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World Accessibility in Rural America

USDA Rural Development and NCTC break ground on a new high speed broadband project serving rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

USDA Rural Development and NCTC break ground on a new high speed broadband project serving rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

Access to the world via internet and mobile phone services is at the fingertips of most Americans, but this is not the reality for residents of many rural communities across the Nation.

In October 2014, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $190.5 million in grants and loans to make broadband and other advanced communications infrastructure improvements in rural areas. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: 2014, a Year of Action, Partnership and Innovation at USDA

This has been a tremendous year for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the rural families and communities we serve. Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden recently shared a reflection on her most inspirational moments this year. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished at USDA over the course of this year, and I thought I’d take a moment to share just a few of our top accomplishments. Read more »

A Year of Promise for American Agriculture

It’s not hard to list our accomplishments here at USDA: After all, our progress on the much anticipated 2014 Farm Bill has been lauded as “the most successful Farm Bill implementation.” We also launched a website for New Farmers and started a conversation with women in agriculture that will continue to grow for many years to come.

What is sometimes less obvious is the people whose lives these programs and initiatives impact. So, to wrap up the year, I wanted to share a few of my most cherished memories from my first year as Deputy Secretary. Read more »

Forest Service Exceeds Ecological Restoration Goals

The Paisley Ranger District of the Fremont-Winema National Forest in Oregon worked with numerous partners to complete a large-scale multi-year restoration project that covered 15 miles of the Chewaucan River.  The project included adding vegetation to eroding stream banks. (U.S. Forest Service)

The Paisley Ranger District of the Fremont-Winema National Forest in Oregon worked with numerous partners to complete a large-scale multi-year restoration project that covered 15 miles of the Chewaucan River. The project included adding vegetation to eroding stream banks. (U.S. Forest Service)

I am proud to announce that we exceeded our ecological restoration goals for Fiscal Year 2014. This was no small feat.

A lot of great people across the U.S. Forest Service worked hard to make it a reality. We did substantial homework and planning, and then based on that we made strategic investments across all agency programs to help us create resilient forests, grasslands and watersheds while sustaining communities. This work reduced the wildland fire threats to communities and firefighters and minimized the risk of forest pests and climate change, while supporting American jobs and rural economies. That is a fantastic combination. Read more »

USDA Leaders Participate in Ecosystem Services Conference – Discuss New Markets for Producers

At the ACES conference last week, NRCS Chief Jason Weller (standing) outlined USDA’s approach to incorporating ecosystem services and environmental markets into its conservation mission. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

At the ACES conference last week, NRCS Chief Jason Weller (standing) outlined USDA’s approach to incorporating ecosystem services and environmental markets into its conservation mission. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller was one of several government leaders to present last week at the A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES) Conference to discuss how USDA incorporates ecosystem services and market-based approaches into its conservation mission.

Every two years, leaders in the study and practice of ecosystem services and environmental markets meet at a large conference. The conference, held in Arlington, Virginia this year, aims to link science, practice and sustainable decision-making by bringing together stakeholders from across the nation and world. Read more »

Partnerships Make “Gouda” on USDA’s Commitment to Rural America

With over 11,000 dairy farms, more than a million cows, and over 200 dairy plants, Wisconsin produces more than 25 percent of all cheese in the United States. Photo courtesy of Yelp Inc.

With over 11,000 dairy farms, more than a million cows, and over 200 dairy plants, Wisconsin produces more than 25 percent of all cheese in the United States. Photo courtesy of Yelp Inc.

’Tis the season for good cheer, holiday festivities and cheese plates.   There are seemingly endless varieties to enjoy – Gouda, Blue, Cheddar, Asiago, Feta, Muenster and many more.  Hardworking American dairy farmers and cheese artisans make these delicious products. A strong dairy sector not only provides us with delicious food for the holiday table, it also has a great impact on rural America and local economies.

My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has a long history of working with the dairy industry, state governments and stakeholders to help farmers and producers.  I’ve actually been able to see first-hand how AMS programs services benefit dairy operations.  In August, I toured two Wisconsin dairy farms – Rosendale Dairy, a large farm with over 8,500 cows, and R&G Miller & Sons, an organic dairy farm with about 260 milking cows. Read more »