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Under Secretary, Northwest innovators Focus on Rural American Renewal

During a brief but busy trip to Oregon Monday, January 28, Agriculture Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager highlighted opportunities to increase public-private collaboration and innovative financing models for rural community and economic development. That morning, Mr. Tonsager delivered the keynote address at the Harvesting Clean Energy conference in Corvallis. Later that day in Portland, Mr. Tonsager sat down with a diverse group of business, technology, education, agriculture, finance and state government representatives to stress the importance of inter-entity teamwork to achieve a common vision for a self-sustaining, prosperous rural America.

“Our mission is to help create jobs in rural America,” Mr. Tonsager explained. “We are looking for creativity, especially as it relates to putting capital together for rural areas so that we can extend our resources further in a thoughtful, sensible way.” Read more »

Beginning Farmers and Ranchers at a Glance

USDA programs have targeted assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers since the 1992 Agricultural Credit Improvement Act. Farms or ranches are considered “beginning” if the operators have managed them for 10 years or less. The Economic Research Service has looked at the trend in numbers of beginning farmers and ranchers in recent decades and examined some key characteristics that distinguish them from established farms using the Census of Agriculture and the Agricultural Resource Management Survey. Taken every five years, the Census provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation.

For more than two decades, the share of farms operated by beginning farmers has been in decline.  Beginning farms and ranches accounted for 22 percent of the nation’s 2 million family farms and ranches in 2011 – down from about 38 percent in 1982. Consistent with this trend, the average age of principal farm operators in the United States has risen in that period, from 50 to 58. Read more »

USDA Grant Helps a Small Florida Town on the Path to Clean, Safe Drinking Water

There are more than 160,000 public water systems providing water to almost all Americans at some time in their lives. Millions of Americans receive high quality drinking water every day from their public water systems. But access to quality drinking water cannot be taken for granted.

Like many small towns in rural America, the Town of Otter Creek in Levy County, Florida, strives to provide its residents with safe, high quality water. Unfortunately, for this community of under 150 people, poor quality drinking water is a reality. With high levels of trihalomethanes and iron in the water supply, town officials faced a potential health hazard and a lack of financial resources to address the problem. The Town was issued a Consent Order by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to find a solution for the water quality issue. Given the town’s median household income of $18,000, and limited town resources, town officials sought assistance to develop a plan toward remedying the situation. Read more »

Community, Natural Resources Focus of National Day of Service

Maya Kwok, 3, helps during a planting project at the Richmond, Calif., Edible Forest as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Maya is the daughter of Alfred Kwok, director of operations for the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. (US Forest Service photo)

Maya Kwok, 3, helps during a planting project at the Richmond, Edible Forest as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Maya is the daughter of Alfred Kwok, assistant station director, business operations, for the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

From planting fruit trees in a Richmond, Calif., edible forest to laying 32 feet of boardwalk to make an Atlanta urban forest accessible to everyone, U.S. Forest Service employees across the country joined their communities to make a difference as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. Read more »

NRCS Helps Choctaw Tribe Keep Hominy Tradition Alive & Profitable

A member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians removes the kernels from a corn of cob, one step in the hominy-making process.

A member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians removes the kernels from a corn of cob, one step in the hominy-making process.

For special meals like those on birthdays and Christmas, members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians include hominy on the menu—but hominy, essentially dried corn kernels, is expensive to purchase. Read more »

Eating Out Poses a Challenge to Improving Our Diets

Christopher and Natasha Goetz preparing dinner in their home in Garnett, Kansas. By 2005-08, total fat accounted for 30.5 percent of calories in foods prepared at home, compared with 37 percent in away-from-home foods.

Christopher and Natasha Goetz preparing dinner in their home in Garnett, Kansas. By 2005-08, total fat accounted for 30.5 percent of calories in foods prepared at home, compared with 37 percent in away-from-home foods.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

With restaurant and take-out meals an everyday occurrence for many, the choices we make when eating out can have a big impact on our health. Federal surveys find that Americans, on average, get 32 percent of their calories from foods ordered from restaurants, fast food places, and other away-from-home sources, up from 18 percent of calories 30 years ago. Read more »