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Category: Technology and Broadband

Exploration and Agriculture: Connecting the Next Generation with Science to Grow the Future

Deputy Secretary Harden and 4-H'ers observe plant growing experiments at the NASA Space Life Science Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Deputy Secretary Harden and 4-H'ers observe plant growing experiments at the NASA Space Life Science Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Last week, we entered a bold new era of exploration and discovery as NASA launched the Orion spacecraft, a major step testing the possibility of going to Mars.

As NASA contemplates sending human missions to Mars, one question we must answer is: what will the astronauts eat and what foods will assist future missions? NASA and USDA are working together to develop plants that can grow, thrive, and produce in new environments – signaling opportunities for fresh, nutrition-rich food for astronauts on long duration space flights. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: USDA Partners with Native Americans

Shortly after taking office, I joined other Cabinet officials on a visit to rural Southwest Alaska. We met with Alaska Native leaders and heard firsthand the difficulties facing Native Americans living in small communities in remote, rural areas. Since that time, this administration has worked each day to provide Native Americans with improved housing, better educational opportunities, clean water and sanitation, and the opportunity to create good jobs. Across government, and here at USDA, we’ve made progress.

This past week, I joined President Obama and members of the Cabinet at the sixth White House Tribal Nations Conference here in Washington, DC. In addition to serving as the Chair of the White House Rural Council, I am also a member of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, chaired by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Our priorities in Indian Country include promoting sustainable economic development; supporting greater access to and control over healthcare; improving the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems; expanding and improving educational opportunities for Native American youth; and protecting and supporting the sustainable management of Native lands, environments and natural resources. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Getting Covered is Good for Rural America

Infographic: Getting covered is good for rural America.

Infographic: Getting covered is good for rural America. (click to enlarge image)

Cross posted from the Huffington Post:

Living in a rural community shouldn’t have to come with a hefty price tag for healthcare. On this National Rural Health Day, we celebrate the fact that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it no longer has to.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making a difference in the lives of millions of rural Americans. Prior to the ACA, many rural families had a hard time finding affordable insurance coverage, paying an average of nearly half of their costs out of their own pockets. Many didn’t have access to affordable health insurance through an employer because they were self-employed as farmers, ranchers or rural business owners and entrepreneurs. While those folks take calculated business risks every day, their health should not be one of them. Read more »

Better Service for Rural Renters: Innovative App for Field Employees Streamlines Recordkeeping

Rural Development Specialist Lea McGiboney and Fort Benton, Montana resident Velma Hansen share a laugh as Lea makes sure the Canyon Villas Apartments are providing safe and affordable homes for Velma and her neighbors.

Rural Development Specialist Lea McGiboney and Fort Benton, Montana resident Velma Hansen share a laugh as Lea makes sure the Canyon Villas Apartments are providing safe and affordable homes for Velma and her neighbors.

Velma Hansen has lived in Fort Benton, Montana for over 60 years, the last dozen of them at Canyon Villas. The engaging 91-year-old keeps an impeccably clean apartment in the rent-controlled complex financed by USDA Rural Development. As one of our hundreds of multi-family properties across rural America, Rural Development regularly inspects the properties to ensure they meet basic standards for safe and sanitary housing. If problems are noted, the property owners must address them, and do so immediately.

Right now, a specialist inspects the property, takes paper notes and digital photos, and then returns to the office to input all the data – essentially touching all the data twice to get it in our system – before being able to follow up on any necessary repairs that were noted during the servicing visit. We decided there was opportunity to invest a little technology in streamlining this process. Read more »

Connecting Communities: Broadband for Rural America Benefits Us All

A Matanuska Telephone Association Lineman works to bring high-speed broadband to Chickaloon and Glacier View. Photo courtesy MTA.

A Matanuska Telephone Association Lineman works to bring high-speed broadband to Chickaloon and Glacier View. Photo courtesy MTA.

Today, Secretary Vilsack announced over $190 million of investment in broadband projects through USDA’s Community Connect program, the Public Television Digital Transition Grant, and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program.

Time and time again, we hear stories about the significant impact USDA’s investments have in the lives of hard working Americans, and we know that an investment in our rural communities is an investment in America. Read more »

“The Last Frontier” is on the Cutting Edge of On-Farm Technology

Alaska may called The Last Frontier, but their farmers are on the leading edge of technology.  Check back next Thursday for more fun facts as we spotlight another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture results.

Alaska may called The Last Frontier, but their farmers are on the leading edge of technology. Check back next Thursday for more fun facts as we spotlight another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture results.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Alaska may be the largest state in the United States, but due to our geographic location, our farmers have an extremely short growing season. On average, Alaskan farmers only have about 105 growing days in a year according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which limits what types of crops we can grow, in comparison with about 198 days in northwestern Missouri, according to NOAA.

Despite the length of our growing season, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there are 762 farms in Alaska, up 11 percent from the last Census, conducted in 2007. Nearly 834,000 acres of our land is dedicated to farming and ranching. In 2012, Alaskan farms produced nearly $59 million worth of agriculture products. By the way, nearly a third of all of the farms in Alaska are run by women, significantly outpacing the national percentage. Read more »