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USDA Unveils Landmark New Rules to Protect Farmers

Cross-posted from the White House blog:

Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking some major steps forward to protect farmers – including swine, beef cattle, and especially poultry growers – from unfair treatment by the often much larger processors who purchase their fully grown hogs, cattle, and chickens. These three rules are another step forward in response to the President’s Competition Initiative announced in April, which has the goal of enhancing competition to help consumers, workers, and small businesses get a fair shake in the economy. Read more »

12 Gifts of Conservation

12 Gifts of Conservation graphic

12 Gifts of Conservation graphic. Created by: Jenn Cole

Holidays are a time to enjoy the warm comforts of home and family. A time to reflect and give thanks for life’s blessings. This month, we’re going to highlight important gifts given to us when we conserve natural resources: soil, food, plants, wildlife, people, health, protection, recreation, air, water, technology and future.

Unlike a single wrapped present, conservation is a gift to the whole world, and to the future. Each breath of air, sip of water and bite of food you will ever take, exists because of it. Were the world not continuously renewed, it would soon be consumed and barren. Conservation is the gift that keeps on giving. Read more »

Learning Through Listening: Convening with the Navajo Nation

Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Sam Rikkers, Utah State Director Dave Conine and New Mexico State Director Terry Brunner

(From right) Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Sam Rikkers, Utah State Director Dave Conine and New Mexico State Director Terry Brunner discuss economic development with members of Navajo Nation.

“We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”—Navajo proverb

Last month, Rural Development and the Navajo Nation convened an economic development workshop involving an array of leaders and stakeholders from across the Navajo Nation and 14 Federal partners in Crownpoint, N.M. The convening gave me a chance to meet with Navajo Nation officials, university representatives, private business owners and nonprofit administrators.  All were focused on improving the economy and quality of life throughout the Navajo Nation. Read more »

Taking Action for School Nutrition Success

Calhoun and Orangeburg food service staff show off school menu items

Calhoun and Orangeburg food service staff show off school menu items during their hands-on Salt-Free Seasonings Training Class.

Developing a school menu of healthy, student-approved meals is challenging, make no mistake about it.  But it is achievable with the right support and resources.  That’s why the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN) have partnered to create the Team Up for School Nutrition Success (Team Up) initiative.

Team Up provides school nutrition professionals the opportunity to network and learn best practices from their peers.  Those who have developed tips and tricks to create delicious school menus, increase participation, practice food safety and manage financially-sound program budgets. And with the help and guidance of peer mentors, Team Up attendees can turn their ideas into goals by creating focused action plans for their district. Read more »

Taking Charge: How Rural Residents Are Switching from Employees to Business Owners

A hardware store in Maine

This hardware store in Maine recently transitioned from private ownership to a worker-owned co-op, with the full support of the long-time business owners. To help in cases where the retiring owners may need some additional incentives to sell to workers, USDA’s B&I program now has added flexibility to support such transitions.

The retirement of the baby boom generation of business proprietors is predicted to result in a major turnover in ownership. Developing an ownership succession plan is especially challenging in rural areas where many small businesses are at risk of closing from the lack of locally available financing to keep them in operation. Rural Development’s Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program now has new capabilities as of this August that specifically accommodate the needs of financing ownership succession.

B&I guarantee borrowers can now apply to loans for financing the transfer of business ownership within a family, usually involving a sale from parents to children. Prior to recent changes in the rules it was assumed that within families the transfer of ownership was always a seller-financed transaction. Yet, some retiring business owners may need to immediately take the sales revenue out to finance their retirement. Read more »

Common Past, Common Future: USDA & Gallaudet Create Opportunities for Students

Gallaudet University President Roberta J. Cordano, left, and USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Elanor Starmer

Gallaudet University President Roberta J. Cordano, left, and USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Elanor Starmer sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, on Friday, December 2, 2016. USDA Photo by Ken Melton

I often wonder if the leaders who came before us recognized the pivotal things they set in motion, the far-reaching impact their actions would have, and how they helped shape America into a land of opportunity. President Lincoln’s legacy and impact is well-known and obvious, but he did so much more than lead this country during its most trying time.  And it’s these smaller acts—those that are not typically taught in the history books—that I wonder about the most.  Did he know what he was setting in motion?

In 1862, a year after the start of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the law creating the U.S. Department of Agriculture—a place he called “The People’s Department.”  Two years later, and just five months after giving the Gettysburg Address, he signed the charter establishing Gallaudet University—an institution that has helped thousands of deaf and hard of hearing students achieve their educational goals and fulfill their dreams. Read more »