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Secretary’s Column: A Thank You to American Agriculture

America’s farmers, ranchers and growers are some of our nation’s greatest assets. Not only do we rely on agriculture for our food, feed, fiber, and fuel, our agricultural producers preserve our environment, and help drive our national economy.

As I travel the country, I often ask folks when they last took a moment to thank or appreciate a farmer. The truth is that we owe a debt of gratitude to the hard working men and women who provide us – and much of the world – with a safe, reliable, affordable, and abundant food supply. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack Reaffirms USDA’s Commitment to Support Tribes

It was fitting that the afternoon session of this month’s National Congress of American Indians meeting in Washington, DC, featured, as the lead speaker, former North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today joined tribal leaders from across the nation at the National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit in Washington, D. C. on Wednesday March 7, 2012, where he announced investments of $900,000 for positive nutrition education and physical activity habits that can lead to healthier lifestyles. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today joined tribal leaders from across the nation at the National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit in Washington, D. C. on Wednesday March 7, 2012, where he announced investments of $900,000 for positive nutrition education and physical activity habits that can lead to healthier lifestyles. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

After leaving office, Senator Dorgan created a center for Native American Youth and remains an advocate for improving living conditions on reservations. At the event, Senator Dorgan urged attendees to continue to “fight on behalf of people living in third-world conditions to get them adequate housing, health care and an education system that gives Native kids opportunity.” Read more »

Public Land Access and Changing Demographics in Hall County, Georgia

In one of the first of its kind studies in the South, a research social scientist with the Forest Service Southern Research Station recently examined Latino access to local public lands in Hall County, Ga.

Census-track-based information from studies like this can help municipal and county planners develop strategies to address public land access by minority communities.

Researcher Cassandra Johnson Gaither  found that since 1990, Latinos have migrated or immigrated to nontraditional areas of the South—basically states other than Florida—at unprecedented rates.  The Latino populations in some southern states have increased by 300 to 400 percent.  This growth places demands on these areas from a pure numbers standpoint, but the associated cultural shift can’t be ignored. Read more »

New Online Revenue Protection Tool from the Risk Management Agency

Pacific Northwest diversified crop and livestock producers now have a valuable online tool to help them better evaluate whole-farm insurance protection. AGR-Lite is a federally subsidized, whole-farm revenue protection package and is available through private crop insurance agents in 38 states. The tool will allow farmers to explore their eligibility to estimate premium costs specific to their farms, consider various future loss scenarios and print reports to assist in their insurance options. USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) funded a partnership between the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and Montana Tech of the University of Montana to develop AGR-Lite.

The tool uses a producer’s 5-year historical IRS farm income information and an annual farm report as a base to provide a level of guaranteed revenue for the insurance period. It also provides insurance coverage for multiple agriculture commodities in one insurance product and provides maximum liability coverage of $1 million. Read more »

Finding and Controlling Invasive-Plants? There’s an App for That

The Forest Service has added an iPhone/iPad application called Invasive Plants in Southern Forests: Identification and Management to its strategy of reducing nonnative invasive plants in the South.

The free app will allow more people to get involved in eradicating foreign plants, which, along with nonnative animals and pathogens, harm water supplies.  They also harm native plants, wildlife, livestock and property in both rural and urban areas at a cost of about $138 billion annually. Read more »

Taking Part in a “Yes We Can” America

Each year, USDA Rural Development assists thousands of limited income Americans achieve the dream of homeownership.  We do it with the support of our partners and our field staff.  Below, cross-posted from the White House website, is the story of one person in Utah who teamed with USDA to make a big difference.

Cross posted from the White House Champions of Change website:

Emily S. Niehaus is the Founder and Executive Director of Community Rebuilds, a nonprofit whose mission is to build energy-efficient housing, provide education on sustainability, and improve the housing conditions of the workforce through an affordable program.

In 2008, Presidential candidate Barack Obama declared “Yes We Can.” I, along with millions of other Americans, was inspired by this approach to politics. I understood this message to be a partnership request. I had a role to play. And so I founded Community Rebuilds to address an affordable housing need in my rural community with the larger goal of shifting the existing construction paradigm to have a lighter impact. Community Rebuilds’ mission is to build energy-efficient housing, provide education on sustainability, and improve the housing conditions of the workforce through an affordable program. Read more »