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Small Loan Makes Big Difference for Family in Remote Area of Navajo Nation

Mark Snyder, Tony Hernandez and the Schulers check out the solar array.

Mark Snyder, Tony Hernandez and the Schulers check out the solar array.

Some mornings Nona Schuler would make the teeth-jarring drive along a washboard dirt road from her home on the Navajo Nation to her job in town only to discover when she got there that her earrings didn’t match. Without electricity and lighting, it was often difficult for her to see what she was doing in those early morning hours.

It was those small inconveniences that she spoke of most during a visit to her home on June 17 by USDA Rural Development Housing Administrator Tony Hernandez.

Hernandez, my staff, and I were at the Schulers to present the family with a certificate naming them as Homeownership Family of the Year for Arizona Rural Development. The designation was in honor of a solar PV system that was added to the Schuler home through a partnership with USDA, Grand Canyon Trust and Snyder Electric. Read more »

Exciting New Markets Open Up For Dairy Farmers Across the U.S.

U.S. dairy exports are currently valued at $6 billion and the country is the world’s leading exporter of skim milk powder, cheese, whey, and lactose products. USDA Photo Courtesy of Scott Bauer.

U.S. dairy exports are currently valued at $6 billion and the country is the world’s leading exporter of skim milk powder, cheese, whey, and lactose products. USDA Photo Courtesy of Scott Bauer.

Every June, USDA joins the rest of the country to celebrate Dairy Month. It is a time to thank our nation’s dairy producers and processors for their tireless work to produce quality dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Here at USDA, besides getting our fill of our favorite dairy products, we celebrate our nation’s dairy industry every day by finding new markets where people can enjoy their products. This often entails working with other countries’ governments to negotiate export and import requirements as well as helping businesses meet these requirements.

Our nation’s dairy exporters reach new markets with the help of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Export certificates are often the critical piece in the trade puzzle. On this front, AMS offers certificates for more than 80% of the countries that accept U.S. dairy exports. Our Dairy Programs can verify that businesses’ dairy products meet export requirements. The AMS Dairy Grading Branch provides export certificates for products or conditions for which they have documentation for or from plants they inspect. Read more »

Agriculture Remains the Backbone of West Virginia

Farming has always been a backbone of West Virginia. Check back next Thursday for another spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Farming has always been a backbone of West Virginia. Check back next Thursday for another spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

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.

West Virginia’s climate and topography earned our state the Mountain State nickname. Our rugged mountains also ensure our agricultural community remains extremely diverse. Since West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, farms have been the backbone of the state. According to the first agricultural census, conducted in West Virginia in 1870, there were 39,778 farms with 8,528,394 acres in production, with an average farm size of 214 acres. In the 2012 Census of Agriculture there were 21,480 farms in West Virginia with 3,606,674 acres in production, with an average farm size of 209 acres.

Unlike in many other states, West Virginia’s small farms (those farms selling less than $250,000 in agricultural products) account for nearly 29 percent of total farm sales in 2012, contrasting the US average of 11.1 percent. An even more telling statistic is that nearly half of sales of agricultural products were from farms selling less than $1,000,000, compared to the U.S. average of 33.6 percent. West Virginia has one of the highest ratios of small farms to total number of farms based on the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Read more »

Pollinator Protection: Conservation Helps Rare Butterfly

A monarch butterfly, a honey bee and an alfalfa leafcutter bee gather nectar from a showy milkweed. Photo by John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms.

A monarch butterfly, a honey bee and an alfalfa leafcutter bee gather nectar from a showy milkweed. Photo by John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms.

Every year, millions of tourists fly from central Mexico into the United States, first stopping in the deep American South and then continuing northward even into parts of southern Canada. How all of this is done without passports, customs agents or airplanes?

This is the annual journey made by monarch butterflies, one of the best-known and most beloved butterflies in North America.

The fact that the annual migration of these distinctive black and orange butterflies spans three countries and thousands of miles makes it an important and prolific pollinator over this large area. Read more »

The Food Bank-Food Hub Connection: A ‘Win-Win’ for Local Economies

Second Harvest holds ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 65,000 square-foot regional distribution center in Thomasville, Georgia.

Second Harvest holds ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 65,000 square-foot regional distribution center in Thomasville, Georgia.

Across the country, food banks are committed to providing healthy food for those in need. Food banks also have a vested interest in building stronger local economies and creating additional opportunities for the communities they serve.

There are currently more than 200 food banks in the country, with more than 63,000 affiliated agencies like (food pantries and shelters). This network distributes more than 2.5 billion pounds of food to needy Americans each year.

Strategic integration of local foods into a food bank’s operation is one way to create economic opportunities for farmers and provide fresh food to families and children. This is especially important in rural areas, which have rich agricultural assets but tend to experience higher poverty rates than metropolitan areas. Read more »

U.S. Showcases Products at Asia’s Largest Food and Beverage Show

FAS Administrator Phil Karsting visits the USA pavilion at SIAL China 2014.

FAS Administrator Phil Karsting visits the USA pavilion at SIAL China 2014.

It seemed as though the entire world was in Shanghai in mid-May, celebrating World Trade Week at SIAL China, Asia’s largest food and beverage trade show. The booming, bustling city was the perfect place for a show of its magnitude, where 99 U.S. companies and organizations showcased their products to the main players from China’s food and hospitality sectors.

The USA Pavilion was the largest international venue at the event and, of the U.S. companies exhibiting there, over half (54) were small or medium-sized businesses, 23 were new to the Chinese market, 16 were minority-owned and nine were completely new to exporting. Read more »