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Indiana Housing Manager Receives USDA National Award

Written by Darrell J. Mowery, USDA Rural Development Public Information CoordinatorChristal Stidham has been chosen as the National 2010 Site Manager of the Year for Family Housing for the USDA Rural Development’s Multi-Family Housing program.  Ms. Stidham operates Village Apartments II in Scottsburg, Indiana.

Originally selected as the Indiana Site Manager of the Year for Family Housing, Stidham then competed for the national honor.  The award was formally presented to her Tuesday morning, June 15th, at the Ritz-Carlton-Pentagon City, Arlington, Virginia.

A Site Manager of the Year sets a standard of excellence; excellence in tenant satisfaction, maintaining curb appeal of the project, accurate and complete record keeping, and generally performing above and beyond normal expectations.  Christal Stidham has achieved this and much more.  Village Apartments II of Scottsburg is well maintained and managed.  The tenants are very satisfied and happy to have her as a manager.

Village Apartments II had a fire which took place in May 2009.  Christal went above and beyond the call of duty that day.  She took charge and only thought of the safety of her residents and their pets during the extreme situation.  Christal’s true character came out when faced with this emergency.

Phil Lehmkuhler, USDA Rural Development Indiana State Director said, “The site managers guarantee the success of our housing complexes.  They make sure the day-to-day operations go smoothly and they often invest a great deal of their own free time in providing tenants with a safe and cohesive community.  Although these managers would do their jobs whether or not they received recognition, we believe we should reward excellent performance.”

USDA Rural Development administers a national loan portfolio of over 16,000 rural rental housing complexes.  In partnership with private sector and nonprofit borrowers, RD houses very low- and low-income rural families, elderly people, and farm workers.  The site managers of the housing complexes are employees of private companies, not the U.S. Government. Also receiving awards yesterday were Nancy Fargo of New York and Tami Egeland of North Dakota.

Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA’s web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov

Christal Stidham (left) and Tina Richardson, USDA Rural Development Area Technician for the Indiana North Vernon Area Office, celebrate Tuesday’s award presentation.
Christal Stidham (left) and Tina Richardson, USDA Rural Development Area Technician for
the Indiana North Vernon Area Office, celebrate Tuesday’s award presentation.

NRCS Chief Dave White Attends USET Semi-Annual Meeting

Written by Fay Garner, Public Affairs Assistant, NRCS, Alabama

NRCS Chief Dave White joined members of the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), Inc. and other agency leaders at the USET semi-annual meeting in Mobile, Alabama, June 14-17, 2010. USET’s 25 Tribal members are dedicated to enhancing the development of Indian Tribes and improving the capabilities of Tribal governments. They also assist the member Tribes and their governments in dealing effectively with public policy issues and in serving the broad needs of Indian people.

On Tuesday, June 15, a number of people, including Chief White, toured the PBCI reservation to view practices installed using NRCS financial assistance programs. The group also included Chairman Buford Rolin of the Atmore, Alabama Federally recognized Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PBCI); NRCS Assistant Chief Walt Douglas; and Alabama NRCS State Conservationist Bill Puckett. The group saw diverse projects such as cross-fencing, watering facilities and livestock shade structures. They also viewed improvements on the Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve timber property and recreational facilities.

On Wednesday, June 16, Chief White will speak to the USET Board of Directors to inform them about the technical and financial assistance available to implement conservation activities on Tribal lands that conserve soil, water, air and wildlife resources.

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians installed 41 watering facilities. The watering facilities improve plant health by allowing forage plants to rest, making it easier to manage animal waste and improving water quality.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians installed 41 watering facilities. The watering facilities improve plant health by
allowing forage plants to rest, making it easier to manage animal waste and improving water quality.

USDA Rural Development Puerto Rico Celebrates Homeownership Month Activity at the Southeastern Affordable Housing Management Association (SAHMA) Convention

By Miguel A. Ramírez, Public Affairs CoordinatorLast week the Southeastern Affordable Housing Management Association (SAHMA) held its annual convention in Puerto Rico.  Three hundred eighty housing managers participated in the convention. Arlene Zambrana, USDA Rural Housing Program Director and her staff were also present.Rural Development Officials talked about the Homeownership Month Celebration and the success stories we had with funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Officials explained the current funding availabilities the Agency has under consideration during June 2010, and the Multifamily Housing Program and Civil Rights Program that protect the residents of the housing projects.The Housing Administrator had a face to face meeting with Federal, State and Municipal Agency’s representatives where they discussed the things we are doing well and the things that needed improvement.USDA Rural Development Puerto Rico is working really hard promoting our Rural Housing Programs this month, with meetings around the island, newspapers articles and TV appearances of José Otero-García, State Director,  promoting our Agency’s Rural Housing Program and success stories.

The Juice on Summer Peaches and Plums

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.By Kathleen Phillips, Texas A&M AgriLife CommunicationsA fresh, juicy peach makes a good addition to a summer lunch bag or picnic. Warm or chilled, you know you have a good one when you have to chase a stream of peach juice with a napkin.

So my recent visit with food chemist Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos and peach breeder Dr. David Byrne was bound to conjure notions of hand-cranked peach ice cream or fresh slices topped with heavy cream.

Turns out, the Texas AgriLife Research scientists have an even better use: to cure breast cancer, even the most aggressive kind, without hurting healthy cells. That’s what they’ve done in the lab with two phenolic compounds in stone fruits.

What’s “phenolic,” you ask? The phenols are organic compounds that may affect traits such as aroma, taste or color.  The two in this case are chlorogenic and neochlorogenic

Many want to know where to get these compounds, if one can cook the peach or eat it raw, and whether these substances might work on other cancers. None of that is known yet – research like this is often a very long process to make sure it’s safe; so far no human clinical trials have been done…

But what this Texas duo has found is deliciously promising: to kill cancer cells and not healthy cells would make chemotherapy much more tolerable.

Their search began with the discovery that antioxidants and phytonutrients in plums equal or surpass so-called super fruits like blueberries. That called for a check against cancer.

“We chose breast cancer because it’s one of the cancers with highest incidence among women. So it is of big concern,” Cisneros-Zevallos said.

The National Cancer Institute counted 194,000 new cases and 40,610 deaths from breast cancer in 2009. The World Health Organization reports that breast cancer accounts for 16 percent of the cancer deaths of women globally.

Byrne plans to see how researchers who breed peach and plum varieties can make sure these compounds are bred into new fruit varieties Cisneros-Zevallos will continue testing these compounds in different types of cancer.

The work was supported by the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Tree Fruit Agreement.

Breast cancer cells -- even the most aggressive type -- died after treatments with peach and plum extracts in lab tests at Texas AgriLife Research.
Breast cancer cells — even the most aggressive type — died after treatments with
peach and plum extracts in lab tests at Texas AgriLife Research.

Becoming a Climate Ready Conservation Agency

The National Academy of Sciences last week released a set of three new reports on advancing the science, adapting to the impacts, and limiting the magnitude of climate change. These peer-reviewed reports reconfirmed that there is a strong, credible body of evidence documenting climate change, its correlation to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use, and its association with impacts. Many of these will affect forests and grasslands including increases in intense rainfall, decreases in snow cover, more intense and frequent heat waves and drought, increases in wildfires, and longer growing seasons. Many impacts of a changing climate are already showing up. Projections anticipate an additional warming of 2 to 11.5 degrees F over the next century, on top of the 1.4 degrees F already observed over the past 100 years. Read more »

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom Residents Receive USDA Support to Increase Economic Development Opportunities, Spur Job Creation

Written by Anita Rios Moore, Vermont USDA Public Information Coordinator

USDA Rural Development State Director, Molly Lambert, joined by representatives from the Vermont Congressional delegation presented seven Northeast Kingdom organizations with Certificates of Partnership recently during a grant awards ceremony at the St. Johnsbury USDA office. The recipients received Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG) to spur Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom businesses.

“Our mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for all rural Americans. These grants will help rural businesses with funding and technical assistance they need to expand and create jobs,” Lambert said. “We are pleased to partner with these organizations in order to spur economic development throughout the Northeast Kingdom.”

Three organizations, the Country Riders Snowmobile Club, Inc., Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Inc. received grants to promote regional tourism throughout Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties.  Two other organizations, The Center for an Agricultural Economy and the University Of Vermont & State Agriculture College, will use their grants to provide technical assistance to dairy farmers and agricultural businesses in the area. Both organizations will provide business counseling, plan or product development to their specified clientele.

“Following the announcement, the grantees had time to network,” said Steven Campbell, Director for the St. Johnsbury USDA Rural Development Area Office. “They’ve continued conversations beyond the day’s event that clearly indicate they understand the connections they share.”

Newport City Renaissance Corporation will develop a Newport brand recognition and a marketing strategy. Northern Community Investment Corporation will complete a Growth Readiness Fund to assist selected innovative high-impact business partners with specialized services that point toward preparing and advancing their businesses for job creation.

These seven grants add to 20 previously awarded to Northeast Kingdom, Vermont recipients. Grantees have provided business assistance, including internet marketing, business account training, the creation of a centralized reservation system for Northeast Kingdom tourism businesses, energy efficiencies, revolving loan funds and technical assistance in several forms.

The Northeast Kingdom is a designated Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone.  The counties of Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans have special access to important USDA Rural Development programs.

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Northeast Kingdom grant recipients signed grant agreement documents for their Rural Business Enterprise Grant awards to spur economic development throughout Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans counties. From left to right: Patricia Sears – Newport Renaissance Corporation; Kate Williams – Northern Forest Canoe Trails; Ron Merrill Country Riders Snowmobile Club; Jon Freeman – Northern Community Investment Corporation; Gloria Bruce, Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association, and Monty Fisher, The Center for An Agricultural Economy. Steven Campbell from USDA Rural Development discusses document, while Molly Lambert, USDA Rural Development State Director (in back) looks on.