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Secretary’s Column: Strengthening America’s National Forests

As harvest season continues, so does the historic drought that has impacted so many producers and communities. Today, USDA and other Federal agencies continue doing all we can to help farmers and ranchers. Unfortunately, due to inaction by Congress, many programs authorized under the 2008 Farm Bill expired on October 1, and other aspects of the law will continue to expire in the coming months.

While we continue to urge Congress to take up a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible, USDA continues our work to further economic opportunity in rural America.

This includes our efforts to protect, restore and properly manage America’s National Forests. Read more »

Growing Food for the Common Good at an Idaho People’s Garden

This Idaho People’s Garden donated over 5,000 pounds of food this summer to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry in Boise.

This Idaho People’s Garden donated over 5,000 pounds of food this summer to the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry in Boise.

Located on about a half an acre of land in Boise, Idaho is a USDA People’s Garden. This land wasn’t always so fruitful. In fact, it was barren for almost 30 years due to a lack of water available on the property. In 2010, the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Idaho State Office teamed up with Amity United Methodist Church of Boise to create a People’s Garden. The land is now a flourishing garden that produces many fruits and vegetables year round thanks in part to a new water distribution system. Read more »

Thanks to USDA, Rural Alaskan Native Villages are Receiving Safe Water for the First Time

Many communities in remote rural Alaska are only accessible by plane or boat and essentially inaccessible during the long, hard winters. They lag far behind the lower 48 states in having safe and dependable drinking water and suitable waste disposal systems available.  The Rural Alaska Village Grant (RAVG) program supports the development and construction of water and wastewater systems to correct dire health and sanitation conditions in those villages. I had the recent opportunity to accompany USDA Water and Environmental Program RAVG Manager Tasha Deardorff and other program partners on site visits of two such remote rural communities to check the status of current projects.

It’s nearly 400 miles from Anchorage to Bethel, the regional hub.  Our first destination from Bethel was the remote Native village of Toksook  Bay some 114 miles away.  We were greeted by a resident who transported us via four-wheeler  (all terain vehicle) to the city office. Read more »

Wild Horses Take APHIS Veterinarian to New Heights

APHIS Veterinarian Brianna Schur works at the Warm Springs facility.

APHIS Veterinarian Brianna Schur works at the Warm Springs facility.

It’s been a tough year for members of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in Oregon. The drought-blistered landscape of parched earth and wilting crops shows it. Then there’s the underlying damage created by two other forces of nature – menacing wildfires and wild horses. Read more »

President Obama Proclaims National Forest Products Week

Most American’s don’t realize that Forest products are a part of daily life. From buildings, bridges, and paper, to energy, chemicals and even jobs, our society depends on trees to provide for us.  In recognition of the importance of forest products to our nation, President Obama has proclaimed the week of October 21-27, 2012 as National Forest Products Week.

The Forest Service has been conducting forest products research for more than 100 years in support of its mission to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the Nation’s forests. Forest products research promotes the responsible use of wood. New products and technologies that are developed through this research create jobs, especially in rural areas, and stimulate economic growth. Read more »

Looking for an Internship? USDA Provides Outreach to STEM Students in Arizona

STEM – the fields of study in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

No one had trouble communicating despite the acronym overload at a STEM Internship Expo hosted recently at Phoenix College in Arizona.

Several USDA agencies gathered under the shade of a canopy with tables packed with information on internship programs and career opportunities for STEM students. USDA Rural Development staff was joined by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Forest Service. Other USDA agencies were also represented. Read more »