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USDA Rural Development Provides Support to Improve Medical Facilities in a Minnesota Region

Access to quality healthcare in Northeastern Minnesota received a major boost on May 20. That’s when officials broke ground on an expansion project that will add over 80,000 square-feet to Community Memorial Hospital (CMH) in Cloquet, Minn.

During the ceremony, officials also highlighted how the project will create and save jobs in the region during the construction phase and once the expansion is finished.

About 300 local jobs are expected to be created during construction. CMH also employs about 400 people and contributes about $40 million annually to the regional economy. Read more »

Faces of the Forest Celebrates Dave Kretschmann

You might say that Dave Kretschmann has engineered his way into Major League Baseball’s history books. Kretschmann’s work as a research general engineer led him to figure out why so many bats used by Major League Baseball were shattered.

“Since late in the 2008 season, we’ve seen video of every shattered bat in Major League Baseball,” said Kretschmann, who is assigned to the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis., “We’ve tested hundreds of bats and recorded the who, when, and how of every shattered bat in 2009 and 2010. As a result of the implementation of our recommendations and the work of TECO, an independent certification and testing agency for wood products, there’s been a 50 percent reduction in the rate of multiple piece failures since the 2008 season.” Read more »

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack on a 21st Century Regulatory System

In January, President Obama called upon the U.S. Department of Agriculture and all other U.S. agencies to perform a government-wide review of current federal regulations to update, streamline and remove excessive rules. This review, prompted by Executive Order 13563, was intended to minimize burdens on individuals, businesses and communities attempting to access programs that promote economic growth, improve access to resources, create jobs, and protect the health and safety of the American people.

Since then, USDA has sought public comment on best practices for simplifying and reducing reporting burdens for entry into critical programs, while reducing administrative and operating costs by sharing data across relevant agencies.  These programs range from rural economic development initiatives, to measures governing national forest usage and soil conservation, to emergency producer assistance as a result of natural disasters. Read more »

Benvenuti a Ashville! Ira B. Jones Elementary Tempts Judges with Taste of Tuscany

Cross posted from the Let’s Move! blog:

Located in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville, N.C., is known for its rich heritage, arts, and fine dining.  Recently, students from Ira B. Jones Elementary School, located in Asheville, shared a taste of another well-known region of fine dining – Tuscany – as the school’s recipe team prepared their semi-finalist recipe of Tuscan Smoked Turkey and Bean Soup for the judges in the First Lady’s Recipes for Healthy Kids competition.

The school nutrition and cafeteria staff worked hand-in-hand with the recipe team to cook 350 servings of the Tuscan Smoked Turkey and Bean Soup for lunch as a special menu day in celebration of the judging event and served it alongside a corn muffin, fresh green vegetables and fresh fruit to the students who gave it great reviews. The judges also got a taste of the soup and talked to students about what they thought of the recipe. Delizioso!! Read more »

USDA Receives Main Street Leadership Award in Recognition of Commitment to Rural Communities

More than 1,300 community developers from 47 states converged on Des Moines, Iowa, this week to attend the 2011 National Main Streets Conference organized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

A key theme repeated during the conference illustrated how communities with healthy Main Street districts are two steps ahead in the race to create and retain jobs.

In small towns all across the country, downtown is typically two or three blocks of businesses run by familiar faces, a place where one knows who is at the local diner by the cars and trucks sitting outside.  Ensuring these districts remain vibrant many times requires a significant investment in buildings, capital and infrastructure, often financed through USDA Rural Development. Read more »

Revitalizing Agriculture, Empowering Women in Afghanistan

Maggie Rhodes, pictured in Afghanistan, has been a USDA agricultural advisor there since December 2009.”

Maggie Rhodes, pictured in Afghanistan, has been a USDA agricultural advisor there since December 2009.”

For the last 26 years, I have proudly worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2009, I made a life- and career-altering decision to leave my job as the team leader in Program Allocations and Management Support with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)  in Washington D.C. and volunteered to help support USDA’s efforts in Afghanistan. Read more »