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USDA Asks Local Pennsylvania Businesses What They Need From the Federal Government to Grow, Create Jobs

Thomas Williams, Pennsylvania Rural Development State Director, talks about the USDA Rural Energy for America Program with Roxanne Molnar, funding recipient (center) and Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Cheryl Cook.  REAP funding enabled Molnar Farms to install computer-controlled radiant heaters to reduce energy costs.  Cook and Williams toured the farm earlier this month.

Thomas Williams, Pennsylvania Rural Development State Director, talks about the USDA Rural Energy for America Program with Roxanne Molnar, funding recipient (center) and Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Cheryl Cook. REAP funding enabled Molnar Farms to install computer-controlled radiant heaters to reduce energy costs. Cook and Williams toured the farm earlier this month.

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook and Thomas Williams, Rural Development Pennsylvania State Director recently conducted a Small Business Council meeting at the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, followed by a visit to Molnar Farms, a local Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) recipient. Roxanne Molnar explained to the USDA officials how $20,000 in REAP funds was used to install computer-controlled radiant heaters and ceiling vents to modernize a 40,000 chicken house to keep the chickens healthy in the extreme heat and cold. Read more »

Food and Nutrition Service Helps Southern States Hit Hard by Disasters

A bout of flooding and tornadoes throughout parts of the Southeast have left thousands of people in need. Several USDA agencies have been working for weeks with state and local officials, as well as individuals, businesses, farmers and ranchers, as they begin the process of helping to get people back on their feet. USDA offers a variety of resources for states and individuals affected by the recent disasters. Just last week, USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager and Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse toured several states and met hundreds of folks affected by recent disasters.

It makes me glad that our programs are helping storm victims get back on their feet. I accompanied Donald Arnette, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s (FNS) Southeast Regional Administrator, on a recent tour to assure those in need and eligible that they would receive disaster nutrition assistance at any of the following locations: disaster shelters, feeding sites, Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) sites, and food banks. The FNS disaster nutrition assistance available to eligible individuals include: DSNAP; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); and USDA Foods distributed through the Commodity Supplemental Food Programs, which also includes The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Read more »

USDA Officials Tour of Mississippi’s Flood Damaged Areas

The state of Mississippi, recently hit with back-to-back disasters in the forms of record-intensity tornadoes in the eastern portion of the state and devastating floods in the Mississippi River Delta, was visited by two USDA under secretaries on Thursday.

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager and USDA Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse spent much of Thursday in Mississippi as part of an intense whirlwind tour of flood-damaged areas of Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana and tornado damaged areas of Alabama. This tour follows visits last week by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the tornado affected areas of Mississippi and Alabama. Read more »

Bringing the Beauty of U.S. Hardwood to Thailand

When most people think about what USDA exports to countries all over the world, food is the first thing that comes to mind. But did you know that the United States exported nearly $7 billion in forestry products in 2010? These exports allow for the beauty and sustainability of U.S. forests to be shared through home furnishings in every corner of the world, including Thailand.

The United States is currently the fourth largest exporter of hardwood lumber to Thailand, following Malaysia, Laos and Myanmar, and U.S. exports were valued at $21.3 million in 2010. In 2010, the total Thailand furniture export market was valued at nearly $1.2 billion out of which $589 million was wooden furniture. The market is ripe for U.S. hardwood as Thai furniture exporters and manufacturers are required to follow sustainable development policies. Importing products from the United States helps the country avoid the use of illegal forestry techniques and timber sources. Read more »

Pink Bollworm Rearing Facility Visit

As part of my recent trip to Arizona, I had the opportunity to meet with Arizona cotton producers, Arizona Department of Agriculture Director Don Butler, and APHIS personnel at the Pink Bollworm Rearing Facility in Phoenix.

I was absolutely impressed with the importance and quality of the work being done, and with the partnership between APHIS, Arizona Department of Agriculture, Arizona Cotton Research and Protection Council, and cotton growers.

The pink bollworm is a serious cotton pest, and APHIS is working cooperatively with producers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, as well as cotton growing areas in Mexico, to eradicate the pest. Read more »

Minnesota Couple Recognized by USDA for Years of Dedication to Affordable Rural Housing

In December of 2009 an apartment building owned by Rodney and Betty Hestekin sustained major damage in a fire. The building had been financed through USDA Rural Development’s Multi-Family Housing program. All 18 tenants living in the building were displaced.

Rodney and Betty immediately sprang into action. They worked with tenants to ensure that each found a temporary place to live. They also worked to make sure the building was repaired as quickly as possible so tenants could move back in and return to life as it was before the fire. Read more »