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Conservation Program Pre-Proposals Due July 8

This summer, 40 organizations from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana will work together to help agricultural producers reduce phosphorus runoff that ends up in the western Lake Erie basin, affecting water quality and contributing to algae blooms. This is an example of how the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) can be used to solve natural resource challenges in a community, state or region. Eligible conservation coalitions nationwide have about a week to submit pre-proposals to improve soil health, preserve clean water, combat drought and protect wildlife habitat. The deadline is July 8th.

USDA is investing up to $235 million through RCPP to improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP empowers local leaders to work with multiple partners—such as private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, non-profit groups and other non-government partners—along with farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to design solutions that work best for their region. Local partners and the federal government both invest funding and manpower to projects to maximize their impact. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers RCPP. Read more »

Show Us When You Are #GrillingLikeaPRO

Grilling Like a PRO infographic

This summer, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is reminding Americans that #GrillingLikeaPRO is the safest and easiest way to grill. You can’t see harmful bacteria on your burgers, chicken, and steak but using a food thermometer is the only way to know that your food is safe to eat. For more information: www.foodsafety.gov/blog/2015/06/grilling-pro-july-fourth.html

Cross-posted from FoodSafety.gov blog:

Summer is finally here! I can smell those steaks and burgers on the grill already. While grilling outside with our friends and family can be fun, it can also lead to food poisoning.

This summer, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service is reminding Americans everywhere that “Grilling Like a PRO” is the safest and easiest way to grill. You can’t see harmful bacteria on your burgers, chicken, and steak—using a food thermometer is the only way to know that your food is safe to eat. The PRO method is an easy way to protect you and your family from foodborne illness. Read more »

Homes on the Mend, Neighborhoods on the Rebound

USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker (center with wheelbarrow), U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (center with level), local nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT), and community leaders with first-time homeowners Jessica and Jason Smith

In honor of National Homeownership Month, USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker (center with wheelbarrow), U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (center with level), local nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT), and community leaders join first-time homeowners Jessica and Jason Smith (far right)

Jessica and Jason Smith used to watch home improvement shows in which old and deteriorating houses are completely renovated. They never thought they’d be the ones giving a neglected home new life—until now. While building their dream of homeownership, they are quite literally helping revitalize a neighborhood.

Last week in honor of National Homeownership Month, I joined U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici, local nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT), and community leaders to meet the Smiths at their work-in-progress in St. Helens, Oregon. Jessica and Jason participate in CAT’s Self-help Acquisition Rehabilitation Program (SHARP) funded with support from USDA Rural Development. The effort allows families to use their own sweat equity as down payment on a home and provides an affordable USDA mortgage for the balance. As the local partner, CAT receives USDA Mutual Self-help Housing grant funds to qualify families, identify home sites, and coordinate professional construction assistance. Read more »

Buckle Up for a #USDARoadTrip

The "Ask Karen" app on an iPhone

How many times have you gone into your pantry or refrigerator, only to find that what you were going to use in your meal was spoiled? The USDA would like to help you avoid that problem in the future with our new #FoodKeeper app: Android ow.ly/J1WTQ and iOS ow.ly/L5sRL

From barbecues to broadband, USDA’s broad portfolio impacts the lives of American families everywhere. This month, in celebration of our nation’s Independence Day, we’ll take a summer road trip across the U.S. Department of Agriculture and see some of the ways USDA is assisting rural communities to build a stronger America from sea to shining sea.

Our first stop will be USDA’s Consumer Food Safety portfolio to explore the ways USDA is working around the clock to ensure you and your families are protected from harmful foodborne illness. A big part of that is making sure you have the correct information at the time when you need it most. That’s why over the years, our Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has found increasingly innovative ways to bring our food safety information to you.

Read more »

Tapping into the Economic Potential of Local Food Through Local Foods, Local Places

Federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market

In Jefferson City, Missouri, federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market. This partnership was made possible by Local Foods, Local Places which helps communities integrate local food enterprises into their economic plans.

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

At USDA, we understand the enormous market potential of local food. Industry estimates suggest that local food sales in America have nearly doubled in recent years, jumping from $5 billion in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014. We’ve invested more than $800 million in 29,100 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects over the past six years to help farmers, ranchers and rural businesses tap into that market.

Indeed, local food is a national phenomenon that has significant impact on every state’s economy. But local food is not only a business opportunity for agriculture, it can also be a development tool that allows communities to maximize the impact of what is grown and made locally. Local food projects can help grow local food economies and drive downtown and neighborhood revitalization, which is what the Administration’s Local Foods, Local Places initiative is all about. And this year, the initiative is particularly focused on ensuring that kids and families in need have an opportunity to benefit from the development of local food systems. This initiative is part of the White House Rural Council’s “Rural Impact” effort to improve quality of life and upward mobility for kids and families in rural and tribal communities. Read more »

A Celebration of Homeownership

The Hausman family of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska

The Hausman family of Scotts Bluff, Nebraska used USDA Rural Development's Single Family Guaranteed Loan Program to purchase a home to call their own.

Homeownership Month 2015 is already coming to the end, and I couldn’t be happier with the celebrations I’ve participated in, read about or listened to stories of.

In 30 days I have visited seven states across our nation to meet the people that work for and with USDA Rural Development to help make homeownership a reality for so many rural American families.

I’ve seen hardworking folks in California and Montana push up the walls to their future homes; I met families in Ohio and Oklahoma who were already moved in, but still thoroughly filled with the joy of homeownership. Read more »