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Category: Economic Growth

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 »

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 »