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In Energy Security, Rural America Leads the Way

This week, President Obama called on our nation to put an end – once and for all – to our dependence on foreign oil.  He laid out a plan for a more secure future by producing energy here at home, and investing in efficient vehicles and buildings. You can read more about it and watch a video of the President’s speech at Georgetown University in the Administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future on the White House blog.

Rural America is helping to lead these efforts. Read more »

Hmong Farmers Extend the Chilly Massachusetts Growing Season

A Flats Mentor Farm grower tends Asian crops growing in a high tunnel put in place with NRCS assistance.

A Flats Mentor Farm grower tends Asian crops growing in a high tunnel put in place with NRCS assistance.

The near-record snowfall in Massachusetts this winter did not deter farmer Pa Thao. In fact, it strengthened his resolve to make sure that nothing happened to the high tunnel that he put up last fall, so that it would be there when he’s ready to plant mustard greens and pea tendrils in the early spring. Every day Thao, who is from Laos, in tropical Southeast Asia, trudged across the frozen field with a shovel to clear snow away from the structure. Read more »

Deputy Under Secretary Outlines Agricultural Success at Mississippi Small Farmers Conference

In the two years that President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack have been in office, those involved in production agriculture have participated in driving a sustained economic recovery.  That’s the message I delivered earlier this week to farmers, extension staff, local business leaders and government officials during a speech at Alcorn State University in Mississippi.  I was honored to be asked to address those in attendance at the 20th annual Small Farmers Conference at Alcorn State.  The theme is “Sowing the Seeds of Opportunity for a Bountiful Harvest.” Read more »

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 »