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For Rural Communities, It’s More than Just a Library

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner joined the Village of Lake Odessa at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new community library.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner joined the Village of Lake Odessa at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new community library.

In a knowledge-based economy, libraries have a central role in helping rural residents learn and communicate. I stressed this point at a recent groundbreaking ceremony for the Lake Odessa Community Library.

Libraries are increasingly important for rural communities. They have expanded their role from lending books to offering meeting spaces and providing high-speed internet connections, the latter often being difficult to obtain away from urban centers. The expansion of the Lake Odessa Community Library is an investment in new economic opportunities for the area. Read more »

USDA Works With Remote Utah Tribe to Prevent Future Flooding

USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie (left), Chairwoman Lori Bear of the Skull Valley Band of the Goshute, and Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska (right) discuss the impact of flooding on tribal lands. USDA photo.

USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie (left), Chairwoman Lori Bear of the Skull Valley Band of the Goshute, and Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska (right) discuss the impact of flooding on tribal lands. USDA photo.

A massive wildfire followed by heavy rains greatly damaged the landscape of a Utah valley, home to the Skull Valley Band of the Goshute Indian Tribe. The natural disasters broke water delivery systems and disrupted vital community infrastructure.

Recently, the band’s leadership met with USDA officials to find solutions on how they could recover and prevent future flooding events.

At a StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity meeting held in Tooele near the reservation, Tribal Chairwoman Lori Bear and Vice Chairwoman Kristen Bear-Stewart took the opportunity to share with USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie and Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska some challenges they face on the reservation. The USDA officials also toured the flood-damaged area. Read more »

New Roads Provide a New Path to Prosperity in Senegal

Officials inaugurate the first renovated road funded by USDA in Laty, Senegal.

Officials inaugurate the first renovated road funded by USDA in Laty, Senegal.

We don’t spend much time thinking about roads in the United States. We worry about the traffic on them, but we don’t often consider the importance of the actual road itself. But to the Senegalese villages of Sindone, Yabon and Laty, a new road represents a path to a more prosperous life.

A new 7.5-mile stretch of road now runs through the three villages. It is the first renovated secondary road completed with the support of USDA’s Food for Progress program. I had the pleasure of attending the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new road in the village of Laty and seeing the difference it will make in the residents’ lives. The road will connect the villagers with markets where they can sell their crops, like mangoes, cashews and palm oil, to create new economic opportunities and expand food availability. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service Harvests 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Minnesota

About 500 people attended the tree-harvesting ceremony to watch the 88-foot, 13,000-pound Minnesota spruce chosen as the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The Chippewa National Forest is donating the tree, often referred to as the People’s Tree. The tree-lighting ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 2. (U.S. Forest Service)

About 500 people attended the tree-harvesting ceremony to watch the 88-foot, 13,000-pound Minnesota spruce chosen as the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The Chippewa National Forest is donating the tree, often referred to as the People’s Tree. The tree-lighting ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 2. (U.S. Forest Service)

On a cold afternoon in late October, about 500 people, including local area third graders who had made ornaments for it, gathered to witness the cutting of the 88-foot, 13,000-pound 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the Chippewa National Forest in north central Minnesota.

To help stay warm and nourished, attendees were offered hot chocolate or coffee, a wild rice dish, fruit, sandwich wraps and cookies, all courtesy of the Leech Land Band of Ojibwe. The official festivities began with Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Spiritual Advisor Larry Aitken blessing the Tree, distinguished guests sharing their congratulations, and poignant drumming performances by two groups of tribal youth; one group was accompanied by young tribal dancers in full regalia. Read more »

USDA is Acting on Climate and We Have a Plan

Soybeans show the effect of the Texas drought near Navasota, TX on Aug. 21, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Soybeans show the effect of the Texas drought near Navasota, TX on Aug. 21, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

We know that there are climate change risks and vulnerabilities facing agriculture that have significant implications not just for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners, but for all Americans and the world. That’s why we are working on measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for climate change impacts such as flooding, sea level rise, severe weather and temperature extremes.

Today’s release of the USDA Sustainability Plans and Climate Change Adaptation Plans coincide with the fifth anniversary of President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order on Environmental, Energy and Economic Performance, which set aggressive energy, climate and environmental targets for agencies, and detail how USDA’s actions have already contributed to reducing the Federal Government’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 17 percent since 2008 – the equivalent of permanently taking 1.8 million cars off the road. Read more »

A Paiute Pumpkin Patch in Utah

The Paiute Tribe headquarters in Cedar City, Utah.

The Paiute Tribe headquarters in Cedar City, Utah.

As we prepare for annual Halloween celebrations across the nation, I was reminded of a trip I made to Cedar City, Utah earlier this month. StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity is an effort Secretary Vilsack launched in 2010 to address the distinct set of challenges America’s most rural areas face. This added effort also helps to fulfill USDA’s commitment to Native American tribes. Since StrikeForce began, I’ve had the honor of meeting with many Native American tribal members to identify where USDA Rural Development may serve their communities best.

The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah welcomed the USDA family around a great wooden table at their headquarters in Cedar City. Representatives from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), and Rural Development (RD) came together with the Utah Governor’s Office to show our combined support to the Paiute Tribe. More importantly, we were there to listen to what the Tribe and its five constituent bands could tell us about their plans for the future, as well as their needs. Read more »