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Harnessing Forest Service Programs to Support Local and Regional Food Systems

When people think about USDA they usually think of the Farm Service Agency loan officer helping a farmer finance a new tractor, the Extension agent explaining the latest research to a rancher, or the Rural Development employee bringing broadband to a rural community.  But few would realize our largest agency is not directly responsible for our farms, but rather our forests.

The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of forests and range lands, and helps States, Tribes, and communities manage an additional 500 million acres – together about 30% of the United States!  Through its work in managing and protecting these lands the Forest Service also plays a critical, even if often overlooked, role in local and regional food systems. Read more »

Thoughts on Joint Base Balad, Iraq

JC Griffin on the scene at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

JC Griffin on the scene at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

After a rather interesting C-130 tactical landing to avoid enemy fire, my first sight of Iraq was at night.  My first thought was how far I was from home, but a gaze upward revealed familiar stars and constellations. I felt relieved knowing that I was still indeed on planet Earth–even after traveling for 50 hours. Read more »

Pennsylvania USDA Recovery Act Sewer Project to Benefit Homeowners

A ceremonial groundbreaking for the Municipal Authority of the Township of Washington’s Phase II Sewer Project in Pennsylvania marked an important day for almost 1,700 local residents. Congressman Mark Critz, officials from USDA Rural Development, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers participated in the groundbreaking.

Phase II of the sewer construction project is funded through a Rural Development American Recovery and Reinvestment Act loan administered by the Water and Environmental Program and  U.S. Army Corp of Engineers funding. Phase II will provide sewer to the areas of Washington Heights, Arnold City, and Lynnwood. These areas are currently served by malfunctioning on-lot sewage systems, allowing raw or partially treated sewage to be discharged to yards, roadside ditches, roadways and nearby streams, posing a constant threat of bacterial contamination for the area residents, as well as fish, wildlife and downstream property owners. Read more »

Harnessing NRCS Programs to Support Local and Regional Food Systems

When we launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative,  I asked each agency to take a realistic look at their programs for opportunities to better support farmers trying to access local and regional markets.  Since then, we have been excited to be able to share details and concrete examples on how programs in our Rural Development and Research, Education, and Economics mission areas and the Farm Service Agency and Agricultural Marketing Service are able to do so. Read more »

A New USDA-Funded Center Boosts a Mississippi Community

Over 100 people gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Greater Refuge Community Center, which was financed by a USDA loan. (State Director Trina N. George, front row, third from right)

Over 100 people gathered for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Greater Refuge Community Center, which was financed by a USDA loan. (State Director Trina N. George, front row, third from right)

A new community center financed through USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities program was the location of a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Canton, Mississippi last week. Read more »

Former SNAP Recipient Helps Increase Access to Fresh Produce at Farmers Markets

Corey Chapman, EBT Coordinator for City of Chicago farmers markets, processes a woman’s benefits card so she can purchase items at the market.

Corey Chapman, EBT Coordinator for City of Chicago farmers markets, processes a woman’s benefits card so she can purchase items at the market.

If there’s one thing Corey Chatman is passionate about, it’s making sure everyone has access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Maybe it’s because he knows what it’s like to rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for nourishment. Read more »