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Secretary’s Column: US-Korea Trade Agreement Big Boost for Agriculture

Last week was monumental for American farmers. Under the new U.S.-Korea trade agreement, two-thirds of the tariffs imposed on U.S. food and agricultural products exported to South Korea are being eliminated. That includes wheat, corn, soybeans for crushing, whey for feed use, hides and skins, cotton, cherries, pistachios, almonds, orange juice, grape juice, and wine.

Over the next few years, as additional barriers fall and more U.S. businesses market products to Korea’s expanding economy, American agricultural exports should grow by $1.9 billion and help support nearly 16,000 jobs here at home. Read more »

USDA, Other Federal Agencies Join Together to Help an Iowa Community

Mention to folks that federal agencies work well together and you may receive reactions of disbelief.  Sometimes the federal employees, themselves, don’t believe it.  But there was a roomful of believers at a recent USDA Rural Roundtable held in Ogden, Iowa.

Iowa USDA Rural Development State Director Bill Menner (center, seated) and other federal officials, hold a roundtable meeting in Ogden, Iowa.

Iowa USDA Rural Development State Director Bill Menner (center, seated) and other federal officials, hold a roundtable meeting in Ogden, Iowa.

I held more than 40 roundtables across rural Iowa last year, modeled after the roundtables of the White House Business Council and the White House Rural Council.  These roundtables provided a great opportunity to talk with rural residents, business owners and leaders about the issues facing their communities – and the opportunities that exist. Read more »

Value Added Producer Grants Promote Improvements to Vermont Dairy, New Hampshire Sausage Operations

Value Added Producer Grant recipients in Vermont will use USDA support to increase on-farm production of dairy products. (Photo taken by a USDA employee)

Value Added Producer Grant recipients in Vermont will use USDA support to increase on-farm production of dairy products. (Photo taken by a USDA employee)

It was a snow day in New England, but up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, in the little town of Hardwick, several people were gathered at the VT Food Venture Center, a local food incubator, to sign USDA Value Added Grant papers for the new businesses they are starting up.

The Michaud family of East Hardwick is launching Kingdom Creamery of Vermont, LLC. out of their newly finished processing facility on their dairy farm.  They are producing ice cream, yogurt and a soft serve mix for local retailers. They received a USDA Value Added Producer grant for working capital purposes for marketing, processing and purchasing packaging and production inventory. Read more »

It’s for the Birds! Annual Flyway Festival Enthusiasts Learn More about Migrating Birds and Role of California’s National Forests

An estimated 4,000 people in the San Francisco Bay Area recently celebrated the return of millions of migrating birds as part of the 16th annual Flyway Festival held on Mare Island in Vallejo, Calif. California national forests act as a vital habitat link in the Pacific Flyway, a major north-south route of travel for birds migrating every year from Alaska to Patagonia.

The Western tanager is a striking colored bird which is found in mixed conifer forests occurring on California forests. Photo courtesy of Jim Livaudais

The Western tanager is a striking colored bird which is found in mixed conifer forests occurring on California forests. Photo courtesy of Jim Livaudais

The birds travel some or all of this distance both in the spring and in the fall, following food sources heading to breeding grounds overwintering sites. Many of the bird’s native habitats such as oak woodlands, riparian areas and mixed conifer forests are found in the golden state’s national forests. Read more »

The Woman Who Cultivated a Billion-Dollar Industry

AMS, Women’s History Month, Elizabeth Coleman White, Blueberries, Research and Promotion Program, Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

Elizabeth Coleman White. A pioneer, she was the first to cultivate the wild blueberry. For her contributions to the agriculture industry, White was the first female to receive a citation from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. Photo courtesy of New Jersey Women’s History, Rutgers University

A Whitesbog, NJ, native born in 1871, Elizabeth Coleman White spent her childhood summers helping out on her parents’ cranberry farm in the Pine Barrens.  While harvesting cranberries, she often wondered if the wild blueberries sprinkled on her parents’ farm could be cultivated like the cranberries. Conventional wisdom at the time held that wild blueberries varied too much in size and sweetness and could not be cultivated.  A true pioneer, she embarked on a new mission – cultivate the wild blueberry. Read more »

Rare Sighting of Baby Bald Eagle Surprises San Bernardino National Forest Staff, Visitors

A new baby bald eagle will soon begin his flight lessons on the San Bernardino National Forest as the first recorded chick to be successfully nested in recent times near Big Bear Lake.

Baby bald eagle Jack, right, in his nest. Photo credit: Robin Eliason, District Wildlife Biologist, San Bernardino National Forest, Mountaintop Ranger District

Baby bald eagle Jack, right, in his nest. Photo credit: Robin Eliason, District Wildlife Biologist, San Bernardino National Forest, Mountaintop Ranger District

The chick was first spotted Feb. 21 by Forest Service wildlife biologist Marc Stamer while leading a school field trip.  “I was shocked to look through the spotting scope and see a bald eagle chick sitting up in the nest,” said Stamer. “The students, teachers and parents were as excited to see a baby eagle as I was!  It was a first for all of us!” Read more »