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USDA Announcing Action Plan on Interagency Coordination and Collaboration for the Protection of Indian Sacred Sites

As part of President Obama’s commitment to honoring Government-to-Government relationships with Tribal Nations, the federal government is continuing to strengthen its relationships in Indian Country. The Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Defense, Interior, and Energy joined the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation and released an action plan to implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding interagency coordination and collaboration for the protection of Indian Sacred Sites.

Last week during the National Congress of American Indian’s (NCAI) Executive Council Winter Session, USDA Deputy Undersecretary, Arthur “Butch” Blazer, announced that he will help  lead USDA’s efforts for the implementation of the MOU.  Due to his expertise Blazer is the ideal choice to lead the USDA component of the Action Plan.  Prior to his position at USDA, Blazer served as the New Mexico State Forester where he was the first Native American to hold that position. During his tenure as State Forester, he was also named as Chair of the Council of Western State Foresters and Co-Chair for the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition. A member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, he was also his tribe’s lead forestry official and has been intimately involved in Tribal issues throughout his life.  Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Common-Sense Efficiencies and Record Accomplishments

On March 1, across-the-board spending cuts, known here in Washington as “the sequester,” took effect when Congress was unable to reach a new agreement on the budget. These cuts are required by law for every item within USDA’s budget, and they will impact all of the work we do in some way.

Under the Obama Administration, USDA already has made historic efforts to streamline operations and safeguard taxpayer dollars. Under our Blueprint for Stronger Service, we have carried out workforce reductions, closed offices and laboratories, and streamlined IT services. We have cut our travel costs by more than 42 percent since 2010. We’re always looking for new ways to save more.

These targeted efforts have already saved taxpayers more than $700 million. In fact, our operating budget today is lower than it was in 2009. Read more »

On International Women’s Day, A Tribute to Women in Agriculture

Rossie Fisher, co-owner of Brookview Farm in Manakin-Sabot, VA. March 8 is International Women's Day.

Rossie Fisher, co-owner of Brookview Farm in Manakin-Sabot, VA. March 8 is International Women's Day.

Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day. What better day to recognize the incredible achievements of women in agriculture?

Women have always played a key role on the farm or ranch. Traditionally, women often kept the books and ensured the solvency of the business while men ran the day-to-day production operation. Read more »

Women’s History Month – Forest Service Scientist Shows Grace and Compassion While Working her Way to the Top

Barbara C. Weber in 1993 as director of the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. (Photo courtesy Barbara C. Weber)

Barbara C. Weber in 1993 as director of the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. (Photo courtesy Barbara C. Weber)

As the oldest of 11 children, Barbara C. Weber is accustomed to being the “first.” With top family ranking comes responsibility, and Weber had plenty of it.

Growing up on her family’s 160-acre dairy farm in Bloomington, Wis., Weber, along with her siblings, helped clean the barn, pick up eggs and tend to the animals.  Her innate curiosity and connection to nature led to her love of science. Read more »

USDA Celebrates First Ever International School Meals Day

Students across the country will celebrate International School Meals Day with special events, like international food taste testings. Lentils, like those pictured in this lentil stew, are high in protein and eaten in abundance throughout Mediterranean countries and West Asia.

Students across the country will celebrate International School Meals Day with special events, like international food taste testings. Lentils, like those pictured in this lentil stew, are high in protein and eaten in abundance throughout Mediterranean countries and West Asia.

They say that March comes in roaring like a lion and USDA certainly plans to start the month strong by doing something we’ve never done before. We have helped connect 28 schools in the United States and the United Kingdom that are leading the way in promoting healthy living to celebrate the very first International School Meals Day. Read more »

Deputy Secretary Holds Roundtable Discussion with Tribal Leaders in South Dakota

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, right of center, hosted two roundtable meetings in Lower Brule, SD on Feb. 28, 2013. Deputy Secretary Merrigan held a press availability with tribal leaders to reaffirm the Obama Administration’s commitment to Indian Country and highlight the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to promote business development and job creation in rural South Dakota. USDA photo by Tammi Shone.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, right of center, hosted two roundtable meetings in Lower Brule, SD on Feb. 28, 2013. Deputy Secretary Merrigan held a press availability with tribal leaders to reaffirm the Obama Administration’s commitment to Indian Country and highlight the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) efforts to promote business development and job creation in rural South Dakota. USDA photo by Tammi Shone.

Last week, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan led a USDA delegation deep into the heart of Indian Country in South Dakota.  All three of us and our teams from USDA’s South Dakota state offices for Rural Development, the Farm Service Agency and the Natural Resources Conservation Service were joined by the Acting Director of the USDA Office of Tribal Relations, Max Finberg, along with Darlene Barnes, the regional director of the Food and Nutrition Service, and South Dakota’s Agriculture Commissioner Walt Bones.  We were hosted by the Crow Creek and Lower Brule Sioux nations in the center of our state.  The Deputy Secretary held a roundtable discussion on the importance of agriculture and economic development in Indian Country and visited a unique Native American food company.  She was joined by many tribal leaders and organizations, including farmers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs. Read more »