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Category: Uncategorized

Secretary’s Column: Common-Sense Efficiencies and Record Accomplishments

On March 1, across-the-board spending cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” took effect when Congress was unable to reach a new agreement on the budget. These cuts are required by law for every item within USDA’s budget, and they will impact all of the work we do in some way.

Under the Obama Administration, USDA already has made historic efforts to streamline operations and safeguard taxpayer dollars. Under our Blueprint for Stronger Service, we have carried out workforce reductions, closed offices and laboratories, and streamlined IT services. We have cut our travel costs by more than 42 percent since 2010. We’re always looking for new ways to save more.

These targeted efforts have already saved taxpayers more than $700 million. In fact, our operating budget today is lower than it was in 2009. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Biofuels Hold Unlimited Opportunity to Grow the Rural Economy

At USDA, we’ve made record efforts in the past four years to support homegrown energy.  This year, we’re looking ahead to a promising future for biofuels.

Biofuels have already contributed a great deal to our economy, to our energy security and to the bottom line on our farms and ranches.  Today we’re taking steps to strengthen the biofuels industry and helping innovate the next generation of advanced biofuels.

For example, we’ve invested more than $320 million into biofuels research to help accelerate the development of technology needed to take the next big steps. Read more »

USDA Announces Winners of 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the selection of 30 university students who
will attend USDA’s 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum. The students—who attend land-grant,
Hispanic-serving, and American Association of State Colleges of Agriculture and Renewable
Resources Institutions—have received assistance from USDA and corporate sponsors in order to
attend the Forum. The 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum will be held Feb. 21- 22, 2013, at the
Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.

“The Outlook Forum will give these students the chance to hear from leading government and
industry voices on a broad range of topics, opening and expanding their opportunities to excel in
agriculture-related fields,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Read more »

Small Farmers Embrace New Microloan

Every year, Dustin Schlinsog walks into the Farm Service Agency office in Neillsville, Wis., to apply for a direct operating loan to support his greenhouse operation. It’s a small loan, under $35,000. Yet, he must complete 17 pages of paperwork and meet the same requirements for farm operations applying for loans of $300,000.

Not anymore.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced last week the start of a new microloan program to assist beginning farmers, veterans and smaller farm operations. The program is designed to provide loans under $35,000 to help launch start-ups, provide needed resources and increased equity so farmers can graduate to commercial credit and expand their operations. Read more »

USDA Announces Speakers for 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum – Feb. 21-22

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced speakers for the 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum, “Managing Risk in the 21st Century,” Feb. 21-22 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel, Arlington, Va. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will present the keynote address, followed by guest speaker former Senator Thomas A. Daschle, currently a senior policy advisor with DLA Piper. USDA Chief Economist Joseph Glauber will present the 2013 U.S. Economic Outlook for Agriculture. In addition, a distinguished panel of speakers for the Feb. 21 plenary session includes: Bryan T. Durkin, Chief Operating Officer, CME Group; David Baudler, President of Cargill AgHorizons; and Scott H. Irwin, Laurence J. Norton Chair of Agricultural Marketing, University of Illinois. Mike Adams, AgriTalk Radio host, will moderate the panel.

The Forum’s dinner speaker on Feb. 21 will be Adam Sieminski, Administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), addressing the “U.S. Energy Market Outlook.” Read more »

USDA Plans to ‘Turbo-Charge’ Telework Week 2013!

Last year USDA had 7,516 employees, Department-wide,  who pledged to Telework during Telework Week 2012, which resulted in more than $1 million saved in commuting costs alone.   Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration,  Oscar Gonzales, acknowledges  “USDA has high goals for widespread Telework adoption and this initiative gave many employees from smaller agencies and sub-organizations the opportunity to Telework, even if they do not regularly do so.  We pledge to once again support Telework Week and hope to increase our participation this year.”

As we count down to participate in Telework Week 2013, scheduled to take place March 4-8, 2013, now is the time to begin talking to your leadership and co-workers about your level of participation.  Eligible employees are encouraged to participate up to the entire week, and the goal is to increase the amount of Telework time you normally are accustomed to.  What better way to use this opportunity as an effective Continuity of Operations (COOP) Telework Drill for your workgroup!  Both employees and USDA alike will share in the benefits and savings of participating in a successful Telework Week at USDA. Read more »