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With USDA’s Help, a University in Pennsylvania is Making Big Changes to Student Housing

Acting USDA Rural Development Deputy Undersecretary Judith Canales (4th from left) and Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams (5th from left) broke ground recently with Mansfield University officials for Phase II of new student housing. Rural Development provided $35 million in Community Facilities loans toward the project which is slated for completion in fall 2013.

Acting USDA Rural Development Deputy Undersecretary Judith Canales (4th from left) and Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams (5th from left) broke ground recently with Mansfield University officials for Phase II of new student housing. Rural Development provided $35 million in Community Facilities loans toward the project which is slated for completion in fall 2013.

Mansfield University may be nestled in a tiny town in northern Pennsylvania, but they are moving ground on Phase II of a very big housing project. USDA Rural Development’s Acting Deputy Under Secretary, Judith Canalas and Pennsylvania Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams joined Mansfield University President Dr. Allan Golden and the Mansfield Auxiliary Corporation recently to break ground for Phase II of new suite style housing at the university that will offer students more space, create jobs in the community and help strengthen the economic vitality of the area. Read more »

FAS Partners With Nigeria for Food Safety

The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is working with the Nigerian government to help the country ensure its exported and imported food stays safe from farm to fork.

The training is part of FAS capacity-building efforts that support the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) of 2000, which aims to boost sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth, spur development and reduce poverty.

At the invitation of the Nigerian government, FAS sent a team of experts to conduct an assessment of Nigeria’s food safety system. They discovered Nigeria needed help developing a program to enforce food safety standards. Read more »

Together We Can Build Local and Regional Food Systems

On Wednesday, August 29th at 2pm EDT, USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will host the next presentation in its “Together We Can” webinar series to introduce partners to the resources and programs offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Wednesday’s webinar will focus on resources for building local and regional food systems in your community. Read more »

Forest Service Funds Urban Tree Projects in California

Local young people prepare the ground for tree plantings at the Urban Releaf ceremony in Oakland, Calif., on Aug. 20.

Local young people prepare the ground for tree plantings at the Urban Releaf ceremony in Oakland, Calif., on Aug. 20.

Urban forests are a vital part of our nation’s cities – they clean the air we breathe, capture pollution and stormwater and beautify our neighborhoods. Urban trees save cities millions of dollars in energy costs every year just from shade alone. U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell has called urban trees “the hardest working trees in America.”

Tidwell underscored that statement during a recent visit Oakland, Calif. to view Urban Releaf’s greening and community-building efforts. He presented Kemba Shakur, executive director, a check for $181,000 to support education and demonstrations projects, as well as tree planting and maintenance throughout the Oakland area. Read more »

Maine USDA Rural Development Staff Gears Up to Save Lives

Earlier this month I joined six other USDA staff members in an American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) training session in Bangor, Maine. In addition, 8 other staff was trained at a different facility in Portland, Maine in July. In total 15 staff members were provided with this valuable opportunity to learn how to save a life.

USDA Rural Development is taking a proactive approach to health and wellness and has purchased five AED units, which will be placed in all four area offices and in the state office to ensure the health and safety of its 69 staff members and any members of the public who need emergency assistance.

The training ensured that there was a least one employee educated to use the equipment in the case of an emergency. Read more »

Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 8/24/12

Tropical Storm Isaac as of August 23 at 2pm EDT.

Tropical Storm Isaac as of August 23 at 2pm EDT. Click image to enlarge.

Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA’s Drought Disaster response and assistance.

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor, dated August 21, reflects a persistence of drought across the majority of the nation.  Overall conterminous U.S. drought coverage stands at 63%, up slightly from 62% on August 14 but below the July 24 maximum of 64%.  In the last week, U.S. corn in drought climbed a percentage point to 86%, but still below the July 24 peak of 89%.  Soybeans in drought remained steady at 83%, five percentage points below the July 24 high.  Hay in drought remained steady at 63% for the third consecutive week, down from a high of 66% on July 17 and 24.  Cattle in drought rose a percentage point in the last week to 72%, slightly below the July 17 and 24 peak of 73%.  Crops and cattle in exceptional drought (D4) remained nearly unchanged – 8% of the U.S. corn, 10% of the soybeans, 12% of the hay, and 14% of the cattle. Read more »