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In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Katina Hanson

Katina Hanson, Chief of Staff to the Associate Administrator for Policy and Programs for the Farm Service Agency

Katina Hanson, Chief of Staff to the Associate Administrator for Policy and Programs for the Farm Service Agency

Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. This month, we hear from USDA’s own Katina Hanson, Chief of Staff to the Associate Administrator for Policy and Programs at the Farm Service Agency (FSA).  In addition to her duties as Chief of Staff, Katina led the successful implementation of the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP), a multimillion dollar investment to make renewable fuels more available to consumers across the country. She is also an active member of USDA’s Women in Ag network, serving as co-chair of the FSA chapter and on the USDA Women in Ag Executive Committee. She has a Bachelor of Science in Rangeland Ecology & Management from Texas A&M University and a Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Katina grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas, living on a sailboat until she was 6 and later in a house located between two bayous. Read more »

Louisiana’s Secret Ingredient

Judges deliberating during the Central Louisiana Farm to School Iron Chef Competition

Judges deliberate during the Central Louisiana Farm to School Iron Chef Competition.

On October 22, the newest celebrity chefs of Alexandria, La. gathered at the Inglewood Farm’s Harvest Barn Market to celebrate National Farm to School Month. Their purpose: emerge victorious from the Farm to School Iron Chef Competition.

This competition challenged contestants to create a dish using a “secret ingredient,” in this case sweet potatoes – a fall favorite and regional staple. Each of the four teams sourced sweet potatoes from local farmers in central Louisiana. Students worked alongside parents and teachers to prepare and present their dishes at the market on the day of the competition. The event was organized by the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA). Consisting of economic development entities from ten parishes across Louisiana, CLEDA’s mission is to help people prosper in vibrant, thriving communities. Read more »

Meeting the China E-Commerce Challenge

A Chinese e-commerce site

Digital strategies help promote U.S. food and agricultural products online to Chinese consumers. Since becoming the world’s largest e-commerce market in 2013, online shopping in China has continued to thrive.

In the United States, farming and technology go hand-in-hand in production agriculture. Technology helps improve productivity, efficiency and safety. Now, we’re discovering new ways that technology and digital strategies can offer similar benefits when marketing U.S. farm and food products overseas.

I recently led a group of women agricultural leaders on a trade mission to Shanghai and Hong Kong in China. One of the most interesting things we saw and learned was how e-commerce is paving the way for Chinese consumers to gain quick and easy access to high-value U.S. food and agricultural products. As a young, Chinese shopper explained to me, he purchases nearly 80 percent of his groceries online – skipping the trip to a traditional wet market or Western-style grocery store. Read more »

USDA Foods’ Local Roots: DoD Fresh Connects the Farm to School

Royal Food Service sign

Royal Food Service in Atlanta brings the farm to 1,900 schools through the DoD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

What do the military’s logistical network, peaches and peppers, and school children have in common? The first delivers the second to the third through a unique partnership between the Department of Defense (DoD) and USDA.

October is National Farm to School Month and the perfect time to celebrate the DoD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which connects schools with fresh and often local produce using their USDA Foods entitlement dollars. Schools order local foods from a variety of sources, and according to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, 29 percent of districts participating in farm to school are receiving local foods through DoD Fresh. Read more »

Celebrating 80 Years of Partnership

Secretary Vilsack and RUS Administrator McBride announcing an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program award

Yesterday, Secretary Vilsack and RUS Administrator McBride announced an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program award to Pedernales Electric Co-op of Johnson City, TX. Left to right: RUS Administrator Brandon McBride, Secretary Vilsack, John Hewa (CEO, Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc.), Emily Pataki (Board President, Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc.), and Cindy Thyfault (Founder & CEO, Westar Trade Resources)

This is a special year for rural electric cooperative utilities.  Eighty years ago, Congress passed and President Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.

The REA brought electricity to rural America, ultimately making the United States the source of the world’s food, fuel and fiber—the breadbasket for the world. Read more »

Already Planning to Feed More Kids than Ever During Summer 2017

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack serving breakfast to students at Robert E. Lee Elementary

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack serves breakfast to students at Robert E. Lee Elementary in Petersburg, VA on Jun. 7, 2016. Secretary Vilsack was at the school for the kick off of the U.S Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Summer Food Program.

Now that summer has come and gone, I’m happy to announce that this season the USDA Rural Housing Service was able to partner with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to feed more kids than ever before. Three hundred and five Rural Housing Service Multi-Family Housing properties participated in FNS’ Summer Meal Programs, which provide low-income children with free, healthy meals during the summer when school is out. This is 121 more affordable housing communities we were able to serve than the year before, and almost triple the number from 2014.

This is a huge success, and I’m so proud of my team across the country for feeding more kids at our properties than ever before! However, we cannot become complacent because we have the potential to make an even bigger difference in the lives of rural kids. There are more opportunities to partner with borrowers in our Multi-Family Housing and Community Facilities Programs, and I’ve set a lofty goal for summer 2017. Read more »