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Secretary’s Column: Food Safe Families

America has one of the safest and most abundant food supplies in the world. But even in this country, too many people get sick from the food they eat.

This year, one in six Americans will get food poisoning – that’s 48 million people. 128,000 will end up in the hospital. And 3,000 will die. These aren’t just statistics. These are real people, real families, impacted by the food they put on the table. Read more »

Strong Start for USDA’s Feds Feed Families Campaign

Our June Feds Feed Families totals are in, and I would like to give my USDA colleagues across the country a discreet, virtual high-five.

Today, Secretary Vilsack announced that USDA donated just over 100,000 pounds of food to the Feds Feed Families food drive during the month of June.  What a great start to the campaign! The National Office Feds Feed Families team continues to be inspired by the stories we are hearing from our counterparts in the field. Read more »

Farming Dreams and Independence Day

Young members of the Chedepo-Grebo tribe celebrate their cultural heritage by re-creating traditional decoration and attire during a recent cultural celebration in Guinda.  The tribe is utilizing an FSA Operating Loan to expand its specialty fruit and vegetable growing business focusing on the ethnic market in Northern California.

Young members of the Chedepo-Grebo tribe celebrate their cultural heritage by re-creating traditional decoration and attire during a recent cultural celebration in Guinda. The tribe is utilizing an FSA Operating Loan to expand its specialty fruit and vegetable growing business focusing on the ethnic market in Northern California.

As we reflect on this important month that celebrates our nation’s 235th anniversary, I thought I’d share a story about how Farm Service Agency (FSA) in California is helping people achieve and celebrate their own version of the American Dream.  This morning, I visited with a Liberian immigrant farming 50 acres of fruits and vegetables in the Capay Valley.  He has worked with Marianne Morton, county executive director in Yolo, Belle Davis, farm loan manager in San Joaquin, and other USDA staff on various farm loan programs and conservation program issues. Today, he uses an operating loan to further support his farming operations.  As he enthusiastically described his dream of building a small poultry facility near his walnut orchard, I was reminded of the role we at FSA play in helping people dream big things and ultimately achieve them. Read more »

Cooking Up Economic Opportunities, Tennessee Style

Tennessee Gourmet Co-Owner and Cumberland Culinary Center Manager Sue Sykes shows off new equipment purchased with help from a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant at Cumberland University's Cumberland Culinary Center on 7/12/2011. Seen behind her are USDA RD Business Programs Director for Tennessee Dan Beasley, USDA Rural Development Tennessee State Director Bobby Goode, Tennessee Gourmet Co-Owner Gary Doomer, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto, USDA RD Nashville Area Director Christopher Westbrook and Ron Reed's Signature Barbeque Sauce Company Owner Ron Reed, Cumberland University School of Business Dean Paul Stumb, USDA FSA State Director Gene Davidson and USDA Tennessee State Conservationist Kevin Brown.

Tennessee Gourmet Co-Owner and Cumberland Culinary Center Manager Sue Sykes shows off new equipment purchased with help from a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant at Cumberland University's Cumberland Culinary Center.

Born and raised in New England I can’t claim to know the finer details and intricacies of the delicious and competitive world of barbeque.  So when I came to Tennessee to highlight economic development opportunities at Cumberland University’s Cumberland Culinary Center I was pleased to see first-hand just how intense that competition can be  and how that competition is fueling small business opportunities and growth in rural Tennessee. Read more »

US Forest Service Finds that Forests Play Huge Role in Reducing Carbon and Higher Global Temps

Forests absorb carbon like a giant sponge into what scientists call a carbon sink. This fact is well known throughout the scientific community. However, what scientists weren’t sure of until now is the amount of carbon forests can store.

For years scientists knew a large amount of carbon was somehow being stored but could not identify exactly how this was done. This is because less than half of the carbon dioxide released through fossil fuel use remains in the atmosphere. The remaining carbon enters the oceans and other carbon sinks including forests. Read more »

Growing Jobs in Rural America

In President Obama’s July 11 press conference, he asked us all to look at the steps we can take short term in order to put folks back to work.  At the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), we have been promoting the domestic biobased industry because we know green jobs represent a growth investment.  On July 14, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will hold a public hearing during which biobased product manufacturer representatives will testify about how they are trying to help the United States win the future by investing in and creating domestic job growth.

As defined by USDA, biobased products are goods – other than food or feed – that are made from biological ingredients, including renewable domestic agricultural materials, forestry products, or intermediate chemicals.  The USDA BioPreferred® program, established by the 2008 farm bill, encourages the development, purchase, and use of innovative biobased products through preferred Federal Agency procurement and a voluntary biobased product labeling program. Read more »