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Providing Rural Housing Assistance for Louisiana Flood Survivors

Lafayette Area Technician Dianne Robert and her son, Elijah

Lafayette Area Technician Dianne Robert and her son, Elijah, help package food and supplies at their local shelter.

Last month, many parts of Southern Louisiana were faced with disastrous flooding that submerged thousands of homes and businesses and also resulted in 13 reported deaths. The flood has been called the worst U.S. natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Seeing homes where families have spent their entire lives destroyed along with gutted furniture piled on neighborhood sidewalks is truly heartbreaking.  While distressing, I do believe that through the strength of the community, Louisiana will continue to rebuild and move forward.  I am most proud to see residents working together each day after such a tragedy.  Some of the USDA Rural Development (RD) Louisiana staff members have volunteered their time with the American Red Cross at local shelters or have helped clean out their neighbors’ damaged homes.  Despite the devastation, these RD staff volunteers have approached this work in a positive and kind-hearted manner. Read more »

Prepare Livestock and Animals Ahead of Severe Weather

A barn with livestock

During the Midwest floods in 1993, many livestock and animals were rescued from high water levels. Photo courtesy of FEMA.

It’s important to have a plan in place ahead of severe weather to protect your animals and livestock.  Pets, farm animals and livestock rely on their humans to protect them and keep them safe in all types of emergencies.  The steps we take or don’t take will directly impact their well-being.  Because September is National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to think about emergency planning.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan for you, your family and your animals as you just don’t know when a disaster will strike your community.

According to Dr. T.J. Myers, Assistant Deputy Administrator for the USDA APHIS Surveillance, Preparedness and Response Services, “Having a plan in place to protect animals and livestock is the best defense against severe weather.  Re-evaluating that plan periodically can make a huge difference and save valuable time during an emergency.” Read more »

New Research Provides Insights into Sage Grouse DNA

Sage grouse male

Sage grouse male strutting hoping to attract females.

The greater sage grouse is an iconic bird that lives in the American West’s sagebrush landscape. It’s also a species at the center of a nationwide debate focused on how best to manage its habitat to balance multiple uses and ensure the bird’s long-term survival.

And the dialogue has just been informed by new information from a genetics study that has validated the primary target locations of current conservation efforts. Read more »

Celebrate Whole Grains Month with Brown Rice, 5 Different Ways!

Brown Rice 5 Ways infographic

In Celebration of Whole Grains Month and National Rice Month, check out these easy-to-prepare recipes from MyPlate. (Click to view a larger version)

Did you know September is Whole Grains Month and National Rice Month? To help you fit whole grains into your menu this week, MyPlate is sharing five, easy-to-prepare recipes with brown rice as the star ingredient.

Almost all Americans are not eating enough whole grains. At least half of your grains should be whole grains. Whole grains provide more vitamins and minerals than refined grains because they are made from the entire grain seed. Eating more whole grains is easy to do! Try these recipes featuring brown rice five different ways to add more whole grains to your recipe repertoire: Read more »

Our Commitment to Diversity and Equality at Rural Development

USDA Rural Development Civil Rights Director Angilla Denton (left) and City of Nunapitchuk Administrator Juliana Wassillie (right)

USDA Rural Development Civil Rights Director Angilla Denton (left) and City of Nunapitchuk Administrator Juliana Wassillie (right) exchange contact information during the Office of Civil Rights’ visit to Alaska.

Last month, USDA took time to reflect on the great strides we’ve made in achieving better Civil Rights results for those who work here and those we serve.  This month’s chapter, Rural America is Back in Business, examines how USDA has helped the rural economy rebound.  By embracing Civil Rights and opportunity for all, the case can be made that the two themes are closely related.

As I reflect on some of the ways USDA Rural Development (RD) has demonstrated equity and inclusion for our external and internal customers. One of the goals Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed last month is USDA’s “New and Improved Outreach to Expand the Breadth of Our Service.” Perhaps one of RD’s biggest expansion efforts is the creation of specific outreach plans to reach the underserved and unserved populations, particularly through our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Read more »

SNAP Participation Shows Marked Decline

A family shopping

SNAP is a key component of America’s nutrition safety net, helping families in need get the nutrition they need.

The number of people participating in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has been declining now for several years from a high of nearly 48 million people back in 2013 to a little more than 43 million in June. That is a drop of about 4.4 million people. This downward trend is encouraging but should come as no surprise. SNAP is designed to respond to the economy by expanding and contracting based on economic conditions. As the economy continues to grow and recover from the recession, recent data shows household incomes beginning to rise. I’m confident that we’ll see these numbers shrink even more.

The best way to keep the numbers of SNAP participants on a downward trend is to connect recipients with opportunities to develop skills for in-demand jobs in their communities. Many Americans have gained employment but still do not have an income high enough to transition off the program. SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) programs can help individuals find jobs that allow working families to make ends meet without public assistance. Read more »