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Category: Economic Growth

NIFA-funded projects help improve quality of life in Indian Country

When the 1994 land-grant universities began to form there was a hint that something different and special was underway.  The new land-grant system would teach in a cultural context that empowered students by drawing on the strength of their peoples’ history, indigenous knowledge, and traditions.  There are now 34 tribal land-grant institutions that have made great strides in their ability to serve their communities.  The following blogs and publication illustrate the positive outcomes of NIFA-funded research, education, and extension programs in Indian Country.

Maple syrup collection in a sugar bush. NIFA grants support camps that allow tribal youth to experience cultural tradition while learning about plant science. (iStock image)

Maple syrup collection in a sugar bush. NIFA grants support camps that allow tribal youth to experience cultural tradition while learning about plant science. (iStock image)

 A sweet camp for native youth

For some Native American children, a well-loved tradition is gathering maple syrup in early spring.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Nutrition provides grants to support a unique camp where reservation youth can experience their cultural traditions while learning plant science.  Camp instructors teach the youth about the science of xylem and phloem (the systems of transporting water, minerals, food, etc., throughout a plant) and why the trees produce the sugar sap. Tribal elders explain the cultural and historic significance of maples to the campers.  It’s all part of a bigger initiative to promote food security in an area where grocery stores are scarce.  Read more. Read more »

A Banner Year for Economic and Social Research: 5 Reports on Rural Communities and on Opportunities for Agriculture

USDA scientists work 365 days to provide safe and sustainable food, water, and natural resources in the face of a changing climate and uncertain energy sources. To recognize the contribution that agricultural science and research makes in our daily lives, this week’s “Banner Year” series features stories from 2015 that show the successes that USDA science and statistical agencies made for us all.

Information on economic, demographic, and social developments in rural America, as well as on current and emerging opportunities for farmers is important to policy makers and other stakeholders. USDA’s Economic Research Service this year tracked and analyzed trends in rural areas, particularly employment and population. For farmers, key opportunities include new and evolving trade relations, notably the potential for trade with Cuba and the emergence of China as a major importer.  Both were on ERS’s research agenda this year, as was an evolving opportunity on the domestic front  – the  growth in sales of locally sourced farm products.

Let’s review 5 ERS reports featured in 2015: Read more »

Rural Veterans, Thank You for Your Service

Today is Veterans Day, and I’d like to take a moment to honor the men and women of our military. Every day, they confront and triumph over those that threaten our national security in order to keep us safe. America’s veterans embody the values that stand at the heart of rural America: hard work, a love of their country, and a sense of duty and sacrifice to give back to the land that has done so much for us all.

To the USDA employees who have served America in uniform, and to those who support family members and loved ones who serve, I offer a sincere and heartfelt thank you. USDA’s staff across the country now includes more than 11,000 veterans. In recent years, we’ve expanded our commitment to bringing on board more former service members, participating in a wide variety of veterans’ hiring efforts coordinated by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. We’ve also created a USDA Veterans Employment Program office, through which any veteran who contacts us has access to counseling, career help, and consideration for employment.  Read more »

Investing in Opportunity in Indian Country

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presented with a blanket from the Pine Ridge Reservation, S.D.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is presented a blanket from the Pine Ridge Reservation, S.D., from left to right, Kye Wientjes, Cheyenne River Sioux, Nitara Cheykaychi, Pueblo of Santo Domingo, Jess Begaye Oldham, Navajo Nation, at the “Better the Future” An Indian Agriculture Symposium, hosted by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) and the Indian Nations Conservation Alliance (INCA), in Las Vegas, NV, on Wednesday, December 7, 2011. USDA photo.

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska. Follow along on the USDA blog.

Earlier today, I met with leaders from the 566 federally-recognized Native nations who participated in the White House Tribal Nations Conference. This was the seventh of such conferences hosted by the Obama Administration, and built upon the President’s commitment to strengthen the government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and to improve the lives of American Indians and Alaska Natives, with an emphasis on increasing opportunity for Native youth.

All told, over the course of the Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture alone has invested nearly $3 billion in rural development projects that have helped Tribal members achieve the dream of homeownership; improved community facilities in Tribal communities; made critical upgrades to electric, water and telecommunications infrastructure that serve Tribal communities and members; and invested in the Tribal businesses and entrepreneurs who drive economic growth in Indian Country. Read more »

Speaking of Pumpkins

U.S. production of pumpkins rose by over 30 percent from 2000 to 2014, reflecting rising demand for pumpkins destined for both ornamental and food use.  The Economic Research Service has created a special web page on pumpkin background information and statistics.

U.S. production of pumpkins rose by over 30 percent from 2000 to 2014, reflecting rising demand for pumpkins destined for both ornamental and food use. The Economic Research Service has created a special web page on pumpkin background information and statistics.

In the fall a person’s fancy often turns to thoughts of…pumpkins. The season is underway, from the ornamental pumpkins of Halloween to the pies that grace many tables at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Where do pumpkins come from? Though six States account for nearly half of U.S. production, pumpkins are grown in virtually every State of the union. This is important to consider in light of recent media reports of a looming pumpkin shortage. Read more »

Closing the Gap on Food Safety

USDA Under Secretary Ed Avalos led the panel discussion that talked about the success of the GroupGAP Pilot Program and looked ahead to the full program’s official launch later this spring.

USDA Under Secretary Ed Avalos led the panel discussion that talked about the success of the GroupGAP Pilot Program and looked ahead to the full program’s official launch later this spring.

From small, family farms to large food production companies, food safety is a top priority for the folks who feed our nation and put food on tables around the globe. Participating in programs like USDA’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), is one way that farmers and producers of all sizes can demonstrate to buyers that they are adhering to industry food safety standards.  By making this program more accessible to businesses of all sizes, USDA is creating opportunities for our nation’s small and mid-sized farmers

Last week I traveled to Atlanta, Ga., for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit to discuss the expansion of our GroupGAP Program this coming spring. The program is an expansion of our Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Audit Program, which provides third-party certification services to verify that operations are following industry-recognized food safety practices as well as recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).The pilot was supported by funding and technical expertise from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Wallace Center at Winrock International. Read more »