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A Tour of Development in Downeast Maine

Visiting Hand in Hand Apartments: Administrator Hernandez visits the home of Maria (China) Santos. Santos and her son Juan moved to Maine from Honduras. Left to Right are: USDA Rural Development Administrator for Housing and Community Programs Tony Hernandez; Mano En Mano Outreach Worker Edith Flores; USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; Hand in Hand Apartments Resident Maria (China) Santos and Son, Juan Santos; and Mano En Mano Executive Director Ian Yaffe.

Visiting Hand in Hand Apartments: Administrator Hernandez visits the home of Maria (China) Santos. Santos and her son Juan moved to Maine from Honduras. Left to Right are: USDA Rural Development Administrator for Housing and Community Programs Tony Hernandez; Mano En Mano Outreach Worker Edith Flores; USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; Hand in Hand Apartments Resident Maria (China) Santos and Son, Juan Santos; and Mano En Mano Executive Director Ian Yaffe.

Recently, Tony Hernandez, USDA Rural Development’s Housing and Community Facilities Administrator visited Maine to see firsthand how Rural Development can support the growing seafood processing industry in Downeast Maine. Tony also met with leaders from the Penobscot Indian Nation to discuss USDA Rural Development’s ongoing support of housing and community development on the Tribal lands.

We had a very valuable trip, starting with a visit to Prospect Harbor to see the Maine Fair Trade Lobster Company. Formerly the Stinson Seafood Cannery, the largest sardine cannery in the nation, the building and equipment were purchased by what became Maine Fair Trade Lobster Company. The purchase preserved much-needed jobs in the area, and the facility now employs approximately 170 workers and processes over 50,000 pounds of lobster every day. We’re working with community leaders in Prospect Harbor to ensure USDA Rural Development supports community capacity building and infrastructure development as businesses like Maine Fair Trade Lobster Company expand and increase employment. Read more »

Veteran Farmer Grows the Family Farm ‘Organically’

Larry E. King worked with NRCS to build a seasonal high tunnel on his farm in Whitley County.

Larry E. King worked with NRCS to build a seasonal high tunnel on his farm in Whitley County.

Larry E. King was raised in a family with farming roots. The very land he now farms in McCreary County, Kentucky was purchased by his mother during World War II.  He remembers his mother telling him, “If we didn’t raise it, we didn’t have it.”

In his late teens, King raised strawberries on the farm. His life moved away from farming at 17 when he followed in his two brothers’ footsteps and joined the Air Force.

For six years, King was stationed out of Little Rock, Arkansas where he worked with the mobile support systems out of the Military Airlift Command. After his military assignment, he finished college and worked for the U.S. Forest Service Civilian Conservation Corps. After a long career with the Forest Service, Larry retired a few years ago, bringing him home to the 34-acre family farm. Read more »

Successful Meeting Helps Take Produce Marketing Efforts to Next Level

A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.

A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.

The fruit and vegetable industry is an integral part of our country. Besides helping increase access to healthy foods, the industry generates $40 billion in sales and empowers communities by creating jobs and stimulating economies. While it’s great to notice the strength of the produce industry, it is important to remember that it is the result of careful research and planning. I had the chance to watch the industry rekindle this energy as I visited with leaders from each of our marketing order boards and committees during a management conference last week.

There were some great takeaways from the meeting. We heard an update about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor. He ensured us that FDA is looking to collaborate with partners like USDA to help the industry comply with the FSMA regulations when they become final. We also heard from our Commodity Procurement Program Director Dave Tuckwiller, who encouraged everyone to take advantage of new opportunities to sell food to USDA. Thanks to new National School Lunch standards, my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchased 20 percent more fruits and veggies in 2013 than in the previous year. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service Gets to the Heart of Wildland Firefighters

A crew of wildland firefighters begins their trek into a fire. Their specialty is wildfire suppression, but they sometimes perform other work, including search and rescue and disaster response assistance. (U.S. Forest Service)

A crew of wildland firefighters begins their trek into a fire. Their specialty is wildfire suppression, but they sometimes perform other work, including search and rescue and disaster response assistance. (U.S. Forest Service)

Morman Lake Hotshots check gear at a base camp. The backbone of U.S. Forest Service firefighting is the thousands of boots-on-the-ground men and women. (U.S. Forest Service)

Morman Lake Hotshots check gear at a base camp. The backbone of U.S. Forest Service firefighting is the thousands of boots-on-the-ground men and women. (U.S. Forest Service)

It takes a certain type of person to fight wildfires. It’s not what they look like. Or sound like. It’s not their heritage or their culture. It’s their heart.

 A seven-minute U.S. Forest Service recruitment video, “The Heart of a Firefighter,” takes viewers as close to being as firefighter as possible through a small screen. Read more »

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

A strong rural economy benefits the whole nation. Sales of specialty crops – which include everything from fruits and vegetables to tree nuts, cut flowers and nursery crops – total nearly $65 billion per year.  The success of specialty crop farmers and businesses creates opportunities for new jobs and is critical to the rural economy. That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is partnering with states to support the hardworking American farmers who grow these products.

 This week Secretary Tom Vilsack announced millions of dollars in grant funding authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, including $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) awarded by AMS.  The goal of the SCBG program is to promote and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers by supporting projects that create new business opportunities, boost productivity and improve food safety.  Every state department of agriculture receives a block grant that it can use to fund projects that support its specific priorities. This year’s specialty crop block grants fund 838 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. 

Read more »

Wisconsin Lives Up to its Dairyland Name

Wisconsin is the Dairy State, but can you guess what other agricultural crop they lead the nation in?  Read below for the answer, and check back next Thursday for another Census of Agriculture Spotlight!

Wisconsin is the Dairy State, but can you guess what other agricultural crop they lead the nation in? Read below for the answer, and check back next Thursday for another Census of Agriculture Spotlight!

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Welcome to America’s Dairyland! It is simply impossible to talk about Wisconsin agriculture without immediately bringing up our dairy sector. After all, as the 2012 Census of Agriculture results showed, 16.5 percent of all farms in our state have milk cows.

Wisconsin has significantly more dairy farms at 11,543 than any other state. We are also one of only two states with more than one million milk cows. And, of course, who can forget about Wisconsin cheese? As NASS’ Dairy Products reports point out every year, Wisconsin farmers produce more cheese than any other state, producing more than 25 percent of all cheese in the United States. That’s nearly 3 billion pounds of cheese a year! Read more »