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East River Electric Cooperative Highlights USDA Rural Development funded Business

It was lights, camera and action as a videographer for the National Rural Economic Developers Association (NREDA) and National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) traveled across eastern South Dakota.  Hosted by the Rural Electric Economic Development, Inc. (REED) Fund, video interviews documented the businesses and partners that make REED’s revolving loan fund such a success.

A stop on the tour included Dakota Style, a home grown business located by Clark, SD.  Dakota Style started making their own potato chips 25 years ago and has expanded into sunflower seeds and salad toppers.  When progress led to a large national contract, they needed space for packaging equipment and storage for shipment. Read more »

Priceless and Pricey: The Cost of Raising a Child

As you may know, USDA recently issued its Expenditures on Children by Families, 2011 report, which analyzes the costs of raising a child born in 2011. USDA has been tracking the cost of raising a child annually since 1960.  Expenses are examined by the age of the child, household income, budgetary component, and region of the country.

Middle income parents of a child born in 2011 can expect to spend about $234,900 ($295,560 if projected inflation costs are factored in*) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise a child over the next 17 years. Let’s look at the breakdown: Read more »

What Can the Food Environment Atlas Tell You?

Understanding a community’s food environment is key to understanding a community’s identity.  But what can a “food environment” tell us?

A community’s food environment is a technical term for assessing information about the who, what, where, and how of food availability in a given community: Who are the people in the community?

What kinds of food outlets are available in their area? How accessible are grocery stores and supermarkets? What are some of the health statistics? Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Reducing Pain at the Pump for Americans

As Americans joined family and friends to celebrate America’s independence, tens of millions took to our highways and Interstates – and I know that gas prices were on the minds of many.

President Obama understands the impact gas prices can have for families, and he is committed to an “all of the above” energy approach to solving our nation’s energy challenges – including reducing pain at the pump.

That includes developing the homegrown biofuels that save Americans money at the gas station and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Read more »

Successful Weatherization of Navajo Homes Made Possible with USDA Help

Two groups of volunteers worked to replace the roof and build a sturdy new porch with wheelchair ramp for a Navajo resident.

Though the morning could be cool, even pleasant at times, scorching heat was promised to each of the more than 250 volunteer students who signed up and traveled – some more than 2,000 miles – to Monument Valley, Utah, to work in the desert sun on Navajo homes. Read more »

Going Green: Green Roofs and Rain Barrels

Here is the concept drawing for the People’s Garden exhibit at the  2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival including the green roof and rain barrel. Drawing by Dixi Wang, USDA landscape architect intern.

Here is the concept drawing for the People’s Garden exhibit at the 2012 Smithsonian Folklife Festival including the green roof and rain barrel. Drawing by Dixi Wang, USDA landscape architect intern.

In my first interview I talked about the design and construction of the People’s Garden shed located at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the importance of using reclaimed materials. The shed also includes a variety of environmentally-friendly features such as a green roof and rain barrel. Visitors are asking how a green roof and rain barrel are built, and what environmental benefits they provide. I talked with Edward Murtagh, Sustainable Operations Manager in USDA’s Office of Operations about the addition of a green roof and rain barrel to the shed. Read more »