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Category: Economic Growth

USDA Then and Now: Part II

This month, USDA is sharing the story of rural American creativity, innovation and constant adaptation to meet 21st century challenges in communities across the nation.

This blog is Part II of a photo series highlighting some of the ways USDA has worked alongside farmers, ranchers and rural communities to carry out our mission in the communities we serve nationwide. You can see Part I here.

Below are historic photos paired with their modern counterparts, illustrating creative and innovative ways that USDA programs and services have evolved to build a brighter future filled with opportunities for rural Americans.

Don’t forget, you can share your innovation stories, too, using the hashtag #AgInnovates!

Forest and Land Restoration
Restoration of our public and private lands benefits the environment, creates jobs in rural communities and helps USDA to address a variety of threats to the health of our forest ecosystems including climate change,  fire, pests, and others.

On average, the USDA Forest Service is projected to complete treatments such as watershed, forest and wildlife habitat restoration, and hazardous fuel reduction on over 3 million acres of state, private and Federal lands each year, while USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps producers plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and improve soil, water, plan, animal, and air on public and private lands.


 

Food Safety
Food Safety has always been an crucial part of USDA’s mission, but in recent years, modern technology has made it easier than ever to help consumers get the answers they need to their important food safety questions and keep them safe from illness. Ask Karen, provides 24/7 virtual assistance on tips preventing foodborne illness, safe food handling and storage and is available via web or mobile app.

 

Rural Housing
Part of USDA’s mission is to work to continuously improve the quality of life in rural areas. Housing and Community Facilities Programs help rural communities and individuals by providing loans and grants for housing and community facilities such as cutting edge hospitals, health clinics, schools, fire houses, community centers and many other community based initiatives, expanding access to state-of-the-art facilities to rural Americans.


The President Signs the Farm Bill: “A Jobs Bill, an Innovation Bill, a Research Bill, and a Conservation Bill”

Take a look at five ways the Farm Bill strengthens our economy -- and if you learn something new, pass it on. (Click to enlarge)

Take a look at five ways the Farm Bill strengthens our economy -- and if you learn something new, pass it on. (Click to enlarge)

Cross posted from the White House blog:

Today, President Obama traveled to Michigan State University’s equine performance center in East Lansing to deliver remarks on and sign into law the Agriculture Act of 2014 — also known as the Farm Bill, which Congress passed earlier this week.

It’s a bill whose reach extends far beyond our farms — it includes smart reforms to reduce our deficit, and the investments it makes in our rural communities will help strengthen our economy across the board. Read more »

#AgInnovates: Modern Solutions for a 21st Century Rural America

In the 151 years since the U.S. Department of Agriculture was founded, America’s oldest industry has evolved to meet the changing needs of our modern agricultural landscape. From growing overseas markets, building a 21st century rural infrastructure, and finding ways to address the challenges of climate change, USDA has worked beside farmers, businesses, and community leaders to streamline programs and spur innovative solutions for today’s challenges.

For USDA, that also means looking inward and changing the way we do business. We have done this by designing initiatives that collectively utilize the full scope of our mission, better focusing resources and staff across the Department to meet the needs of the communities we serve using modern tools, technology, and processes.

USDA’s recently expanded StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative illustrates this trend with a broad commitment to rally available tools and technical assistance to combat persistent poverty in rural communities in 20 states.

Our Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative aims to support the rapidly expanding local and regional food market with new products and services, as well as tailored cross-agency web resources and data that illustrate opportunities and promote local and regional food systems.

And finally, through the Blueprint for Stronger Service, USDA responded to the uncertain fiscal environment by streamlining mission critical work and taking a close look at operations to find ways to cut costs and modernize processes to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars – with great results.

Over the next month we’ll share more about the ways that USDA has evolved to meet the needs of modern agriculture in America. We’ll use hashtag #AgInnovates on social media to share these stories, but we want to hear from you too. In the video above, Secretary Vilsack asked you to lend your voice to our collective story of how YOUR community has evolved to meet the needs of the 21st century. A new hospital? Technology enhanced planning, harvest, or conservation practices? A better transportation infrastructure? Education programs to meet the needs of today’s high tech ag sector?

Use #AgInnovates to let us know. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Secretary’s Column: Expanding Opportunity for Rural Americans

In his State of the Union address earlier this week, President Obama outlined his plan to move our economy forward by expanding opportunity for all Americans. Recognizing the role that agriculture continues to play in our nation’s economic recovery, the President said, “Today in America, […] a farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history.”

America’s farmers, ranchers and foresters, and those working in supporting industries, are to be commended for these accomplishments. They are expanding and growing markets around the world, spurring innovation, and creating jobs and opportunity on and off the farm, even in the face of uncertainty. The future of rural America depends on their continued leadership, and we must make sure they have the tools they need to continue to grow. Read more »

The Domino Effect of One Purchase

Bread for the City CEO George Jones (far left) shows the organization’s rooftop garden to AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (right with black coat and grey shirt), AMS Associate Administrator Rex Barnes (far right), Food Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon (middle), and FNS Associate Administrator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Jessica Shahin (middle left).

Bread for the City CEO George Jones (far left) shows the organization’s rooftop garden to AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (right with black coat and grey shirt), AMS Associate Administrator Rex Barnes (far right), Food Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon (middle), and FNS Associate Administrator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Jessica Shahin (middle left).

Sometimes one action can have a ripple effect—an impact that spreads outward, touching much more than just the immediate surroundings.  We see it all the time in the process of agriculture. Weather changes crop yields, then ripples through the supply chain, impacting everything from the local economy to the national average of transportation costs.  Sometimes the ripple effect is set off by something as simple as buying apples.

My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), buys food for nutrition programs like the National School Lunch Program and food assistance programs like food banks.  The obvious impacts, or ripple effects, of these purchases are benefits to our nation’s children and putting food on the tables of those who are struggling to make ends meet.  But the ripple effect of these purchases doesn’t stop there. Read more »

National FFA Officers Meet with Secretary Vilsack

National FFA officers meet with Secretary Vilsack at the Agriculture Department on January 15. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

National FFA officers meet with Secretary Vilsack at the Agriculture Department on January 15. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

“We are excited by the challenges you presented to us,” said FFA National Secretary Mitch Bayer at the conclusion of a half-hour meeting of National FFA officers with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the USDA Whitten Building earlier this week.

In his meeting with the officers, the Secretary covered a wide range of issues, including the immediate need for a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill.  When it passes, he said, the National FFA should study provisions that will help young, beginning farmers become established.  He said there will be, he hopes, an easier path to credit and also support for the USDA microloan program, which helps beginning farmers and others buy equipment, rent ground, and buy livestock or supplies at affordable interest rates. The Secretary noted that 70 percent of the world’s farmers are women, and USDA is working to provide greater opportunities to women, Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans and others who want to farm. Read more »