housing Program offers families with modest means a hands-on approach to achieve homeownership.  Groups of families work side-by-side on nights and weekends to construct their homes, and no one moves in until all the houses are completed. Read more »

Build Your Way to Homeownership With USDA’s Help

Maria and Ignacio Gordillo of Reedley, Calif., helped build their house last year through USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Loan Program. More than 50,000 rural families have become homeowners using their “sweat equity” as a down payment on an affordable USDA mortgage.

Maria and Ignacio Gordillo of Reedley, Calif., helped build their house last year through USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Loan Program. More than 50,000 rural families have become homeowners using their “sweat equity” as a down payment on an affordable USDA mortgage.

More than 50,000 rural families have become homeowners using their “sweat equity” as their down payment on an affordable USDA mortgage.

What is “sweat equity?” These families have helped build their own homes and provided most of the construction labor with guidance from a qualified construction supervisor through USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Loan Program. The “sweat equity” — the savings in labor costs — reduced the amount of the home loan and made the monthly payments affordable.

June is National Homeownership Month. USDA is celebrating the self-help program and the 50,000+ rural families who have invested in a home of their own through self-help housing. Read more »