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Secretary Vilsack Tours Tornado Damage in Mississippi, Says USDA Rural Development Programs Can Help in Recovery Efforts

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Obama Administration Cabinet members Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, as well as Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate, Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills, and other state and local officials to tour areas in Alabama and Mississippi affected by last week’s tornadoes.

After visiting devastated sites in Birmingham and nearby areas, the group crossed over to Mississippi, where they surveyed the damage done to Smithville, a town of approximately 1000 that was almost literally wiped off the map. Read more »

In Mississippi, Merrigan Plants Seeds That Will Grow Young Minds

In a two-day span, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan may have changed the lives of up to 2,000 young Mississippians.

Recently, Deputy Secretary Merrigan brought an outstanding presentation on the future of agriculture to the campuses of Mississippi’s two land grant universities: Mississippi State University in Starkville; and Alcorn State University in Lorman. Each presentation was attended by hundreds of people — mostly students who left enlightened about the world that waited for them in the wide arena of agriculture. Read more »

Champions of Change: Autrey Mill Middle School Cooking Club

Cross posted from the Let’s Move! blog:

On Wednesday, April 20, I was notified that I had received a Champions of Change award and was invited to participate in a roundtable discussion with Administration officials and several chefs and nutritionist specialists. We were asked to discuss the healthy schools initiative, the Chefs Move to Schools project and what we were doing in our communities.

I was excited to receive the award and the invitation and headed to Washington, D.C. The Chefs Move to Schools program began June 2010, when The First Lady invited chefs to get involved with schools to help students make healthier choices in eating, learn what healthier choices are, plan and plant gardens, work with school cafeterias–whatever might make a difference in children’s eating habits. Read more »

U.S. Foods and Beverages Attract Crowds at Korea Trade Show as United States Pushes U.S.-Korea Trade Agreements

Approximately 40 U.S. food companies from every region of the United States set up shop last week at the annual Seoul Food and Hotel 2011 Trade Show, the largest food show in Korea. This year, excitement in the U.S. pavilion was particularly high as the United States recently concluded negotiations with South Korea on the pending U.S.-Korea trade agreement (KORUS), which will provide American agriculture with improved access to Korea’s $1 trillion economy.

The United States is already Korea’s top supplier of a broad variety of food and farm products. U.S. agriculture, fish and forestry exports to Korea totaled $5.8 billion in 2010, making Korea the fifth largest export market for U.S. farm products. Under the KORUS, American products will become significantly more affordable for Korea’s 49 million consumers, since the trade agreement will eliminate most of Korea’s tariffs (taxes on imports). Read more »

USDA Presents Nutrition Excellence Award to Dual-Language Elementary School in the Nation’s Capital

Schoolchildren at Bruce-Monroe Elementary School in Washington, D.C. celebrate lunch after receiving their Gold Award of Distinction honor through USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge.

Schoolchildren at Bruce-Monroe Elementary School in Washington, D.C. celebrate lunch after receiving their Gold Award of Distinction honor through USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge.

As soon as you enter the front doors, it is clear that nutrition and health are at the forefront of life at Bruce-Monroe Elementary in Washington, D.C.  That message was unmistakable on Thursday, April 28, when I visited the dual-language school to celebrate their Gold Level of Distinction honor in USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge.  But more importantly, the event represented a broader commitment to the welfare of the kids we met, and to our nation’s next great generation. Read more »

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel is Joined by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree in Announcing Earth Day Funds to Help Preserve Maine Clam Flats

At an Earth Day celebration in Thomaston, Maine on April 23, members of the community gathered to hear an announcement that will have a major benefit to the surrounding environment and shellfish industry, helping to preserve 1,200 acres of clam flats in the area.

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel was joined by Congresswoman Chellie Pingree to announce that the Town of Thomaston will receive Federal funds to make numerous improvements to its wastewater infrastructure. The Town will also contribute funds to make the project possible. The announcement brings the total investment Rural Development has provided to the Town of Thomaston to a total of over $9 million. Read more »