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Honduras’ Biotechnology Leadership Will Advance Both Food and Energy Security in the Region

By John Brewer, Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service

I’m here in Tegucigalpa to recognize Honduras as one of the Western Hemisphere’s leaders in incorporating biotechnology in agricultural and energy production. Biotechnology is a powerful tool that can be used to boost agricultural productivity and food security, reduce environmental impact, combat climate change, and build prosperity among the rural poor – a vision that USDA and the U.S. Government share with Honduras.

Last night and this morning I met with Honduran government officials from the agroforestry sector and the Honduran Biotechnology and Biosafety Commission; the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture; academic and think tank scholars; and local farmers. Each of these groups work together to implement the use of biotechnology in the fields and to gain acceptance by society.

While 25 countries around the world are currently planting genetically engineered (GE) crops, Honduras is the only Central American country doing so.  I chose to come to Honduras because their leadership in the implementation of bio-safety regulations can be a model for other countries in the region.

GE crops provide a multitude of tangible benefits to both producers and consumers. Pest-resistant crops reduce the need for pesticides and save on fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions. Increased productivity per acre ensures food security and keeps food prices down, while enhanced nutritional value helps to alleviate hunger.

Planting GE crops isn’t the only area where Honduras can be a leader in our hemisphere. The U.S. government is committed to working with willing partners such as Honduras to simultaneously combat climate change and provide alternate sources of energy. Under President Obama’s Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas Honduras is a priority country for collaboration with USDA’s Renewable Biomass Energy project. This program aims to improve agriculture and forestry practices, increase scientific exchanges, and enhance biomass production. Today I encouraged Honduras to ramp up production of renewable biomass energy with USDA’s assistance through this program.

President Lobo’s government has stated that each hectare of biomass harvested in Honduras could create 1.5 jobs directly and 2 jobs indirectly. The U.S. government fully supports Honduras in realizing this potential.  Since 2007, Honduras has reduced or eliminated taxes and tariffs on biofuels and implemented a mechanism to mix biofuels with fossil fuels to lower harmful emissions from cars, making this sector attractive for investments. By offering energy alternatives to fossil fuels right in our own hemisphere, Honduras is increasing energy security for the United States too.  I’ve appreciated meeting the people making these advances possible. USDA and Honduras have a win-win biotech partnership that I see strengthening in the future.

Check back tomorrow for another blog post from me about USDA’s Food for Progress programs here in Honduras. Be sure to check out FAS on Facebook and Twitter too!

On June 28 and 29, Administrator Brewer met with Honduran government officials, including Agriculture and Livestock Minister Jacobo Regalado.

On June 28 and 29, Administrator Brewer met with Honduran government officials, including Agriculture and Livestock Minister Jacobo Regalado.

USDA Officials Plant a People’s Garden in Syracuse

USDA Rural Development (RD), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) staff planted the first public “Peoples Garden” in New York State last week. Read more »

USDA Continues Commitment to Make Farmers Markets More Accessible

The Colorado Farmers Market Association, the City Heights Open Air & Certified Farmers Market in San Diego, Calif. and Greenmarket in New York City did it with help of the Farmers Market Promotion Program.  The Athens Farmers Market in Athens, Ohio was among the first market in Ohio to do it and Detroit’s Eastern Market is seeing record-breaking sales now that they have joined the program. 

These farmers markets are among the more than 1,100 farmers markets and farm stands that have implemented the Electronic Benefits Transfer system and now accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program  benefits at their markets.

Implementing a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at farmers markets can sometimes feel overwhelming.  To make it easier, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), in collaboration with the non-profit Project for Public Spaces, has just released “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at Farmers Market: A How-To Handbook” .

The Handbook provides essential guidance for farmers market managers installing an Electronic Benefits Transfer machine and advice for making the program work successfully for vendors and customers.  It also features a list of resources, a glossary of important terms, and several case studies from farmers markets that have successfully implemented an Electronic Benefits Technology system.  This Handbook is part of the USDA’s commitment to building more direct market opportunities for producers, expanding both of these benefits at farmers markets, and addressing food deserts, especially those in low-income areas.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is not the only food assistance program welcomed at farmers markets.  Customers can take advantage of the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, a voucher program specifically for low-income seniors.  Families qualifying for the Women, Infants and Children Program can use those benefits at farmers markets across the country as well.  For those customers on the lookout for a farmers market that welcomes these benefits, the USDA Farmers Market Directory has a comprehensive list.

SNAP at Farmers Markets Handbook

SNAP at Farmers Markets Handbook

Missouri USDA Rural Development Partners With World Changers to Help With Housing Repairs

Last week in the north central rural community of Trenton, Missouri, I observed the true spirit of the theme of the 2010 National Home Ownership month – Protecting the Dream.  It was the gathering of 150 volunteer youth from six different states representing seven churches providing labor for repairs to 15 houses.  Read more »

PaymentAccuracy.gov

As I wrote recently, one of the steps we are taking to cut waste in government and boost performance is establishing a Do Not Pay List, a single source through which all agencies can check the status of a potential contractor or individual, so that a barred or ineligible individual or organization is not paid erroneously. This is part of a sustained effort we have taken to go after the $100 billion wasted in improper payments each year by the federal government. Read more »

Domestic Production of Renewable Energy – A National Priority

The Obama Administration has made domestic production of renewable energy a national priority because it will create quality American jobs, combat global warming, reduce fossil fuel dependence and lay a strong foundation for a strong rural economy.  Read more »