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Secretary’s Column: USDA’s Accomplishments in 2012

Over the course of 2012, farm families and rural communities faced a number of challenges. A record drought impacted much of the country and many were impacted by a major hurricane, flooding and severe storms. However, thanks to the resilience of rural Americans, our communities are still going strong.

Over the course of this year, USDA continued our record efforts to help folks across our nation, and I am proud of the work we carried out.

We supported agriculture. This summer, USDA convened the White House Rural Council to help America’s farmers and ranchers overcome drought. We provided unique flexibility for crop insurance that saved producers more than $20 million, expanded emergency lending for producers, opened more than 2.8 million acres of conservation land for emergency forage and more. Read more »

FAS Program Helps Provide Qualified Teachers in Malawi

Two teachers currently training at the new Dowa Teachers Training College that opened in Malawi Nov. 30. The college was built with the help of the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Food for Progress (FFP) program, and more than 250 qualified primary school teachers will graduate from there annually. The teachers will instruct children in the rural communities throughout Malawi. (Courtesy Photo)

Two teachers currently training at the new Dowa Teachers Training College that opened in Malawi Nov. 30. The college was built with the help of the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Food for Progress (FFP) program, and more than 250 qualified primary school teachers will graduate from there annually. The teachers will instruct children in the rural communities throughout Malawi. (Courtesy Photo)

School children in the rural communities of Malawi will soon have access to more qualified primary school educators, thanks in part to the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress (FFP) program. Read more »

Value-Added Grants Help Minnesota Pork Farm Meet Growing Demand

Jim VanDerPol get his pigs ready for market on his Pastures A Plenty farm in Kerkhoven, Minn.

Jim VanDerPol get his pigs ready for market on his Pastures A Plenty farm in Kerkhoven, Minn.

“We think that fresh air and sunshine are the best health guarantee.” That’s the quote you’ll see after opening a brochure from Pastures A Plenty Farm. Spend an hour with the VanDerPol family and you quickly understand that those words are much more than just a marketing slogan. It’s the family’s philosophy.

Pastures A Plenty’s pork products can be found in many co-ops, retail outlets, restaurants and local stores throughout Minnesota. The VanDerPols feed their hogs on grass and straw and use a wholistic veterinary approach featuring probiotics and spices instead of drugs. Read more »

No Más Hambre: Un llamado a la acción comunitaria

La cumbre NO MAS HAMBRE celebrada recientemente en Washington DC para crear conciencia sobre el hambre en la comunidad latina reunió a líderes gubernamentales, grupos sin fines de lucro, empresas y miembros de la comunidad para hablar sobre soluciones a un problema endémico que a menudo pasa desapercibido – el que casi uno de cada tres hogares latinos con niños se enfrenta al hambre en este país.

Al mismo tiempo, los latinos están desproporcionadamente afectados por el aumento de las tasas de obesidad infantil, con casi el 40 por ciento de los niños latinos con sobrepeso u obesidad. Esta paradoja de la desnutrición y la obesidad es a menudo mal entendida, así que me dio gusto facilitar una plática durante la cumbre sobre cómo las organizaciones religiosas se han unido con la iniciativa del Departamento de Agricultura de EE.UU. (USDA) conocida como La Mesa Completa y como parte de la iniciativa A Moverse Iglesias y Comunidades (Let’s Move Faith and Communities) para combatir el hambre y promover comunidades más sanas. Read more »

No Más Hambre: A Community Call to Action

The NO MAS HAMBRE Summit recently held in Washington DC to raise awareness of hunger in the Latino community brought together government, nonprofit, corporate and community leaders to talk about solutions to an endemic problem that often goes unnoticed — nearly one in three Latino households with children faces hunger in this country.

At the same time, Latinos are disproportionately impacted by higher rates of childhood obesity, with almost 40 percent of Latino children overweight or obese.  This paradox of malnutrition and obesity is often misunderstood, so I was glad to moderate a panel at the conference on how faith-based organizations are partnering with USDA’s initiative La Mesa Completa and as part of Let’s Move Faith and Communities to address hunger and promote healthier communities. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Over the Holidays, Honoring Those Who Strengthen America

As Americans celebrate the holiday season, we have a chance to catch up with family and friends, count our blessings and reflect on the year behind us.

Looking back on 2012, I am proud of those across rural America who stayed resilient in the face of disaster. They managed farms, ranches and Main Street businesses through a record drought, an historic hurricane, and more. Ultimately, their hard work kept the momentum of rural America going strong.

I’m thankful for the thousands of men and women who, year in and year out, step up to serve our nation. I know that many of these military service members come from our small towns and rural communities – and that no matter where they’re from, each is a hero to our nation.  They’re stationed around the world today and many will spend their holidays away from family and friends, so that we can be safely at home with ours. Read more »