Cross posted from the White House blog:
During recent days we have had the honor as part of a U.S. Presidential Delegation to accompany more than 150 U.S. Special Olympians to the 2013 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. In addition to the Opening Ceremonies of the games on Tuesday, the Presidential Delegation had a unique chance to spend time with the athletes and view some of the events.
While we have made a special effort to cheer on the U.S. athletes on behalf of the President, the Special Olympics is about far more than winning – it’s about encouraging diversity, celebrating inclusion and recommitting to the human rights of persons with disabilities around the world.
People with disabilities come from all walks of life, genders, every social class, and all religious traditions. Most of us have a family member, friend or acquaintance with a disability. People with disabilities make tremendous contributions to our society, to our families, to our neighborhoods – adding to the diversity that makes America a unique and special place to call home. Read more »
Rural Development is the lead Federal agency that works to ensure that rural families have access to safe, well-built, affordable homes. In February 2012, the agency initiated a two-year, pilot refinancing program in 19 states hardest hit by the Nation’s housing downturn to help eligible USDA borrowers reduce their monthly housing costs.
Today, USDA announced that the program is expanding to include eligible rural residents in Puerto Rico, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Read more »
Demand for local and regional foods is strong and growing, as consumers across the country are looking for healthy food options grown and raised in their own communities. USDA has long supported this effort along with the procurement of regional foods by schools and helping them increase food literacy among the nation’s children.
These efforts will be the topic of the “Showcasing Local Foods” session at USDA’s 2013 Agriculture Outlook Forum, February 21-22, where Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will moderate a panel of speakers to discuss how local foods can lead to more nutritious diets. Lela Reichart with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture will discuss the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, which focuses on nutrition knowledge and related topics. USDA Food and Nutrition Service’s Deborah Kane will discuss the Farm to School Program that isbringing more locally sourced fresh fruits and vegetables into school cafeterias. Tom Coon, from Michigan State University, will discuss Cooperative Extension’s role in educational programs related to regional and local food systems. Read more »
“Beginning farmers are a key to twenty-first-century agriculture," says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Clay Blackburn is a 25-year-old Missouri farmer who works several part-time jobs to keep his cow/calf operation growing. He currently leases 200 acres of land until he can build enough capital to buy.
“It’s tough for a young person to get started in farming,” said Blackburn. “Finding land is the most difficult thing, but I’m determined to eventually make this my full-time job.” Read more »
During a brief but busy trip to Oregon Monday, January 28, Agriculture Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager highlighted opportunities to increase public-private collaboration and innovative financing models for rural community and economic development. That morning, Mr. Tonsager delivered the keynote address at the Harvesting Clean Energy conference in Corvallis. Later that day in Portland, Mr. Tonsager sat down with a diverse group of business, technology, education, agriculture, finance and state government representatives to stress the importance of inter-entity teamwork to achieve a common vision for a self-sustaining, prosperous rural America.
“Our mission is to help create jobs in rural America,” Mr. Tonsager explained. “We are looking for creativity, especially as it relates to putting capital together for rural areas so that we can extend our resources further in a thoughtful, sensible way.” Read more »
USDA programs have targeted assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers since the 1992 Agricultural Credit Improvement Act. Farms or ranches are considered “beginning” if the operators have managed them for 10 years or less. The Economic Research Service has looked at the trend in numbers of beginning farmers and ranchers in recent decades and examined some key characteristics that distinguish them from established farms using the Census of Agriculture and the Agricultural Resource Management Survey. Taken every five years, the Census provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation.
For more than two decades, the share of farms operated by beginning farmers has been in decline. Beginning farms and ranches accounted for 22 percent of the nation’s 2 million family farms and ranches in 2011 – down from about 38 percent in 1982. Consistent with this trend, the average age of principal farm operators in the United States has risen in that period, from 50 to 58. Read more »