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Secretary’s Column: Listening to Communities and Strengthening Drought Relief

For many producers and rural communities, the summer of 2012 has been defined by a record drought.

From the early days of this disaster, USDA has taken action to help. We’ve streamlined our disaster designation process, provided easier access to farm credit, opened more conservation lands for emergency haying and grazing, and much more.

Meanwhile, we continue to convene regular meetings of White House Rural Council to coordinate the Federal response and identify every effort we can take to provide additional help and assistance.

For example, the Small Business Administration and National Credit Union Administration have worked to increase emergency lending for small businesses.  The Department of Interior has opened more Federal land for grazing.  The Department of Transportation has taken measures to get more trucks on the road in the relief effort.  And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working to preserve navigation routes on drought-stricken waterways. Read more »

USDA Helps to Expand Healthcare Services in Kilmichael, Mississippi

Late last month Mississippi USDA Rural Development State Director Trina George attended the Kilmichael Clinic opening ceremony. The event celebrated the clinic’s completion and provided opportunities to tour the new facility. There was a great turnout and everyone was thrilled to see the new building, which has nine examination rooms and a waiting room to accommodate 40 people.

The Kilmichael project received a $1.4 million loan from USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities Program in 2009. The Community Facility loan was obtained to construct a new clinic to provide health care services for the citizens of the Town of Kilmichael, Montgomery County, and the surrounding rural communities. “Kilmichael Hospital has been serving this community for decades,” said State Director George. “So when the opportunity came to award funding to construct a new healthcare clinic, I knew this would be a great service to this community and to this organization.” Read more »

Latin Roots Help Forest Service Employee Grow Interest in Natural Resources Among Young People

Fabian Garcia, a U.S. Forest Service employee for eight years, intimately understands the connection between nature and nurture.

As a young Latino growing up in an agricultural community in central California, Garcia’s world revolved around the outdoors. When he, his parents and three siblings were not working, they were fishing in nearby lakes and streams, exploring giant sequoias that towered over forests or traveled just to play in the snow.

Today, Garcia, who is now 31, works with high school students in Los Angeles as director of the Southern California Consortium – the Forest Service conduit that helps young people connect to nature.  His job has helped him to understand how his childhood connection to nature gave him peace of mind and eagerly shares his experiences with others. Read more »

Conservation-minded Kentucky Farmer Saves Money & Improves the Environment

Just outside Lexington, Ky., you can find Peaceful Valley Farm, the longtime Kiser family home. Joe Kiser bought the 162-acre farm in 1965. The farm has thrived since then—even during the current severe drought—thanks to Kiser’s conservation-minded land management.

Kiser operated the farm, which includes cattle and a large garden, for many years using water from a nearby stream.

With technical assistance from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Kiser dug a well in the mid-‘90s, but continued to use the stream for supplemental water as needed. But when the stream ran dry in this summer’s drought, Kiser struggled to keep his livestock and garden watered and had to rely partly on city water. Read more »

The U.S. Forest Service Partners with a Montana Hospital on a Renewable Fuels Project

Work in progress on the Mineral Hospital Biomass Generator in Superior, Montana. Photo provided by Mineral Community Hospital

Work in progress on the Mineral Hospital Biomass Generator in Superior, Montana. Photo provided by Mineral Community Hospital

Mineral Community Hospital in Superior, Montana received an $190,000 Woody Biomass Utilization Grant from the U.S. Forest Service.  The new Mineral Hospital Biomass Generator will use woody material such as beetle-killed trees removed from forests to help prevent wildfires.  The material will then be processed in bioenergy facilities to produce green energy for heating and electricity. Read more »

Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 10/3/12

U.S. Winter Wheat Progress - Percent emerged September 30, 2012

U.S. Winter Wheat Progress - Percent emerged September 30, 2012. Click to enlarge image.

Based on data since 1995, U.S. corn and soybean harvests are proceeding at a record pace.  By September 30, 2012, more than one-half (54%) of the corn had been harvested, nearly three times the five-year average of 20%.  During the preceding 17 years, the record amount of U.S. corn harvested by the end of September had been 35% in 2000.  Similarly, 41% of the soybeans had been harvested by September 30.  Prior to this year, the record-setting soybean harvest pace by September 30 had also been 35% in 2000. Read more »