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Category: Rural Development

Veteran Farmers, In Their Own Voice


“Agriculture is not often the first thing people think of for returning veterans. That’s why we are elevating the discussion about veterans and agriculture.”  ~Secretary Vilsack

 This week, USDA hosted a meeting with veterans to discuss their experiences in agriculture, their food businesses and what the most pressing needs are for veterans participating in agriculture with  Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison Karis Gutter.

This week, USDA hosted a meeting with veterans to discuss their experiences in agriculture, their food businesses and what the most pressing needs are for veterans participating in agriculture with Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison Karis Gutter.

This week, Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and I met with 35 military veterans who are now farmers and ranchers. Hosted by the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Farm Credit Council, these men and women came to USDA to discuss the opportunities and resources available to veterans interested in agriculture. Many of them participate in the Homegrown by Heroes campaign which celebrates local products grown, raised and produced by farmer veterans across the country.

As the Department’s Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison and a veteran of the Marine Corps myself, I know there are many reasons military veterans turn to agriculture. For some, running a farm business gives them an opportunity to put their logistical training to work. For others, farming lets them continue serving their community. Many veterans talk about how working on the land helps them successfully transition to civilian life. And still others discuss how agriculture gives them purpose.

No one can explain the deep connection between veterans and agriculture better than veteran farmers themselves. Here are a few of their voices. Read more »

From Tomatoes to Yarn: Value Added Producer Grants Help Agriculture Entrepreneurs Get Ahead

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admiring an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon.

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admires an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon. The Ranch used a USDA Value Added Producer Grant to develop the yarn.

“When you are a small farm, you don’t have a lot of capital.” says Julie Donnelly of Deepwoods Farm, a small tomato farm she runs with her husband in Bradley County, Arkansas. Despite being in an area known for its tomatoes, Deepwoods Farms was having a hard time getting ahead.  “We couldn’t get past the commercial tomatoes.” Julie remembers.  “We were almost bankrupt. I thought ‘I’ve got to do something!’ ”

What Julie decided to do was diversify her tomato crop to produce more varietals, including heirlooms and different colored tomatoes. She believed this would give her farm a competitive edge and open up new market opportunities. The tomatoes were growing well and tasted good.  However, no one knew the Donnelleys were doing something different than before. Deepwoods Farms needed marketing and branding support to tell customers why their tomatoes were different.   “When I heard about the Value Added Producer Grant, I thought this might be the answer,” said Julie. Read more »

Building a Better Future Together: Homeownership Month 2015

Homeowner Michelle Amrine taking a selfie with a crew of folks helping her build her home

Homeowner Michelle Amrine takes a selfie with a crew of folks helping her to build her home in Ohio.

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 USDA makes sure they are not forgotten. I believe that USDA and its partners have the tools and the means to expand opportunity and better serve those living in poverty.  This month, Homeownership Month, we are celebrating a program that has helped rural families locate and climb ladders of opportunity into the middle class: The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program.

Fifty years ago USDA initiated The Mutual Self-Help Housing Program to provide very low- and low-income families the opportunity to achieve the American dream of homeownership, and in 50 years, USDA has partnered with more than 100 non-profit Self-Help Housing Organizations to help 50,000 rural American families accomplish homeownership. Read more »

Creating Opportunity for All in Rural Communities

Taxes and Assistance Programs are Far More Effective at Reducing Poverty than 50 Years Ago chart

Taxes and Assistance Programs are Far More Effective at Reducing Poverty than 50 Years Ago chart.

Last month, the Obama Administration and the White House Rural Council, with Secretary Vilsack as the chair, launched Rural Impact, a coordinated effort across federal agencies to strengthen rural economies by supporting children and their families.

Today, Secretary Vilsack is in Memphis, Tennessee to attend the 10th Annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Conference. Speaking with delegations from over 20 countries, he is discussing a new report, summarized below. This report examines what we know about kids living in rural poverty in the U.S. and how we can best assist them to reach their full potential.

If we invest in our rural communities, especially children and families experiencing poverty in these areas, we will be building a stronger country for our future.

Cross-posted from the White House blog: Read more »

How 80 Years of Rural Electrification Will Help Bring Broadband to Rural America

We’re celebrating the 80th anniversary of the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration this month. The REA was created because in 1935, rural areas had no electricity—no lights or power to transform their hard work and efforts into efficiency and productivity. With the creation of the REA, and the subsequent Congressional action through the Rural Electrification Act, REA was able to empower rural America, changing lives and livelihoods for the better.

Rural Electrification Administration (REA) erects telephone lines in rural areas.

Rural Electrification Administration (REA) erects telephone lines in rural areas. Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration.

Read more »

Rural Housing Service: Stewards of the American Dream and Leading the Way to a Modern USDA with Paperless Processing

Guaranteed Home Loan Program infographic

New home loan processing is saving customer and staff time, taxpayer money and lots of paper. (Click to enlarge)

This has been the year of innovation at USDA Rural Housing Service. We are working smarter, faster, more efficient and environmentally conscious than ever before.  After years of brainstorming, planning, reengineering, testing, and training, RHS has realized its vision: the Section 502 Guaranteed Single Family Home Loan Program now operates paperless, and we’re saving more than we ever imagined possible.

USDA’s Rural Development State field offices now transact business with private lenders via Web-based uploads and electronic signatures.  This means RHS and our private partners are no longer printing and sending hundreds of pages of paper back-and-forth every time a loan guarantee is used to help a rural American family buy their home. Read more »