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California Man Snaps Winning Photo in Sequoia National Forest

A kayaker maneuvers the Seven Teacups on the Kern River in the Sequoia National Forest.  The photo won Glen Maki a trip for four, and his photo will be on the 2013 Federal Recreation Lands Pass. (Photo courtesy Glen Maki)

A kayaker maneuvers the Seven Teacups on the Kern River in the Sequoia National Forest. The photo won Glen Maki a trip for four, and his photo will be on the 2013 Federal Recreation Lands Pass. (Photo courtesy Glen Maki)

Glen Maki of Wofford Heights, Calif., had a camera, a 210 mm lens and just enough time to press the trigger as the digital motor whirred quickly to capture a kayaker maneuver the waters at the Seven Teacups on the Sequoia National Forest.

“I was just taking a lot of pictures,” Maki said. “So when I decided to enter the contest, I had to enter the one I thought was the best. And it turned out pretty well.” Read more »

USDA Funds Help Solidify Nebraska Businesses Needs

Nebraska Northwest Development Corporation (NNDC) is located in Chadron, Nebraska and serves the three northwest Nebraska counties of Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux.  NNDC approached USDA Rural Development in need of additional revolving loan funds as the previous Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) was unable to keep up with the need for loan funds in this area of the state.

Building on previous discussions between Rural Development and NNDC, it was clear the amount of funds needed to significantly impact local entrepreneurs would best be served through an Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) loan.  An IRP application request in the amount of $250,000 was submitted to USDA and, following a national competition, was selected for funding. Read more »

Agriculture and Rural Main Streets on the Agenda for Smart Growth

Agriculture and food system development were featured agenda topics at the recent New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, an annual conference sponsored by the Local Government Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and several other public and private organizations.

I went to the Smart Growth conference on behalf of USDA Rural Development to demonstrate USDA’s commitment to investing in the future of rural communities.  Smart Growth principles can offer innovative strategies for using scarce federal dollars efficiently to promote sustainable and sound investments on main streets everywhere, and are valuable in helping rural communities consider how to creatively use existing resources and infrastructure to serve and celebrate their unique identities. Read more »

U.S. Soybeans Support Sustainability in Afghanistan

Minnesota soybean farmers and representatives from the Albert Lea Seed House, the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) and Minnesota-based Shelter for Life International gather in Minnesota before the soybean seeds depart for Afghanistan. The shipment is part of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress Program and will provide Afghan farmers with 68.5 metric tons of early maturing soybean seeds to plant. (Photo by Dan Lemke, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council)

Minnesota soybean farmers and representatives from the Albert Lea Seed House, the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) and Minnesota-based Shelter for Life International gather in Minnesota before the soybean seeds depart for Afghanistan. The shipment is part of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress Program and will provide Afghan farmers with 68.5 metric tons of early maturing soybean seeds to plant. (Photo by Dan Lemke, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council)

Minnesota soybean farmers recently gathered at a local seed house to witness final preparations for a shipment of U.S. soybean seeds about to make a 7,000-mile journey to Afghanistan. The shipment is part of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress Program and will provide subsistence farmers in Afghanistan with 68.5 metric tons of early maturing soybean seeds to plant. Read more »

With USDA Assistance, a Historic Mississippi Courthouse gets a New Lease on Life

The inside of the newly restored courthouse and the attendees at the Grand Opening Ceremony. USDA photos.

The inside of the newly restored courthouse and the attendees at the Grand Opening Ceremony. USDA photos.

In 2009, Bolivar County, Mississippi, Administrator William Hooker and a board-delegated crew of local leaders traveled to meet with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., to rally for the financial support to restore the Bolivar County courthouse in Rosedale, MS. They received funding for the project and on April 2, 2012 a ground breaking ceremony was held for the First Judicial District Courthouse located in Rosedale. USDA Rural Development awarded a $350,000 Recovery Act Community Facilities grant. The project also received a $350,000 Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Economic Grant, a $300,000 grant from the MS Department of Archives and History, and $300,000 from the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors. A majority of the money went towards improving the building’s weakening foundation. Installing a new roof and a number of interior retouches were also big parts of the restoration. Read more »

Organic 101: Strengthening Organic Integrity through Increased Residue Testing

From produce, like these vine-ripened tomatoes, to processed foods like cheese and milk, additional testing requirements will help certifying agents identify cases where prohibited methods and substances are being used. Photo courtesy Jess Sanson.

From produce, like these vine-ripened tomatoes, to processed foods like cheese and milk, additional testing requirements will help certifying agents identify cases where prohibited methods and substances are being used. Photo courtesy Jess Sanson.

This is the tenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

In late 2012, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) announced a strengthened residue testing program to help increase consumer confidence in the $32 billion organic industry worldwide. Consumers purchase organic products expecting that they maintain their organic integrity from farm to market, and USDA is committed to meeting these expectations. This program will provide additional verification that organic farmers are following the rules and not using prohibited substances. Read more »