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White House Roundtable Meeting with Rural Leaders

This week, I led a meeting in the Roosevelt Room at the White House with leaders of a host of rural organizations to discuss the White House Rural Council.  The White House Rural Council, which was established by President Obama on June 9, 2011, will build on this Administration’s unprecedented efforts to spur job creation and economic growth in rural America.  Along with Jon Carson, the Director of the Office of Public Engagement and Doug McKalip of the White House Domestic Policy Council, we discussed the Council’s efforts to improve coordination among federal agencies. We focused in on ways to help better leverage existing federal resources in rural America – and on how  to facilitate private-public partnerships that can move the needle in building stronger rural communities.

The meeting was a chance for me to listen to our rural partners on the issues that need to be addressed and discuss potential solutions.  Some of the key issues raised included the need to coordinate more with our federal partners on health care, broadband, and other critical infrastructure; how to increase the availability of capital and lending to rural businesses and families; efforts to remove barriers to young and beginning farmers; and strategies for establishing better partnerships with states, tribes, local governments and the private sector. Many of the leaders gathered also expressed appreciation for the renewed focus on rural America and the importance the White House has placed on these issues. Read more »

Feds Fighting Hunger One Mango at a Time

State Executive Director Charles Cawley of Maryland donated over 2,000 lbs of sweet corn to “Feds Feed Families.”

State Executive Director Charles Cawley of Maryland donated over 2,000 lbs of sweet corn to “Feds Feed Families.”

Right now, federal employees across the country are banding together to support the “Feds Feed Families” food drive. We’re nearing the end of July, and while the reports coming in look promising, we need to keep pushing ahead.  August is right around the corner, which means we only have one more month to reach our USDA goal of 500,000 pounds of healthful canned goods and fresh produce. Read more »

Wood-to-Energy Recovery Act Funds Bring Jobs, Energy Savings to Maine

Maine Fuels for Schools. The firebox for Poland Regional High School's new Recovery Act-funded biomass heat system is hoisted into the boiler house, as school Principal Cari Medd (hat) and guests look on.

Maine Fuels for Schools. The firebox for Poland Regional High School's new Recovery Act-funded biomass heat system is hoisted into the boiler house, as school Principal Cari Medd (hat) and guests look on.

In August 2009, a total of $11.4 million in U.S. Forest Service Recovery Act funds were made available to the State of Maine for grants to help rural, economically depressed counties support the conversion of heating systems to wood/dual-fuel heating systems for an estimated 15 public buildings. Read more »

An Update on the Animal Disease Traceability Framework

On February 5, 2010, USDA announced a new, flexible framework for animal disease traceability in the United States. The Secretary of Agriculture and other USDA officials launched a widespread listening tour in 2010 to hear comments, concerns, and to discuss potential solutions to create a program producers can feel comfortable supporting.

USDA believes the traceability framework provides the basic tenets of an improved animal disease traceability capability. USDA continues to review and use comments and discussions collected during the listening tour to develop a flexible, coordinated approach for livestock moving interstate. The purpose of the draft proposed regulation for livestock moving interstate has always been to: Read more »

USDA Food and Nutrition Initiatives Thrive in the Windy City

Chicago SFSP partners kick off the city’s summer feeding season.

Chicago SFSP partners kick off the city’s summer feeding season.

During my recent trip to Chicago, I had the great fortune to visit several places that were doing tremendous work with many of USDA’s nutrition programs.  One of the first stops was to a local school where children were really excited to learn more about where their food comes from.  Read more »

Pipe Springs Ranch: Colorado’s 2011 Leopold Conservation Award Winners

The McEndree siblings have worked together to run their family ranching operation for seven years, and were recently awarded the Leopold Conservation Award.

The McEndree siblings have worked together to run their family ranching operation for seven years, and were recently awarded the Leopold Conservation Award.

In the southeastern-most part of Colorado lays the historic town of Springfield, known for its farming and cattle ranching communities. Read more »