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The Many Reasons USDA is Celebrating 50 Years of SNAP

SNAP continues to serve as the first line of defense against hunger in the United States.

SNAP continues to serve as the first line of defense against hunger in the United States.

Half a century ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Food Stamp Act of 1964, making the Food Stamp Program (FSP), which at the time was a series of pilot projects, permanent. Despite the post-World War II economic boom felt by many Americans, some rural and urban areas of the country experienced extreme poverty as well as limited access to nutritious, affordable food. The Food Stamp Act of 1964 was an important component in President Johnson’s effort to eliminate poverty. This year, we not only mark 50 years of SNAP as a nationwide program, but we also recognize the lasting changes it has produced in both the economy and the nutrition habits of Americans. 

In those early days, the FSP reached families living in deprived areas and served a dual purpose.  It strengthened the agricultural economy, while also providing improved levels of nutrition among low-income households. Even though the FSP was renamed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2008, its mission is the same. SNAP continues to serve as the first line of defense against hunger in the United States while supporting the economy. Read more »

Giving Thanks to Local Farmers

Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to say thank you to your local farmer and to showcase local ingredients in your holiday favorites.  Photo courtesy Diane Cordell

Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to say thank you to your local farmer and to showcase local ingredients in your holiday favorites. Photo courtesy Diane Cordell

An array of colors is on display at local farmers markets with products like stunning purple Graffiti cauliflower. New varieties can add a new—and local—twist to traditional dishes on your Thanksgiving table. Photo courtesy Dan Bruell

An array of colors is on display at local farmers markets with products like stunning purple Graffiti cauliflower. New varieties can add a new—and local—twist to traditional dishes on your Thanksgiving table. Photo courtesy Dan Bruell

On Thanksgiving, friends, families and communities come together across America to give thanks and celebrate the autumn harvest.  I love the opportunity to reflect on all that I am grateful for, including the  hard-working farmers and ranchers who provide the delicious and nutritious food for the Thanksgiving table.  I also enjoy making my favorite traditional dishes with fresh, local ingredients that support the farmers and ranchers in my own community.

Secretary Vilsack has identified local and regional food systems as one of four pillars of USDA’s work to help revitalize the rural economy, create jobs and improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans.   Buying local supports the farmers and small businesses in your community, making it the perfect way to say thank you. Read more »

Iowa – the Land of Corn and Soybeans (and More!)

Farmers in The Hawkeye State produced more than $17.3 billion worth of crops in 2012 and lead the nation in acres planted to corn. Check back next Thursday as we take a look at another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Farmers in The Hawkeye State produced more than $17.3 billion worth of crops in 2012 and lead the nation in acres planted to corn. Check back next Thursday as we take a look at another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

If you take a drive through Iowa, there is no way you can miss our beautiful farms all around you. With the most recent Census of Agriculture counting more than 30.6 million acres of land dedicated to farming, agriculture is truly at the core of Iowa.

Iowa farmers produced more than $17.3 billion worth of crops in 2012, with corn and soybeans making up the largest portion of the state’s agriculture. Our farmers have been leading the nation in production of these two key crops for decades. In 2012, Iowa growers tended to more than 13.7 million acres of corn and more than 9.3 million acres of soybean fields, ranking number one in the nation.  Read more »

Producers get a New Revenue Source, Waterfowl Habitat is Preserved and Industry Benefits from Conservation Effort

General Motors Global Public Policy Executive Director Greg Martin speaks at a press conference announcing the completion of the first-of-its kind purchase of verified carbon credits generated on working ranch lands by Chevrolet, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. (L to R Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI), General Motors Global Public Policy Executive Director Greg Martin, Ducks Unlimited Paul Schmidt, The Climate Trust Executive Director Sean Penrith, and USDA Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Under Secretary Robert Bonnie). USDA photo by Tom Witham.

General Motors Global Public Policy Executive Director Greg Martin speaks at a press conference announcing the completion of the first-of-its kind purchase of verified carbon credits generated on working ranch lands by Chevrolet, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014. (L to R Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI), General Motors Global Public Policy Executive Director Greg Martin, Ducks Unlimited Paul Schmidt, The Climate Trust Executive Director Sean Penrith, and USDA Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Under Secretary Robert Bonnie). USDA photo by Tom Witham.

Earlier this week, USDA highlighted the creation of a market for carbon credits generated on working grasslands. Landowners benefit because they receive compensation for the carbon credits generated on their lands. They get a new source of revenue, while thriving grasslands provide nesting habitat for wildlife, are more resilient to extreme weather, and help mitigate the impact of climate change. Chevrolet, a division of General Motors, recently purchased almost 40,000 carbon dioxide reduction tons generated on working ranch grasslands in the Prairie Pothole region of North Dakota. It was the first purchase of its type. 

Robert Bonnie, USDA’s under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, announced the purchase and USDA’s involvement in the project at an event at USDA headquarters. He was joined by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Greg Martin, executive director for global public policy, General Motors; Sean Penrith, executive director of The Climate Trust and Paul Schmidt, chief conservation officer of Ducks Unlimited. The under secretary thanked Senator Stabenow, Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, for her staunch support for the program, which she said is delivering “real world measurable results.” Bonnie said he hopes this purchase will set a pattern for future carbon credit sales. Read more »

Turkey Tips Step 1: Shopping for Your Feast

-You’re certain you’ve thought of everything to make this year’s Thanksgiving meal a flawless success.

You’ve assigned your quarrelsome family members who passionately root for rival football teams to seats on opposite ends of the dinner table. You’re prepared to cook all of your guests’ favorite holiday dishes, and after years of practice, you finally feel like you’ve perfected the delicate art of carving a turkey. Yes, this year will be different. You won’t have to order a pizza and eat it with lumpy gravy like you did after last year’s cooking disaster! But while you may think you’ve thought of absolutely everything for the perfect Thanksgiving meal, you may have neglected some of the most important steps – those involving food safety. Read more »

Native American Civil Rights Legend Urges Action

(Left to right) Educator and former government official Ada Deer, Rural Development’s Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh (Standing Rock Lakota), Office of Tribal Relations Director Leslie Wheelock (Oneida) and the Forest Service’s Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer (Mescalero Apache) at the USDA Native American Heritage Month observance at the Jefferson Auditorium at USDA. Photo by Bob Nichols.

(Left to right) Educator and former government official Ada Deer, Rural Development’s Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh (Standing Rock Lakota), Office of Tribal Relations Director Leslie Wheelock (Oneida) and the Forest Service’s Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer (Mescalero Apache) at the USDA Native American Heritage Month observance at the Jefferson Auditorium at USDA. Photo by Bob Nichols.

Dennis Zotigh, Kiowa, National Native American Museum shared Native cultures through music and song during the Native American Heritage Month Observance Cultural exchange at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. The Cultural Exchange featured Tribal College exhibit booths and cultural food sampling. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Dennis Zotigh, Kiowa, National Native American Museum shared Native cultures through music and song during the Native American Heritage Month Observance Cultural exchange at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. The Cultural Exchange featured Tribal College exhibit booths and cultural food sampling. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Legendary Native American Indian activist, educator and former government official Ada Deer (Menominee) delivered a charge to those attending USDA’s Native American Heritage Month observance here in Washington last week. “Be activists to achieve change,” she said. “We all pay our rent on the planet.  How are you paying your rent?”

A former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, she recently retired as director of the American Indian Studies Department and Director of the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  In my introduction, I noted that Ms. Deer’s life is a tribute to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. She is a role model to all Native Americans, but especially to Native American women.  Not surprisingly, Ms. Deer spoke passionately about the role of Tribal colleges and universities.  This year marks the 20th anniversary of their recognition by Congress as land grant institutions.  These colleges and universities are central to the Tribes. They mark a firm move away from the old boarding school model and provide life-long learning opportunities in Tribal communities.  “Education,” said Ms. Deer, “empowers people to enact positive change.” Read more »