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USDA and Pheasants Forever Renew Partnership to Conservation

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini speaks at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini speaks at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.

I recently attended the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, where I met with sportsmen, farmers, young people, wildlife biologists and others who are committed to strengthening wildlife habitat throughout America. It was exciting to see firsthand the passion for the native and restored grasslands and woodlands that typify the rural American landscape.

I had the honor of speaking to the group, where I highlighted the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  CRP, one of the largest private lands conservation programs in the nation, is designed to reduce soil erosion, improve water and air quality, and provide habitat for wildlife. Interested landowners can establish long-term USDA-approved grasses or trees in exchange for USDA helping with the cost of establishing the plants and providing annual payments for 10 to 15 years. The covers along fields, streams and rivers prevent soil and nutrients from washing into waterways, reduce soil erosion that may otherwise contribute to poor air and water quality, and provide valuable habitat for wildlife. Read more »

Investing in Rural Kids Is an Investment in Our Future

State Director Vernita F. Dore, and Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs at the Latta Groundbreaking. The schoolchildren pictured above will be the first class in the new pre-kindergarten through second-grade facility in Latta, South Carolina. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

State Director Vernita F. Dore, and Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs at the Latta Groundbreaking. The schoolchildren pictured above will be the first class in the new pre-kindergarten through second-grade facility in Latta, South Carolina. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead? … This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

– President Obama, January 31, 2015

The American Dream is a dream of opportunity for a better future. Who better represents this opportunity than our country’s children? As parents and as leaders, we owe it to our kids to provide them access to education, housing and health care, and most importantly, an opportunity to succeed so they can help our nation compete in a 21st century economy. Read more »

Want to Know about Soil Moisture on your Farm? Soon, There May be an App for That

Tom Jackson, shown here at a Soil Climate Analysis Network site in Huntsville, Alabama coordinates in situ soil moisture networks as part of several satellite remote sensing programs, including the recently launched Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission.  Dr. Jackson is currently stationed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California helping the SMAP Science Team produce a calibrated and validated global soil moisture product. USDA ARS Photo.

Tom Jackson, shown here at a Soil Climate Analysis Network site in Huntsville, Alabama coordinates in situ soil moisture networks as part of several satellite remote sensing programs, including the recently launched Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission. Dr. Jackson is currently stationed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California helping the SMAP Science Team produce a calibrated and validated global soil moisture product. USDA ARS Photo.

“Probably it is one of the most innovative interagency tools on the planet.”  So said Dr. Roger Pulwarty, Director of the National Integrated Drought Information System (of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, located in Boulder, CO), in describing the development of a coordinated National Soil Moisture Network.

Americans hear the words “drought” and “flood” quite often, but a key factor in determining drought or flood potential, crop yield, water supply, hydrology or climate change impacts is soil moisture.  At the Ag Outlook Forum, held recently in suburban Washington, D.C., Dr. Michael Strobel, director of USDA’s National Water and Climate Center (part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service) outlined plans for a nation-wide soil moisture monitoring system and the pilot system that will pave the way. Read more »

National Nutrition Month: Raising a Healthier Generation through Diet, Education

The School Breakfast Program provides children of all economic backgrounds a well-balanced, healthy meal consistent with the latest nutrition science and Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The School Breakfast Program provides children of all economic backgrounds a well-balanced, healthy meal consistent with the latest nutrition science and Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

We all want our children to succeed.  It’s an important value and one the entire country can rally around.  This March we’re redoubling our efforts to that commitment by celebrating National Nutrition Month and the importance of raising a healthier generation of kids.

It’s our collective responsibility to ensure the next generation has access to healthier meals.  USDA and the Obama administration support a nutritious diet by making the healthy choice the easy choice in our schools.  And for good reason… Read more »

Small Start-Up Brings Big Change for Philly Communities

The Common Market team, led by founders Haile Johnston (far left in red shirt) and Tatiana Garcia-Granados (far right in orange sweater), brings food into Philly communities by connecting Mid-Atlantic farmers with wholesale customers. Photo courtesy Common Market.

The Common Market team, led by founders Haile Johnston (far left in red shirt) and Tatiana Garcia-Granados (far right in orange sweater), brings food into Philly communities by connecting Mid-Atlantic farmers with wholesale customers. Photo courtesy Common Market.

It all started with one truck—one truck and the idea that bringing fresh, healthy foods into Philly communities was just a question of coordination.  For Haile Johnston and his wife, Tatiana Garcia-Granados, founding Common Market was the logical solution to solve the food access issues they saw in the communities around them.

“The core of Common Market is selling to schools and hospitals,” said Johnston. “Historically, they have been the hardest institutions to reach. They serve the most vulnerable population. That’s why we focus on partnering with schools and hospitals.”

Their food hub business model connects local farmers in the rural Mid-Atlantic region with wholesale customers in urban areas.  In their first year, Common Market worked with only a dozen farmers and had 22 customers, but they kept growing—adding trucks and building relationships with local family farms and institutional buyers in urban communities. Read more »

President Obama Renews Charge to Help Rural Companies and Communities Compete Globally

Cross-posted from the Department of Commerce blog:

Yesterday, President Obama announced new commitments in the “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, which is charged with bringing together federal trade-related resources for rural communities and businesses. This announcement reflects the Administration’s strategy for ensuring workers and businesses of all sizes, from communities large and small, benefit from the nation’s economic resurgence.

The Department of Commerce also released data yesterday that show 26 states set new export records in 2014, and many of those states are in the nation’s heartland. Read more »