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Beginning Farmer Grows Organic Produce—and a Community

April Jones also raises Tamworth heritage hogs as part of her operation, providing four acres of pasture for a breed she describes as being hearty and having a good personality. The rust color of the breed's skin makes them less prone to sunburn, which is an important characteristic for pastured hogs, she says.

April Jones also raises Tamworth heritage hogs as part of her operation, providing four acres of pasture for a breed she describes as being hearty and having a good personality. The rust color of the breed's skin makes them less prone to sunburn, which is an important characteristic for pastured hogs, she says.

April Jones went into farming to grow good food, and she has succeeded. Unexpectedly, along the way she’s also managed to grow a community. Read more »

Federal Recovery Act Support Responsible For A New Jersey Water Quality Project and Construction Jobs

Pictured above from left to right are Brittnay Diorio, Senator Frank Lautenberg's representative; Pete Bitting, LTMUA;  Marc DeBlasio, Engineer; Michael Beck, Mayor, Lower Township; USDA Rural Development State Director Howard Henderson; Senator Robert Menendez; and Nels Johnson, Chairman LTMUA

Pictured above from left to right are Brittnay Diorio, Senator Frank Lautenberg's representative; Pete Bitting, LTMUA; Marc DeBlasio, Engineer; Michael Beck, Mayor, Lower Township; USDA Rural Development State Director Howard Henderson; Senator Robert Menendez; and Nels Johnson, Chairman LTMUA

A groundbreaking ceremony took place earlier this month in the Town Bank section of Lower Township, Cape May County, New Jersey, to kick off the first phase of a water main project.  USDA Rural Development officials joined Lower Township Municipal Utility Authority, Senator Bob Menendez, state and local officials, and local residents outside the Cape May Beach Property Owners Association Clubhouse.  Howard Henderson, New Jersey Rural Development State Director told the crowd that this project is being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), and is the second largest water project awarded in New Jersey. Read more »

USDA, Bureau of Indian Affairs Meet to Better Serve Tribes

Earlier this week I was privileged to co-host a historic meeting here at USDA.  I was joined by Jodi Gillette, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Michael Black, Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs to discuss ways USDA and BIA can work together to better serve the Tribes.

Our two agencies discussed the many challenges in addressing the needs for economic development, natural resource conservation and agriculture on trust land.  We reached an agreement to develop working groups made up of representatives of the two departments to focus on land and credit issues.  We will also discuss leasing processes, easement issues, how agreements that require both our department’s approvals can be handled more efficiently and how we can work together to focus on joint staff education and training.  The end goal is to improve our processes so that economic development, alternative energy, conservation, agriculture, and all our related programs can deploy in Indian Country in a better way.  We are forming two working groups of national and local office staff to clarify the issues and begin building workable solutions. Read more »

St. Louis Riverfront Is Front Row for Surging U.S. Ag Exports

Secretary Vilsack on the Mississippi River, with a grain elevator towering behind him, told the audience: “U.S. farm exports will support more than 1.1 million jobs in 2011. But we can do better.”

Secretary Vilsack on the Mississippi River with a grain elevator towering behind him, highlighted how the Korea trade agreement would eliminate tariffs on two-thirds of all U.S. ag exports to Korea and bring $1.8 billion export growth.

I spent yesterday in St. Louis, talking about the importance of trade and smart trade deals to America’s rebounding economy. Within 500 miles of St. Louis, farmers are producing more than three quarters of the nation’s corn and soybean crops, injecting $75 billion into the global economy, supporting 265,000 jobs, and producing $131 billion in crops and livestock. Meanwhile, the Mississippi River moves about 500 million tons of cargo each year, including 60 percent of the nation’s grain exports, accounting for $8.5 billion in exports. USDA recently reported that grain barge traffic around St. Louis is up 126 percent over last year, underscoring the importance of St. Louis to the national economy as a hub for U.S. farm exports. As the heart of the nation’s farm economy, St. Louis is pumping life into the overall economy. Read more »

Nearly 300 Washington Area Residents Learn Food Safety from the Pros

(from L to R) Kimberly Mejia and Germany Ray, both Oxon Hills Elementary School students, Felicia Thompson and Nita Ray stop by the FSIS food safety exhibit to obtain food safety information, educational materials and promotional items during the Oxon Hills Health Extravaganza on March 23, 2011.

(from L to R) Kimberly Mejia and Germany Ray, both Oxon Hills Elementary School students, Felicia Thompson and Nita Ray stop by the FSIS food safety exhibit to obtain food safety information, educational materials and promotional items during the Oxon Hills Health Extravaganza on March 23, 2011.

Oxon Hill Elementary School’s motto for its annual health extravaganza is, “Spring forward with good health.” The motto was put into practice last week at the Maryland school’s health fair, where community organizations, activities and food samples came together to contribute to good health and well-being. Read more »

New Handbook Shows Farmers’ Market Operators How to Participate in SNAP

Last summer, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), in collaboration with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), released  the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at Farmers Markets: A How-To-Handbook.  The handbook assists farmers’ market operators and direct marketing farmers in determining the steps necessary to become authorized to participate in SNAP and, subsequently, the steps related to managing participation.

It includes tips and guidelines on how to make the program work successfully for vendors and customers.  The handbook also features a list of resources, a glossary of important terms, and several case studies from farmers markets that have successfully implemented EBT technology.  AMS’s USDA Farmers’ Market Directory is available online to locate farmers’ markets that accept nutrition assistance program benefits. Read more »