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USDA Visits Farmers Who are Bringing Locally Grown and Milled Flour back to an Oregon Community

There are only a few tables at Randy’s Main Street café, but this is where the small community of Brownsville, Oregon, gathers to sort out the world’s problems and, sometimes, hatch some pretty big ideas.

Willow Coberly and Harry Stalford, the owners and operators of Stalford Seed Farms, have had many conversations around these tables as they were developing ways to grow, mill, sell and distribute local wheat, even when everyone told them they’d never make it work in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. This is also where last week USDA’s Director for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Max Finberg and USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker joined Willow and Harry to hear about the steps – and risks – they took to bring wheat back into the local food system.  Joining them were organic farming pioneer and co-founder of Oregon Tilth, Harry MacCormack of Sunbow Farm; Pam Silbernagel, a regional economic development specialist with Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments; and Dan Sundseth of Ten Rivers Food Web, a nonprofit organization that works with three Oregon counties to increase locally grown food to help build resilient food systems within their communities. Read more »

Small Business Owners Urged to Attend DC Event to Learn How to do Business with USDA

USDA’s continued commitment to broadening small business access to contract opportunities stimulates small business ownership and economic growth, creates jobs, and results in improving the quality of life across America.

USDA currently awards over 52 percent of all contract dollars to small businesses throughout the country in support of its various missions. If you’re a small business owner, we encourage you to attend and participate in the USDA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) Procurement Conference.  This year it will be held on April 19, here in Washington, DC.     Read more »

Organic 101: Allowed and Prohibited Substances

The basic rule for organic agriculture is to allow natural substances and prohibit synthetic. For livestock like these healthy cows, however, vaccines play an important part in animal health—especially since antibiotic therapy is prohibited.

The basic rule for organic agriculture is to allow natural substances and prohibit synthetic. For livestock like these healthy cows, however, vaccines play an important part in animal health—especially since antibiotic therapy is prohibited. (Photo courtesy Pleasantview Farm, an Ohio certified organic dairy farm)

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

Organic standards are designed to allow natural substances in organic farming while prohibiting synthetic substances. The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances—a component of the organic standards—lists the exceptions to this basic rule. Read more »

USDA 2012 Agricultural Outlook Forum: Making Locally Grown Food More Available

Apples sold at a winter farmers market in Somerville, Mass.  Farmers markets are an important source of fresh local foods and can also be key to the economic success of farms and businesses within their communities.

Apples sold at a winter farmers market in Somerville, Mass. Farmers markets are an important source of fresh local foods and can also be key to the economic success of farms and businesses within their communities.

As I’ve traveled the country, I’ve talked with more and more consumers who want a personal relationship with their food and are demanding to know more about it, where it came from and how it got to their plate.  I’ve also talked with more and more producers who see the growing market demand for local food as a ripe business opportunity.  One of USDA’s goals is to connect the two. Read more »

Healthy Meals and Healthy Kids

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined First Lady Michelle Obama and celebrity cook Rachel Ray at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday, January 25, 2012 to speak with faculty and parents about the United States Department of Agriculture’s new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. An important accomplishment of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act that President Obama signed into law last year, USDA is making the first major changes in school meals in over 15 years. The new standards encourage fruits and vegetables every day of the week, increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk and making sure kids are getting proper portion sizes. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined First Lady Michelle Obama and celebrity cook Rachel Ray at Parklawn Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, Wednesday, January 25, 2012 to speak with faculty and parents about the United States Department of Agriculture’s new and improved nutrition standards for school lunches. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols

Today we celebrate an historic achievement on behalf of kids across America. We have accomplished a critical step on the road to deliver healthier, more nutritious food to our nation’s schoolchildren.  Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the final rule that sets the standards for critical improvements to the child nutrition programs that serve millions of children across the country every day. Read more »

The President’s State of the Union Address

Last night, in his State of the Union address, President Obama outlined his plan to build an economy that lasts – one that fulfills the basic American promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise a family, own a home, and put a little away for retirement.  He laid out his vision for a nation where everyone gets a fair shot and an economy that makes, creates and innovates. I know we can get there, because we’ve been there before.  That’s how things have always worked on our farms, in our businesses, and especially in small towns and rural communities.

Visit HERE to read or watch the President’s State of the Union address, or to submit questions to the White House about the speech.