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What’s Hot about COOL?

Whether shoppers stroll through a grocery store or visit a local farmer’s market, they often wonder where meat or produce comes from.

The Country of Origin Labeling program, or COOL, began as an amendment by Congress to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bill. However, COOL did not officially take effect until March 2009. This regulation requires retailers, such as grocery stores, supermarkets, and club stores, to provide accurate country of origin information on all covered commodities, including muscle cuts and ground beef (including veal); pork, lamb, goat, and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fruits and vegetables; peanut, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng. Read more »

What a Difference Rural Development Can Make

Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager spent a busy week recently traveling throughout the heartland as a part of President Obama’s Rural Tour.

Under Secretary Tonsager attended a Rural Tour event in Iowa with President Obama and Secretary Vilsack, and then continued to South Dakota where he took part in DakotaFest. DakotaFest is an annual outdoor farm show that takes place on the Schlafffman Farm outside of Mitchell, SD.  Mr. Tonsager visited with South Dakotans attending DakotaFest and talked about  rural issues most important to them. Read more »

Columbus Historic North Market

A stop during my recent visit to Ohio was the historic North Market located in downtown Columbus.

The North Market successfully addresses the needs of small and local businesses for retail space, and provides local, healthy and sustainably grown and processed food for consumers.  Over one million customers annually have the opportunity to sample and purchase a tremendous array of local products including fruits and vegetables, meats, baked goods, ethnic foods, seafood, wines, ice cream and many other products. Read more »

Long Term Partnership Pays Off in China

Foreign Agricultural Service Acting Administrator Suzanne Heinen discusses U.S. products with Ralph Bean, director of the Agricultural Trade Office in Beijing, during a BHG promotional event.

Foreign Agricultural Service Acting Administrator Suzanne Heinen discusses U.S. products with Ralph Bean, director of the Agricultural Trade Office in Beijing, during a BHG promotional event.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) in Beijing has been working closely with Chinese retailer Beijing Hualian Group High End Markets (BHG) for several years, building a strong partnership. The Beijing ATO is staffed by Foreign Service Officers from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), who work in more than 100 offices around the world to establish solid export relationships for U.S. agriculture. In five short years, BHG has become one of the premier retailers of high-end imported foods to domestic Chinese consumers. In addition, BHG’s purchases of U.S. high-value food products jumped from $3 million in the first quarter of 2011 to $7 million in the second quarter. Read more »

Pennwood Farms Watches Electricity and Bedding Costs Disappear

Tucked away in the hillsides of Somerset County, Pennwood Farms is seeing great results from its new methane digester. The 600-cow dairy farm is owned by four brothers who installed the digester in April of this year with the help of a $264,450 USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) loan, a $264,574 REAP grant and $475,274 in PA Energy Development Authority funding. The digester produces biogas to power a 180-kilowatt engine-generator, providing more than enough electricity to meet the farm’s needs. In addition to electricity, the digester also produces fertilizer and cow bedding, saving the farm over $60,000 per year in bedding costs.

Rural Development’s REAP loan and grant to Pennwood Farms are excellent examples of funding that contributes to making farm operations more energy efficient and economical. This funding for renewable energy projects helps rebuild and revitalize rural America. Read more »

Off-Road Bicycle Trail Renovated on the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida

In conjunction with National Bike Month, the National Forests in Florida celebrated the renovation of the Munson Hills Off-Road Bicycle Trail on the Apalachicola National Forest. The project was funded by the Recovery Act.

The ribbon-cutting event in Bristol, Fla., was attended by an enthusiastic crowd. Guest speaker Jim Wood of the Florida Office of Greenways and Trails kicked off the ceremony. Recognition was given to those individuals who contributed to the restoration and renovation of the trails by Deputy District Ranger Harold Shenk. Following the ceremony, a group bicycle ride was led by the Tallahassee Mountain Bike Club. Read more »