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Valuing Drinking Water – From Forests to Faucets

More and more these days we recognize that clean water is one of the most important products of our forests.  Forest lands are the source of nearly two-thirds of water in the 48 contiguous states — the clean water that fills our rivers, streams, lakes and wetlands, sustains our fisheries, or flows from the taps of our homes and businesses.  Forests serve as a living sponge to capture, store and slowly release precipitation as well as trapping and transforming the chemicals and nutrient deposits that come in the rain or from adjacent runoff.  All the benefits that forests provide—like erosion and sediment control, maintenance of water quality, regulation of flows, and provision of clean drinking water—are called ecosystem services, and in this case can be called watershed services. Read more »

USDA Reaches out to Hispanic Ministers to Help Feed Hungry Children

The saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.  In this same context,  it takes all of us working together to feed hungry children, especially in the summer months when even more of our nation’s kids go without proper nutrition.  The government, however, cannot solve this challenge alone.

Over 20 million children receive free or reduced-price lunch during the school year through USDA’s National School Lunch Program.  For many of them, school meals are the only complete and nutritious meals they consume, and in the summer, many simply go without.  It is USDA’s goal to ensure that no child in the U.S. goes to bed hungry. But to accomplish this, we need the community’s support. Read more »

Agriculture Deputy Under Secretary Announces Small Business Development and Job Creation Support for Rural Pennsylvania

Recently, I joined USDA, Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook, employees of The Progress Fund, and several of their loan recipients for a funding announcement under  Rural Development’s Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program (RMAP).  RMAP was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill and the program is already helping many small rural businesses.   Under the program, funds are provided to an intermediary who “re-lends” to entrepreneurs.   Deputy Under Secretary Cook announced that The Progress Fund, in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, has been awarded a loan and a grant through the program.  The Progress Fund has made more than 97 microloans in rural areas.  It is expected the assistance provided by this funding will help create or save over 22 jobs. Following the announcement, we all enjoyed products from Emerald Valley Artisans, including a test sample of the new Hills Tavern Blue cheese. Read more »

Farm Producers Meet USDA Officials at Virginia State University

With the thoughts of spring planting on their minds, over 200 farm producers and local agricultural staff discussed the many ways USDA can strengthen the partnership between small farmers and the USDA agencies that serve them.

Eleven different USDA agencies converged earlier this month at the Douglas Wilder Building, on the campus of Virginia State University (VSU) to talk business and program assistance. From topics such as how to market locally grown foods in your community to grant writing were cover during the conference. A local grower’s panel was the highlight again this year; where four USDA recipients shared time with the group during the general session, to “in their own words” explain how they utilized different USDA programs to improve their community or individual operations profit margins. Read more »

One Year Later – How Has the Affordable Care Act Helped You?

It’s no secret that Americans in rural areas sometimes struggle to get the health care they need.  Whether it’s a farmer losing his health insurance because he has no good choices or a mom putting off treatment because it’s too expensive, or hard to find a doctor nearby, rural Americans too often go without critical preventive care – and pay more out of pocket they receive. Read more »

El Evento de MALDEF se Enfoca a Mejorar la Calidad de Vida de las Comunidades Latinas

El representar a USDA en un panel durante la Cuarta Conferencia Anual del Estado de la Unión Latina de MALDEF en Washington, D.C. fue una experiencia inigualable. El evento examinó cómo las políticas públicas del país afectan a la comunidad Latina y cómo las políticas futuras pueden proveer una mejor calidad de vida para los Latinos.

Aunque la discusión cubrió un gran gama de temas de interés para la comunidad, gran parte de la conversación se enfocó en la obesidad infantil y el impacto que esta tiene en la educación, el talento y el futuro de la fuerza laboral no solo de los Latinos pero de toda la nación. Read more »