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Category: Economic Growth

Secretary’s Column: Fighting Rural Poverty in Appalachia and the Delta Region

Cross posted from the Huffington Post:

Rural America faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to combating poverty in our towns and communities. Too often, rural people and places are hard to reach or otherwise underserved—but not forgotten.

I believe that USDA and its partners have the tools and the wherewithal to expand opportunity and better serve those living in poverty, but it is imperative that these resources reach the areas where they are needed most.

That is why USDA has undertaken a broad commitment to rally available tools and technical assistance through our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Read more »

USDA Announces 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum Plenary Details

On February 20, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is expected to host two Future of Agriculture panels at the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum, “The Changing Face of Agriculture.” On the “Future of Agriculture: Building Markets Here & Abroad” panel are Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development; Paul Schickler, DuPont Pioneer President; Kellee James, Founder, CEO, Mercaris; and Cathy Burns, President, Produce Marketing Association.  Topics discussed will be import/export markets, market trends, food security, technology, and innovations in agriculture.

Secretary Vilsack also is slated to moderate a second panel, the “Future of Agriculture: Young Farmers – Unlimited Opportunities” to explore the challenges, sustainability, and achievements of today’s young farmers.  Panelists include: Joanna Carraway, Top Producer Horizon Award; Michael O’Gorman, Executive Director, Farmer Veteran Coalition; Greg Wegis, National Outstanding Young Farmer Award; and Emily Oakley, Interim Director, National Young Farmers Coalition. Read more »

Fighting the War on Poverty in Rural America

Fifty years ago, President Johnson declared the beginning of “an unconditional war on poverty in America,” challenging us to bring to bear all of our available tools and resources to address poverty and income inequality across America.

Born poor in the small town of Stonewall, Texas, President Johnson knew well that poverty is not just an urban problem—it spans both rural and urban areas across the United States. In fact, today over 85 percent of persistent–poverty counties are in rural areas, often places that are hard to reach, off the beaten track, or otherwise underserved.

President Johnson pushed us to think creatively and develop innovative efforts to better serve those living in poverty. Here at USDA, our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity is investing in projects and strengthening community partnerships that help to address the unique challenges facing poverty-stricken rural areas. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A New Farm Bill to Carry On America’s Record Agricultural Trade

Over the course of 2013, we’ve seen yet another banner year for U.S. agricultural exports. Exports of U.S. farm and ranch products reached a record $140.9 billion in 2013 and supported about a million U.S. jobs. In fact, compared to the previous five-year period from 2004-2008, U.S. agricultural exports from 2009-2013 increased by a total of nearly $230 billion.

All told, the past five years represent the strongest five-year period in our nation’s history for agricultural exports.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has focused on two key factors in recent years to help make this success possible. First, an unprecedented effort by USDA and our Federal partners to expand and grow markets around the world. Second, a commitment to make sure our farmers and ranchers have the tools to grow more, even in the face of uncertainty. Read more »

A One-Stop Shop for Organics, with Lots in Store

Organic agriculture is a strong contributor to USDA’s goals for rural economic development, and we are committed to supporting continued growth of the organic sector by removing obstacles for organic farmers and businesses.

Organic agriculture is a strong contributor to USDA’s goals for rural economic development, and we are committed to supporting continued growth of the organic sector by removing obstacles for organic farmers and businesses.

As an organic farmer, I know how frustrating it can be to search the internet for information that might help my operation. It might be there somewhere but finding it takes precious time, especially if I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for.  Now, USDA has solved part of that problem with a centralized web resource center on USDA.gov for all the programs, services, and data we have that support organic agriculture.  Not only is this web resource center a “one-stop shop” for information about organics at USDA, but there is lots in store!

Organic operations (and those considering transitioning to organic) can: Read more »

The Faces of Agriculture – A Glimpse of What the Farm Bill Means to Our Nation

Under Secretary Edward Avalos and John Lyman III, owner of Lyman Orchards, tour the orchard’s Apple Barrel Market in Middlefield, CT.  A Farm Bill is crucial to the long-term stability of family-owned farms and orchards.

Under Secretary Edward Avalos and John Lyman III, owner of Lyman Orchards, tour the orchard’s Apple Barrel Market in Middlefield, CT. A Farm Bill is crucial to the long-term stability of family-owned farms and orchards.

A life of farming—whether you grow up in it or are called to it later in life—takes a special kind of commitment and sense of responsibility. The reward is just as unique and appeals only to a handful of people who are willing to literally roll up their sleeves and work hard at a physically- and mentally-challenging job every day of the year. To me, there’s just something special about a profession where the fruits of your labor provide one of life’s most essential elements–food.

But that’s not where their contributions stop. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers strengthen our economy, with nearly one out of 12 jobs in the U.S. coming from agriculture.

Over the last year, I had the opportunity to visit and speak to farmers and ranchers across the country. During these visits, I get a chance to see first-hand how connected they are to their communities and the differences they make for the folks that live and work with them. And I also get to answer their questions directly, to hear the challenges they face and the help they could use. Inevitably, conversation turns to the Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill and what that legislation would mean to each of the farmers, ranchers, businesses and schools that depend on it. Read more »