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A Nebraska Library Observes Earth Day with Energy Efficiency Improvements

Energy savings was the theme for the Earth Day event held with Garfield County in Burwell, Nebraska in April.  Rural residents gathered at the Garfield County Library with USDA Rural Development Nebraska State Director Maxine Moul and staff.  Garfield County was presented with a plaque from Rural Development for securing the funding needed to acquire a more efficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) unit for the Library that serves more than 1,900 rural residents.

USDA Rural Development provided funding that was leveraged with funds from Garfield County and the Friends of the Garfield County Library to replace the old heating and cooling units with a more efficient HVAC system consisting of three new 13 air conditioners and heat pumps with backup heaters.  The improvements will help the overall budget of the Library through the energy savings. Read more »

Colorado Officials Meet with USDA Business Programs Administrator to Discuss Renewable Energy Opportunities

Attendees at the recent “Building a Sustainable Renewable Energy Program for the 21st Century” conference in Denver, Colorado, participated in discussions about how renewable energy opportunities could create new jobs and reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil. Among those in attendance was USDA Rural Development Business Programs Administrator Judy Canales.

The event began with a luncheon presentation from Greg Krissek, ICM, Director of Government Affairs and Jim Imbler, ZeaChem, Chief Executive Officer.  Krissek’s presentation to the group focused on the ethanol and biofuels industry.  Krissek has been in the business for 11 years and currently oversees 102 plants with 6.5 billion gallons of ethanol production per year.    He noted that America needs to take what we have learned from first generation biofuels and build on it through adding cellulosic changes to the process.  Imbler focused his discussion on new technology in biorefinery development and in particular a cellulose-based biorefinery platform that could be capable of producing advanced ethanol, fuels and chemicals.  The company is headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado.  They currently operate a research and development laboratory facility in Menlo Park, California and have a 250,000 gallon per year cellulosic biorefinery under construction in Boardman, Oregon. Read more »

U.S. Wine Exports to Canada Increase Amid Strong Trade Relations

Maryanne Wedner, of Grgich Hills Estates, was one of many representatives showcasing their vintages at the California Wine Fair in Ottawa.

Maryanne Wedner, of Grgich Hills Estates, was one of many representatives showcasing their vintages at the California Wine Fair in Ottawa.

The United States and Canada have maintained a strong trade relationship over the years, sharing signature products from both countries. In 2010, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada were valued at $16.8 billion. Geographical proximity, similar business practices and eating habits make Canada an attractive export market for new-to-export and new-to-market U.S. companies. Canadians often travel to the United States, developing a taste for our regional flavors, including California wine. Read more »

Environmental Benefits Flow Downstream

Every year a low-oxygen, or hypoxic, area forms in the northern Gulf of Mexico, just below the mouth of the Mississippi River. Fish and other wildlife often avoid hypoxic zones, which can be deadly to marine organisms. Known contributors to the Gulf’s hypoxic zone include runoff from urban areas, land development and agriculture.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with farmers and ranchers to help reduce agricultural runoff that may contribute to the hypoxic zone, in part through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). Read more »

Take Karen with You! Food Safety Tips Now Available 24/7 on Your Smartphone

USDA’s virtual food safety representative, Ask Karen, is now available in mobile format. That

As Under Secretary for Food Safety, one of my top priorities has been improving communications tools to get food safety information to more people, much faster. Today, it has been my pleasure to announce a new tool that has the potential to really reduce the number of foodborne illnesses, especially as we approach the summer grilling season. Read more »

NESC Breaks Ground on Recovery Act Broadband Project

Wednesday, April, 20, 2011 marked an important day for northeastern Minnesotans. Ground was broken to mark the beginning of a three-year project to supply high-speed broadband access across eight counties and surrounding of the Arrowhead region of Minnesota. The project was funded with $43.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in conjunction with USDA Rural Development. The Northeast Service Cooperative (NESC) in Mt. Iron, Minn. will oversee the project.

Senator Al Franken attended the groundbreaking and told the gathered media that creating rural broadband opportunities was a big part of the Recovery Act. Read more »