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Challenge Builds Positive Relationship between Louisiana Black Farming Community and FSA

When Mike Sullivan met a 30-year-old beginning farmer, he never thought it would launch a relationship that would influence an entire African-American farming community in the Cane River region of Louisiana.

“Sometimes good things can come out of a not-so-good situation,” said Sullivan, farm loan manager in the Natchitoches Farm Service Agency (FSA).

That’s what happened the day Thomas Roque, Jr., walked into the Natchitoches FSA County Office. Roque was hoping to get a loan to purchase calves to raise and sell for profit on his family’s 800-acre farm, purchased by his great-great grandparents in 1916. But things didn’t work out as easily as he hoped. Read more »

Wildlife Services’ Program Feeds the Hungry

USDA sponsors many great programs like the “Feds Feed Families” employee food drive, gleaning fruit from research farms, and harvesting vegetables from the People’s Gardens to provide food for the hungry.  The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services (WS) program has taken a unique approach to feeding the hungry.  Last year in the Eastern Region, WS donated more than 74 tons of venison to food banks and charitable organizations.  WS employees are proud to be able to provide for those in need by utilizing these animals, which are lethally removed at the request of local individuals and agencies.

WS provides assistance when wildlife causes problems.  In this case, the venison was collected from white-tailed deer that were taken for safety and protection purposes.  The population of deer has grown from one-quarter million nationally in 1900 to more than 17 million today.  Some locations request WS to remove deer to prevent wildlife strikes at airports and vehicle-deer collisions.  When herds become locally over-abundant, populations also can mean damage to threatened and endangered plant species and to public and private property. Read more »

French Firefighters Learn from California Visit

French firefighters learn from California visit. Capt. Philippe DelQuie talks with Helitanker Superintendent  Rocco Terracciano at the San Bernardino Air Tanker Base. USFS photo.

French firefighters learn from California visit. Capt. Philippe DelQuie talks with Helitanker Superintendent Rocco Terracciano at the San Bernardino Air Tanker Base. USFS photo.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region recently welcomed French fire officials Captain Philippe DelQuie and Major Pierre Bisone. The visit was part of a very successful seven year educational collaboration between France and the U.S. through the Forest Service Fire and Aviation Management’s International Fire office. Read more »

Hunger: A Broken Street Light

Like a broken street light, childhood hunger impacts the well-being of the community and will only be fixed when the local community recognizes it, takes an interest, and decides to address it. When those who care come together, pool their talents, and take advantage of available resources, things start to happen. Things get fixed.

The city of Dallas is getting serious about ending childhood hunger. Just a month after the October kick-off of the No Kid Hungry Texas campaign, local leaders came together for a hunger summit in Dallas in November. The diverse line-up of speakers was inspiring! There were leaders from Congress, all levels of government, faith-based organizations, food banks, non-profit organizations and schools. Every speaker was passionate and convincing about the need and ability to end childhood hunger. Read more »

New Center Provides Animal Health Assistance in Armenia

A man moves his family’s sheep herd down from the mountains for the winter. These sheep are one of many herds of sheep and cattle that will pass by the FVSC on their seasonal herd movements around Armenia and benefit from the center.  Photo credit: Elizabeth Leonardi (USDA/FAS) and Gocha Shainidze (USDA/FAS Georgia)

A man moves his family’s sheep herd down from the mountains for the winter. These sheep are one of many herds of sheep and cattle that will pass by the FVSC on their seasonal herd movements around Armenia and benefit from the center. Photo credit: Elizabeth Leonardi (USDA/FAS) and Gocha Shainidze (USDA/FAS Georgia)

In November, I joined other representatives from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) for a dedication ceremony for the Farm and Veterinary Service Center (FVSC) in Armenia. The opening ceremony was attended by more than 70 community members, farmers, veterinarians and government officials from throughout the Syunik Marz region. Prior to the ceremony, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan visited the center to tour the facility and witness firsthand the products and services that will be readily available to local farmers. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Enhancing American Agriculture

This week reminded us that American agriculture continues to be a bright spot in our nation’s economy.  Following strong numbers last year, we learned that farm income is up again in 2011 – with a 28 percent increase in net income.  Our farm exports this year hit a new record high of $137 billion.

This is making a real difference for America’s farm families, whose household income was up 3 percent in 2010 and is forecast to grow again this year. Read more »