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Secretary Vilsack: Why I’m Proud of Our USDA Employees

USDA employees across the country and around the world do critical work that impacts millions of lives. I am proud of our employees for many reasons, and I want to share just a few of their great accomplishments under the Obama Administration.

  1. Since 2009 the Rural Housing Service has financed 743,309 home loans.
  2. Since 2009 the Rural Housing Service supported improvements to 276 hospital and medical clinics, 166 schools and 401 libraries in rural America.
  3. Since 2009 the Rural Utilities Service completed 176 broadband projects providing new or improved service to 104,471 subscribers, including 5,858 businesses and 647 critical community facilities.
  4. Since 2009 the Rural Utilities Service financed 3,785 water projects providing clean water to thousands of rural residents.
  5. Since 2009 the Rural Business Service awarded 15,727 grants and loans to aid 65,636 businesses expand opportunity and create jobs.
  6. Since 2009 the Rural Business Service authorized 7,586 awards under the Rural Energy for America Program, saving or generating 8,549,590 megawatt hours of energy.
  7. Since 2009 the Food, Nutrition and Consumer Service expanded summer feeding programs to an additional 9,546 sites, bringing the total number of sites to 42,266.
  8. Since 2009 the Food, Nutrition and Consumer Service instituted Electronic Benefit Transfer systems in an additional 3,087 Farmers Markets to allow SNAP beneficiaries greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables while supporting more local and regional food systems.
  9. Since 2009 the Farm Service Agency processed 159,475 loans to farmers and ranchers, with a majority of the loans going to beginning farmers and ranchers, and socially disadvantaged producers.
  10. Since 2009 the Natural Resources Conservation Service entered into 190,822 contracts under Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), providing conservation benefits for more than 108 million acres.
  11. Since 2009 the Farm Service Agency enrolled 286,635 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts, bringing into this conservation effort or retaining 14,131,055 acres.
  12. Since 2009 the Forest Service partnered with state and local interests in 23 projects under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program to improve over 500,000 acres of forests, producing 1.2 million tons of biomass for renewable energy production.
  13. Since 2009 the Forest Service and the brave men and women of the Service have helped fight more than 285,000 forest fires, risking their lives to protect lives and property.
  14. Since 2009 the National Institute of Food and Agriculture supported research projects resulting in 392 patent applications.
  15. Since 2009 the Agricultural Research Service in the area of Genetics, Genomes and Biotechnology alone generated over 3,500 publications, 830 Material Transfer Agreements, and 70 patent applications filed.
  16. Since 2009, the Foreign Agricultural Service helped challenge 751 sanitary and phytosanitary barriers to the export of American agricultural products, helping to spur record exports of American agricultural products.
  17. Since 2009 the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reduced processing time for non-regulated status petitions involving biotechnology by 332 days.
  18. Since 2009 the Agricultural Marketing Service assisted in purchasing $6.8 billion of product, helping to stabilize producer income.
  19. Since 2009 the Food Safety and Inspection Service adopted new Performance Standards for poultry and turkey inspections that will prevent 25,000 illnesses a year due to Salmonella and Campylobacter.
  20. The Food Safety and Inspection Service partnered with the Ad Council to launch the “Food Safe Families” ad campaign.  Since then, USDA consumer food safety messages have reached an estimated 291 million people, helping families and caregivers of young children prepare safe food.
  21. The National Agricultural Statistics Service worked on the 2012 Agricultural Census and obtained a response rate of over 80 percent to the survey sent to more than 3 million producers.
  22. Since 2009 the Economic Research Service has published, on a yearly basis, a fact sheet on the condition of the rural economy that highlights persistent poverty and employment challenges that rural America faces, reminding policymakers of the importance of addressing those challenges.
  23. Since 2009, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration has identified more than 460 instances of underfunded market accounts of funds held in trust for livestock sellers, and 110 instances of market weighing violations, returning to producers over $14,000,000.
  24. Since 2009, USDA’s Departmental Management has spearheaded the Blueprint for Stronger Service that has saved USDA more than $920 million – an effort which to date has allowed USDA to avoid furloughs and layoffs as a result of the sequester.

These are just 24 of the hundreds of examples of extraordinary work going on around the country by USDA employees. Our nation is truly fortunate that so many dedicated people serving the American public are back to work, so that these accomplishments can continue to grow.

 

The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Mission in Action: Meet CSIs Toot, Curb and Carson

FSIS Consumer Safety Inspectors (CSIs) Anthony Carson, Rick Toot, and Rosalinda Curb are just a few of the exemplary FSIS employees who work hard every day to protect public health and ensure the humane treatment of livestock presented for slaughter.

Anthony Carson, a CSI in the Dallas district, contributes greatly to enforcing humane handling policy at the cull cattle plant where he works.

The oldest son of a small-town veterinarian, Carson has worked with cattle for as long as he can remember. Carson’s father has been his greatest influence. “Dad gave me that love of animal husbandry, instilled in me a strong work ethic, and showed me the importance of constant self-improvement.” Read more »

Busting Bugs: USDA Creates Online Tools to ID Pests

Do you work at a port or international border where identifying potentially destructive agricultural pests is part of your job? Are you a student or teacher interested in learning more about potential and existing agricultural pests? Have you ever seen a creepy crawly thing in your backyard and wondered if it might be an invasive species? If you fit any of these descriptions, then ID Tools may be just what you need.

Created by USDA-APHIS’ Identification Technology Program (ITP), ID Tools helps agency staff to quickly identify pests, including insects, diseases, harmful weeds, and more, through an efficient, online database system. ID Tools currently includes more than 30 websites covering a vast array of pests and pests associated with specific commodities. These tools help to keep international cargo—and economic activity—moving as efficiently as possible at U.S. ports of entry. However, ITP’s ID Tools web site, which receives about 12,000 visitors a month, is not for experts alone. Read more »

Ready, Set, Learn: USDA Lessons for Our Nation’s Next Generation

Photo Courtesy of Arlington Public Schools.

In honor of back to school week, USDA offers an array of youth-focused curriculum and learning resources. Photo Courtesy of Arlington Public Schools.

It’s that time of year! Back to school season is upon us and agencies across the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are working to ensure a stronger and healthier future for our nation’s next generation of leaders. That means providing a happy and healthy learning environment for our kids, and helping them grow up with the tools they need to succeed. Read more »

USDA Grasshopper Warrior Wins Prestigious Award for Life’s Work

Nelson Foster inspecting cages used to test the effectiveness of different baits used to suppress grasshoppers.

Nelson Foster inspecting cages used to test the effectiveness of different baits used to suppress grasshoppers.

Grasshoppers and Mormon crickets of the West beware: R. Nelson Foster, of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is roaming the rangelands looking for you, and when he finds you, he’ll stop your feeding frenzy right in its tracks.

Foster serves as Assistant Laboratory Director at APHIS’ Center for Plant Health Science and Technology in Phoenix, Arizona. For over forty years, he has worked in the lab and in the field conducting groundbreaking research mainly on grasshoppers and similar insects such as Mormon crickets. Read more »

USDA Serving Montana Ranchers, Farmers

Ben Hofer, Rockport Colony Secretary, with a Kangal. NWRC researchers are studying the potential of these livestock guard animals for use where large predators include wolves and grizzly bear. The Kangal breed is gentle and trustworthy with their people or animals, but if the need arises they can become very protective. (USDA Photo by Under Secretary Edward Avalos)

Ben Hofer, Rockport Colony Secretary, with a Kangal. NWRC researchers are studying the potential of these livestock guard animals for use where large predators include wolves and grizzly bear. The Kangal breed is gentle and trustworthy with their people or animals, but if the need arises they can become very protective. (USDA Photo by Under Secretary Edward Avalos)

USDA plays an important and vital role in supporting rural communities throughout the country.  On my recent trip to Montana, I saw firsthand how the work, services and programs provided by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) directly impact stakeholder day-to-day operations.

After a listening session in Cut Bank, I was invited to the Rockport Colony, by Ben Hofer, the Secretary for the Hutterite community near Pendroy, Montana.  This impressive communal farming/ranching operation includes sheep, cattle, hog and poultry production, a dairy, and meat-processing facility, as well as fruit, vegetable, and grain production.  I quickly learned USDA is an important partner, providing support for water lines, fencing, and wildlife damage management. Read more »