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Food Ministry Meeting Held in South Dakota

What started as an office meeting between USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager and Rev. David Zellmer, Bishop of the SD Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, regarding food ministry and feeding the hungry has flourished into meetings of constituents across the state of South Dakota. Over 21 representatives from faith based organizations already addressing hunger issues in addition to state agencies, South Dakota Department of Agriculture, South Dakota State University and USDA Rural Development staff met to discuss the next steps towards a possible state-wide food council this week.

Bishop Zellmer led the group in discussion regarding what is already working well in the State such as good nutrition education programs already in place through Extension and in schools. Stream lined services and processes through the State Department of Social Services and community gardens in place to offer fresh produce without stigma. Read more »

Historic Stimulus Project to Extend Terrestrial Broadband Service in Alaska

It’s a bit boggling to imagine so much broadband technology could be woven into the far reaches of Alaska’s vast wilderness, but on August 25th it became a reality.  Representatives of the organizations and people of Southwest Alaska who are benefitting from this important project, including a variety of local, state and federal officials, met in Dillingham to mark progress on the TERRA-SW project.

When complete, TERRA-SW will make broadband available to more than 9,000 rural Alaskan households and nearly 750 businesses in the covered communities.  The project will also serve numerous public, non-profit, private community institutions and entities such as regional healthcare providers, school districts and other regional and Alaska Native organizations.  TERRA-SW will provide middle-mile terrestrial broadband service to 65 remote, rural communities in Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta (Y-K Delta), including Bethel, Dillingham and King Salmon. Read more »

Blue New To Marketing and Regulatory Team

I’d like to introduce myself.  I’m Rebecca Blue, and I am the new Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs. I’m excited to join the MRP team and to help contribute to the great work that they have been doing.

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to South Dakota and take part in the Value Added Ag Day at the South Dakota State Fair. I participated in a panel discussion with the South Dakota Value Added Agriculture Development Center where we highlighted the partnership that USDA has with the Center, and how this work enhances rural communities by creating rural agribusiness. Panelists included representatives from Hanson County Oilseed Processors, Elkton Locker, and Intraglobal Biologics.  I was blown away by the innovative projects that are being developed and how USDA and the Center were able to help these small and beginning rural businesses succeed. It was great to see how these projects are keeping and creating wealth right here in America, and creating good paying jobs in our rural communities. Read more »

USDA Official Hears Need For USDA Programs At Towns and Townships Event

“Small towns and rural communities need assistance from USDA Rural Development, now more than ever.” That was the consensus of attendees participating in a breakout session at the National Association of Towns and Townships (NATaT) annual meeting in Washington in early September. During and after the session Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Cheryl Cook heard accounts of how local Rural Development staff have made a difference in the economic health of rural communities in states including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Many described the positive impact of investments made through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act over the last two years, but expressed concern for the future. Water systems, broadband access, and fire and rescue capabilities were frequently cited as critical foundational investments every community needs. But many said finding private partners willing to lend on affordable terms is a challenge for smaller communities that have a limited tax base. Read more »

Saving Energy Never Tasted So Sweet

Inventor Rejean Laverdiere loads wood into the Hurricane Force 5 evaporator.

Inventor Rejean Laverdiere loads wood into the Hurricane Force 5 evaporator.

The Maple Guys, a two-family agricultural business in New Hampshire, was recently awarded a Conservation Innovation Grant by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The Maple Guys produces and sells maple syrup and other maple products, as well as the equipment needed to make them. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Common Sense Ideas to Create Jobs

There is no doubt that these have been tough times.  And it’s very tough for the many Americans who are looking for work.  So we’ve got to keep finding ways to help the unemployed in the short term and rebuild the middle class over the long term.

President Obama has focused on that challenge since his first day in office.  And it’s why he spoke to Congress to lay out the way forward to grow the economy and create jobs.

The American Jobs Act he proposed will have an immediate impact.  It contains common sense proposals that will create jobs now.  And it is based on bipartisan ideas that both Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past.   Read more »