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Greater Private Sector Diversity Sought on USDA’s Agricultural Trade Advisory Committees

The face of America – and of American agriculture – is changing. The number of farms in the United States has grown 4 percent and the operators of those farms have become more diverse in the past five years, according to results of USDA’s most recent Census of Agriculture.  The 2007 Census counted nearly 30 percent more women as principal farm operators. The count of Hispanic operators grew by 10 percent, and the counts of American Indian, Asian and Black farm operators increased as well.  In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of minority-owned businesses grew more than 45 percent between 2002 and 2007.

To reflect the diversity of our agricultural sector and business community, USDA is stepping up its efforts to continually supplement its seven Agricultural Trade Advisory Committees (ATACs) with new members, especially those who represent minorities, women, or persons with disabilities. We believe that people with different backgrounds and views will make the work of these committees, and thus of USDA, more effective. Read more »

A Pumpkin Shortage? Here’s the Scoop

How worried should Charlie Brown be? Is there any truth to what some are calling the Great Pumpkin Shortage?

After Hurricane Irene pummeled and soaked the Northeast, the media began reporting that damage to the pumpkin crop portended a general shortage of pumpkins for the Halloween season and beyond. Heavy rains in the spring caused some farmers to plant later than usual, and some areas experienced hot, dry weather during the summer months, further fueling concerns about this year’s harvest. Read more »

Successes of the New Era in Civil Rights at USDA

In April 2009, Secretary Vilsack called for a new era in civil rights and directed the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) to help lead a comprehensive effort to improve USDA’s record.  That meant correcting errors, learning from past mistakes, and charting a stronger path for the future where all Americans are treated with dignity and respect by USDA employees.  To make these goals a reality, my staff and employees across USDA have been working extremely hard over the past two and a half years and I am very proud to highlight some of the strides we’ve made.

To begin with, we want to make sure that USDA’s policies, regulations and decisions are inclusive and respect the rights of all the American people.  To make sure USDA agencies are in compliance with civil rights regulations and policies, OASCR conducts reviews to determine the civil rights impact of any new policy, action, rule or decision.  Since 2009, we have doubled the number of reviews conducted, improved the quality by providing training to folks who conduct them, and worked with agencies within USDA to improve their decision in nearly a third of the cases we reviewed. Read more »

USDA Recognized for Remarkable Efforts at the Feds Feed Families Closing Ceremony

This week, USDA was recognized at the 3rd Annual Feds Feed Families Closing Ceremony at the Pentagon.  Employees around the country started over 2,000 food drives that led the department to contribute the most pounds per employee of any federal department or agency: almost 15 pounds per employee for a total of 1,791,393 pounds of food!  USDA was also recognized for bringing in the most donations in the large division category and for donating the most pounds of food during the month of August.  Thanks especially to our People’s Gardens around the country and employees’ innovative gleaning efforts, USDA recorded 1,397,475 pounds of food for the final month of the food drive.

Employees from every mission area and state participated and helped the department exceed the initial call to raise 500,000 pounds of food.  Nearly 100 USDA employees were included on the Office of Personnel Management’s  (OPM) Hall of Fame for making one-time donations of 250 pounds or more.  And many more employees joined together to fill the shelves of food banks and pantries.  This further demonstrates our employees’ dedication to caring and sharing in the communities they serve. Read more »

APHIS Vet Touts Diversity of Career Paths in the Veterinary Field

Hi, I’m Dr. Keith Wiggins, the Director of Veterinary Regulatory Support for USDA APHIS’s Plant Protection and Quarantine program. I’m the leader of an elite, diverse team of 21 veterinarians who safeguard America from animal diseases by regulating animal products, by-products, and regulated garbage.  I’ve been with APHIS since 2005.

My team was recently awarded a Deputy Administrator’s Safeguarding Award for the informational documents and “No Free Ride” video we created to educate the public on how to handle regulated garbage.  Our job can be pretty intense when you think about how a wrong decision could potentially let in a disease that could potentially cost billions of dollars and affect people’s lives.  But we work hard to ensure the US stays free of potentially devastating animal diseases. Read more »

Celebrating the Weeks Act with Green Mountain National Forest

The Hapgood Pond Recreation Area on the Green Mountain National Forest displays its fall foliage splendor.

The Hapgood Pond Recreation Area on the Green Mountain National Forest displays its fall foliage splendor.

Approximately 200 people joined employees of the Green Mountain National Forest at the Fall Foliage Festival to celebrate the centennial of the Weeks Act in Warren, Vt. Oct. 2. Read more »