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USDA Funding Brings Clean Water, Sanitation, Into the Rural Village Homes of Alaska Natives

The thought of having to hand-carry a honey bucket, (a five gallon pail filled with human waste) out of your house and dump it to an outdoor common collection container in winter temperatures that drop to -55 °F, is an unpleasant scenario. For some residents in the community of Lower Kalskag, and other rural Alaskan communities, this is a reality.  They have no indoor plumbing, and no indoor hot or cold running water.

The community of Lower Kalskag, Alaska, is remotely located 350 miles west of Anchorage in a persistent poverty area. This small, predominantly Alaska Native community has a population of around 280 and roughly fifty percent of its homes still lack adequate sanitation systems. The lack of sanitation services is a dire health and safety issue faced daily by a number of rural Alaska residents. Read more »

Kentucky Wetland Restoration Attracts Endangered Cranes

Scott County Indiana Muscatatuck River Bottoms, March 5-2007. Photo credit Mark Trabue.

Scott County Indiana Muscatatuck River Bottoms, March 5-2007. Photo credit Mark Trabue.

A wetland restoration project completed by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Kentucky has attracted the fancy of a pair of endangered whooping cranes.

In early November, a pair of whooping cranes were discovered on a property in western Kentucky that was recently restoredwith NRCS’ help. The restoration to bottomland hardwood wetlands included tree planting and the creation of shallow water areas for migratory wildlife on nearly 900 acres of former cropland that was put into a conservation easement. Read more »

Under Secretary Says Renewable Fuels Help Build a Stronger Rural Economy and a More Secure Energy Future

Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager describes Secretary Vilsack’s “All of the Above” energy strategy during the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit. USDA photo.

Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager describes Secretary Vilsack’s “All of the Above” energy strategy during the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit. USDA photo.

A mid-winter snow storm did not stop more than 200 participants from attending the 7th Annual Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit and Trade Show held January 30th in Des Moines.

During Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager’s presentation it was clear that everyone in attendance was extremely focused on helping identify ways the renewable fuels industry can continue to create economic opportunities in rural America. At the summit Mr. Tonsager also had the opportunity to hear Tom Buis with Growth Energy give a detailed overview of the ethanol industry and its many positive impacts throughout our country. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: On the Road to Another Record Year for Agricultural Trade

The prosperity of American agriculture provides us with a secure and abundant food supply here at home – and tremendous opportunity to export quality U.S. products across the globe.

Today, the American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide. Fiscal years 2009-2012 represent the strongest four years in history for agricultural trade, with U.S. agricultural product exports exceeding $478 billion over these four years.

2013 is off to a roaring start already – with agricultural exports on track to set a new record.

This week has brought especially good news for America’s beef producers. On Monday, the Government of Japan—which represents our fourth largest agricultural export market—announced an agreement to expand access for U.S. beef. We estimate that this new agreement will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits for the U.S. economy in the coming years. Read more »

Highlighting Inclusion, Diversity and Human Rights at the Special Olympics World Winter Games

Cross posted from the White House blog:

During recent days we have had the honor as part of a U.S. Presidential Delegation to accompany more than 150 U.S. Special Olympians to the 2013 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. In addition to the Opening Ceremonies of the games on Tuesday, the Presidential Delegation had a unique chance to spend time with the athletes and view some of the events.

While we have made a special effort to cheer on the U.S. athletes on behalf of the President, the Special Olympics is about far more than winning – it’s about encouraging diversity, celebrating inclusion and recommitting to the human rights of persons with disabilities around the world.

People with disabilities come from all walks of life, genders, every social class, and all religious traditions. Most of us have a family member, friend or acquaintance with a disability. People with disabilities make tremendous contributions to our society, to our families, to our neighborhoods – adding to the diversity that makes America a unique and special place to call home. Read more »

USDA Expands Its Housing Refinance Program to 15 More States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to Help Rural Homeowners Lower Mortgage Rates

Rural Development is the lead Federal agency that works to ensure that rural families have access to safe, well-built, affordable homes.  In February 2012, the agency initiated a two-year, pilot refinancing program in 19 states hardest hit by the Nation’s housing downturn to help eligible USDA borrowers reduce their monthly housing costs.

Today, USDA announced that the program is expanding to include eligible rural residents in Puerto Rico, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Read more »