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Addressing the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Epidemic

Walk into any town in rural America, and ask someone if they know someone who is struggling or has struggled with addiction.  Chances are the answer will be yes.

In 2014, 28,648 Americans died of overdoses of opioids, a class of drugs that includes both prescription pain medications and heroin.  Heroin-related overdose deaths nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013.  In 2013, prescription opioid abuse or dependency affected 1.9 million Americans, and 517,000 Americans had abused heroin within the past year. Read more »

USDA Helps Military Veterans Answer the Question, “What’s Next?”

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam talking futures in Ag for veterans to a packed house at a Ft. Bliss transitions summit

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam talks futures in Ag for veterans to a packed house at a Ft. Bliss transitions summit in El Paso, Texas.

Each year, nearly 200,000 servicemen and women separate from active duty in the United States military.  According to the Department of Defense, this results in approximately 1,300 new veterans and their families returning to civilian life every single day, numbers that are expected to increase in the coming years. While many returning troops have plans and objectives upon their return home, many others have challenges finding new jobs, identifying health care resources, or integrating their skills into new careers.

For veterans exploring the next step in their careers and lives, USDA stands ready to help.  With rural Americans comprising only 16 percent of our total population, but about 40 percent of our military, USDA believes that the enormous scope of unique skills, experiences and perspectives held by those who served in the U.S. military can have enormous benefit for farming and ranching. Read more »

FAS Opens Up New Market Opportunities for U.S. Dairy Cattle in Pakistan

U.S. dairy cattle being shipped to Pakistan

The first U.S. dairy cattle shipped to Pakistan in 17 years are loaded onto trucks for their journey to the FAS-supported demonstration farm at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences near Lahore.

U.S. dairy cows are back in Pakistan for the first time in 17 years. More than 300 heifers arrived in Punjab Province on March 2, thanks to the efforts of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). It’s hoped the shipment will be the first of many from the United States and will provide a better breed of cow for the rapidly growing Pakistani dairy industry.

Most of the dairy cows have been purchased by commercial dairy farms, but 73 Holsteins in the shipment will be delivered to a new model dairy farm that FAS has established to support the rapidly growing Pakistani dairy industry and create new opportunities for U.S. exporters. Read more »

Investments in EFNEP Pay Big Dividends, Now and in the Future

Woman shopping at supermarket

EFNEP teaches program participants about nutrition, food safety, how to stretch their food shopping dollars. (iStock image)

What would you think of a deal with a potential return-on-investment of up to 10-to-1?  But wait, there’s more… now, add the potential to save some serious money on future medical bills.  Too good to be true, right?  Not so.

EFNEP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Expanded Food, Nutrition, and Education Program, has consistently proven its ability to improve the health and well-being of low income families and youth.  The program teaches participants how to improve their diets, be more physically active, stretch their food dollars, and increase their knowledge of food safety. Read more »

FoodShare Columbia: Another Great Way to Increase Access to Healthy, Affordable Foods with SNAP

FoodShare boxes

FoodShare boxes sorted and ready for buyers looking to improve their healthy eating choices.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

FoodShare Columbia is a program designed to help alleviate the stress families face when they live in “food deserts.” The program, in cooperation with the University of South Carolina and other partners, assembles produce food boxes to distribute to low-income individuals. It just got started in April 2015 and has already distributed more than 3,000 food boxes in a community with a high rate of diabetes-related health conditions. More than half of these food boxes have been purchased by SNAP recipients using their SNAP EBT cards. The program is proving highly successful and is revolutionizing the way the community addresses food insecurity.

By Carrie Draper, MSW, Director of Policy and Partnership Development, University of South Carolina Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities & Beverly Wilson, MPH, Director of FoodShare Columbia, University of South Carolina School of Medicine

One week, a woman brought $20 worth of coins; another week, a man traveled on two bus lines with an empty suitcase. They came to get a box of quality fruits and vegetables from a city parks and recreation community center in Columbia, S.C. Read more »

Acequia de Las Joyas Blooms with Traditional Irrigation Methods

Xavier Montoya, State Conservationist for NRCS New Mexico (left) and Mark Rose (center left), NRCS director of financial assistance programs manager, Kenneth Salazar (center right) and others

Xavier Montoya, State Conservationist for NRCS New Mexico (left) and Mark Rose (center left), NRCS director of financial assistance programs manager, talk about the successful partnerships and teamwork that led to the completion of the Las Joyas Acequia improvements near Nambe, New Mexico. Kenneth Salazar (center right), former president of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts and current President Jim Berlier (far right).

Spaniards built the Acequia de Las Joyas approximately 300 years ago. The acequia, a community irrigation watercourse or ditch, was the principal method of providing water to the farmers for their crop and rangelands in northern New Mexico. The parciantes (also known as acequia members) worked together to maintain the acequia and each member in return received a portion of the water.

Three centuries later, the practice is still key to making the land bloom. But, time and the elements have taken their toll on acequia and repair costs have escalated to the point that members can no longer shoulder the burden of maintaining the critical community resource alone. Read more »