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Keeping it Clear: Writing at USDA

The White House has called upon all federal agencies to “keep it simple” when it comes to writing. Here at USDA, we are committed to communicating clearly so that we can provide you with the most useful information possible.   As Secretary Tom Vilsack has said, “Using plain writing is indispensable to achieving our goals of providing first-class customer service and ensuring access to our programs.”

Officially implemented this past fall, the Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires all federal agencies to write “clear, concise, well-organized” documents “that the public can understand and use.” This is a part of the Obama Administration’s larger effort to create a transparent government that promotes public participation. To ensure that USDA meets our obligations, we are training our employees on writing techniques that avoid the complicated language that can confuse and frustrate the public we serve. Read more »

Flying Planes with Biofuels

Today, in Chicago, I joined Secretary Vilsack as he met with leaders from Boeing, United Airlines and Honeywell, to talk about support for the development of biofuels to power our jets.

In the United States alone, passenger and cargo airlines spend about $50 billion on fuel each year. If just a fraction of those billions were used to purchase American-produced aviation biofuels, we provide the opportunity to create thousands of good-paying jobs in communities across the nation. Read more »

MLK Day – A Day to Serve, Reflect and Chart a New Path For Civil Rights

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision and legacy by helping others in need.  USDA employees from across the country will observe this day through service projects in their communities, working to fulfill Dr. King’s belief that “everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”

As we take a moment to think about MLK’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and his commitment to making this country a better place to live, USDA is reminded of the steps we have taken to correct errors, learn from past mistakes, and to chart a stronger path for the future where all Americans are treated with dignity and respect by USDA employees. Read more »

USDA Employees Commemorate Dr. King’s Legacy of Service

“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness . . .We all have the drum major instinct.”

Excerpt from The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, given on February 4, 1968.

USDA employees came together for an inspirational ceremony last week to commemorate today’s day of remembrance and service for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Secretary Vilsack declared the first ever USDA Day of Service and challenged all employees to volunteer in their communities.  Secretary Vilsack reminded the audience of Dr. King’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and the importance of keeping his legacy of service alive. He challenged everyone to make service a part of their everyday lives.

Read more »

NRCS Employees Donate Their Free Time to Clean Up a Stream

Working as an Earth Team volunteer, Cartographic Technician Jonathan Bowlin pulls trash from a stream near his office in Greensboro, N.C.

Working as an Earth Team volunteer, Cartographic Technician Jonathan Bowlin pulls trash from a stream near his office in Greensboro, N.C.

Employees of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) work every day to help private landowners improve environmental quality on their properties. So when staff at the NRCS East Remote Sensing Lab (ERSL) in Greensboro, N.C. noticed a stream near their building had become a dumping ground, they took it upon themselves to address the problem. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A Blueprint for Stronger Service at USDA

Last week, I announced a Blueprint for Stronger Service at USDA.  It is our effort to make sure that in this era of reduced budgets, the folks who live, work and raise their families in rural America don’t see reduced services from the Department.

Over the past three years, USDA has made significant investments in rural America and supported farmers and ranchers.  Today the farm economy is thriving, with record income and exports – and the unemployment figure in rural America has fallen faster than in other parts of the country. Read more »