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USDA 2012 Agricultural Outlook Forum: Making Locally Grown Food More Available

Apples sold at a winter farmers market in Somerville, Mass.  Farmers markets are an important source of fresh local foods and can also be key to the economic success of farms and businesses within their communities.

Apples sold at a winter farmers market in Somerville, Mass. Farmers markets are an important source of fresh local foods and can also be key to the economic success of farms and businesses within their communities.

As I’ve traveled the country, I’ve talked with more and more consumers who want a personal relationship with their food and are demanding to know more about it, where it came from and how it got to their plate.  I’ve also talked with more and more producers who see the growing market demand for local food as a ripe business opportunity.  One of USDA’s goals is to connect the two. Read more »

Healthy Meals and Healthy Kids

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined First Lady Michelle Obama and celebrity cook Rachel Ray at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday, January 25, 2012 to speak with faculty and parents about the United States Department of Agriculture’s new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. An important accomplishment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that President Obama signed into law last year, USDA is making the first major changes in school meals in over 15 years. The new standards encourage fruits and vegetables every day of the week, increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk and making sure kids are getting proper portion sizes. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined First Lady Michelle Obama and celebrity cook Rachel Ray at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday, January 25, 2012 to speak with faculty and parents about the United States Department of Agriculture’s new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

Today we celebrate an historic achievement on behalf of kids across America. We have accomplished a critical step on the road to deliver healthier, more nutritious food to our nation’s schoolchildren.  Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the final rule that sets the standards for critical improvements to the child nutrition programs that serve millions of children across the country every day. Read more »

The President’s State of the Union Address

Last night, in his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined his plan to build an economy that lasts – one that fulfills the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put a little away for retirement.  He laid out his vision for a nation where everyone gets a fair shot and an economy that makes, creates and innovates. I know we can get there, because we’ve been there before.  That’s how things have always worked on our farms, in our businesses, and especially in small towns and rural communities.

Visit HERE to read or watch the President’s State of the Union address, or to submit questions to the White House about the speech.

With USDA Support, Clemson University Research Revolutionizes Environmental Monitoring

Relay stations send water quality data via satellite to Clemson University's high-performance computing center. Data is collected by sensors in a patent-pending buoy in the river. The buoy also holds the patent-pending MoteStack, a battery-powered computer smaller than a Rubik's Cube that stores and transmits data to the relay station.  (Photo courtesy Clemson University.)

Relay stations send water quality data via satellite to Clemson University's high-performance computing center. Data is collected by sensors in a patent-pending buoy in the river. The buoy also holds the patent-pending MoteStack, a battery-powered computer smaller than a Rubik's Cube that stores and transmits data to the relay station. (Photo courtesy Clemson University.)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

When we talk about population growth, often the first question that comes to mind is, “How are we going to feed everyone?”  While an important question that needs to be addressed, rising populations also put increasing and competing demands on our natural resources. And these demands are putting local and state economies at risk. Within the next decade, solutions will be necessary to optimize water use while preserving rivers and streams. Read more »

New USDA Funded Arizona Fire Station Lowers Response Time and Improves Public Safety

Rain poured through the roof of the old Black Canyon, Arizona, fire station, making the floor slippery and rusting the tin that covered the roof. Nonetheless, the one ambulance and fire truck that would fit into the aging metal shed still faired better than the other five vehicles parked outside. Those vehicles were not only pelted by rain and hail, but Arizona’s scorching sun baked them during much of the year—rotting the tires, fading the paint, and drying out the parts and equipment. Parking the vehicles outside also meant that the theft risk was greater, which increased insurance rates. Read more »

USDA and SBA Officials Discuss Job Creation and Business Investment Opportunities

Recently USDA Rural Development Administrator for Business and Cooperative Programs Judith Canales joined Small Business Administration (SBA) officials in Syracuse, New York, to discuss opportunities to promote rural small business investment and job creation.  The rural investment roundtable event was held at Dairylea Cooperative, Inc.

As part of the Startup America Initiative, SBA recently announced the creation of a $1 billion Impact Investment Fund through its Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) Program.  The Impact Fund will invest in distressed areas as well as in emerging sectors such as clean energy. SBA provides up to a 2 to1 match to private capital raised by this fund, partnering with private investors to target “impact” investments. Read more »