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Deputy Secretary Visits Romulus, Michigan Auto Parts Facility to Highlight Recovery Act Jobs Impact

Today, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited Aztec Manufacturing Corporation, a Romulus, Mich., auto supply manufacturer that intends to purchase new equipment as a result of loan funds guaranteed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Read more »

USDA Officials Break Ground for a ‘People’s Garden’ in Dover, Delaware

Submitted by Kathy Beisner, Delaware USDA Rural Development Public Information Coordinator

Under bright, sunny Delaware skies, USDA Officials including Dave White, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook,  and Michael Scuse, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services joined in a groundbreaking ceremony for America’s latest ‘People’s Garden.’ 

The new garden, in Dover, is located near the USDA State Office and is modeled after similar gardens established around the nation, including one on the grounds of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Jamie L. Whitten Building in Washington, D.C.  

In addition to federal officials, representatives of the State, Cooperative Extension, the Ruth N. Dorsey Relief Shelter, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, and North Dover Elementary School participated in the event this morning.  Among those assisting in planting the garden was teacher Susan Plucenik’s Second Grade Class from North Dover Elementary School.  The garden is the 300th planted across the Nation so far.  To learn more about the People’s Garden click here.

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook assists Celebrity Harmon.  Dylan Caldwell gets assistance from USDA Rural Development State Director Jack Tarburton.

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook assists Celebrity Harmon.  Dylan Caldwell gets assistance from USDA Rural Development State Director Jack Tarburton.

At the New Dover, Delaware People's Garden: (Left to Right)  Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Cheryl L. Cook; Chief Dave White, Natural Resources Conservation Service; and Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse.

At the New Dover, Delaware People’s Garden: (Left to Right)  Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Cheryl L. Cook; Chief Dave White, Natural Resources Conservation Service; and Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse.

USDA Rural Development Participates in the Vermont Small Business Lending Conference

By Anita Rios Moore, USDA Rural Development, Vermont

Molly Lambert, USDA Rural Development State Director for Vermont and key Vermont Business and Cooperative Program staff participated recently in the Vermont Small Business Lending Conference presented by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy.

The conference purpose was to bring as many small business lending opportunities and business development resources such as, lender, Government procurement counselors and Small Business Development Centers, directly to small businesses interested in learning about the available business lending opportunities that will help them to invest in job creation and business growth.

USDA Rural Development staff along with representatives from 35 other traditional and non-traditional lenders, and resource organizations met face-to-face with small business owners. Business Programs Loan Specialist, Kevin Morehouse engaged with an assortment of business owners ranging from winery & vineyard, organic food and baked goods operations, to award & gift product line distributors. He and the business owners  discussed next steps which might include a recommendation to meet with a financial advisor to review business plan and organize the business’ loan proposal.

“This conference brings the lenders and the resources to the business,” said State Director Lambert.“After one year of Recovery Act efforts, we are seeing people back to work, and economic growth, yet many small businesses still need the type of assistance and resources offered to them at conferences and workshops like this.”

USDA Water Program Funds Assist a Mississippi Community

Last month, Mississippi Rural Development State Director Trina George organized an event in the town of Leland which spotlighted a loan and grant combination awarded to Black Bayou Water Association. Read more »

Two New USDA Resources Announced to Help Reduce Hunger

By Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, USDA

Today was a great day for increasing access to SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program) benefits.  Here in Washington, I was joined by leaders from the food retail community, to announce two Federal resources to expand opportunities to nourish those in need.  A new sign for retailers, “We Welcome SNAP,” will now be displayed that will alter the way participants view these vital benefits.  While the new SNAP Retailer Locator, also announced today, is a convenient online tool that helps recipients find locations that accept – make that welcome – SNAP benefits and helps them make more informed shopping choices.

These two resources will also strengthen businesses.  Research shows us that every $5 in new SNAP benefits generates as much as $9.20 in total economic activity.  This is good news, since SNAP dollars move quickly into local economies.  In fact, 97 percent of SNAP benefits are redeemed within a month.

Whether it’s a new sign to welcome recipients and provide more comfort using their benefits or establishing ways to easily find stores welcoming  SNAP benefits, the Obama Administration is continuing its goal to ensure access to healthy nutrition for all Americans.

To learn more about the SNAP Retailer Locator, visit the web.

Snapshot of the Food and Nutrition Service's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retail locater.

Snapshot of the Food and Nutrition Service’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) retail locater. 

Small Farms, Big Differences

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.

Are we seeing a resurgence in small farms? The latest Census of Agriculture reported that there were more small farms in 2007 than in 2002. But it’s important to understand the diversity among small farms, and the broad definition of a farm.

USDA defines a small farm as an operation with gross cash farm income under $250,000. Within that group are commercial and noncommercial farms. The number of small commercial farms – with sales of $10,000 to $250,000 – actually fell between 2002 and 2007. It was the noncommercial farms that accounted for the growth in small farm numbers. In fact, all of the growth occurred among farms under $1,000 in sales. These are classified as farms so long as they have enough land or livestock to generate $1000, whether or not actual sales reach that level. Most of these operations are better described as rural residences; the households on these farms – and on many other small farms – rely heavily on off-farm income.

While most U.S. farms are small – 91 percent according to the Census of Agriculture – large farms ($250,000 and above) account for 85 percent of the market value of agricultural production. Moreover, the number of small commercial farms, as well as their share of sales, has shrunk over time.

Production is shifting to larger farms because economies of scale reduce costs in some tasks, and because modern tillage systems, seeds, and equipment reduce the time needed to perform other tasks. Farmers who are able to assemble the needed land and equipment can now run bigger farms than they could 25 years ago.

Despite the continuing shift in production to larger farms, the contribution of small commercial family farms is still considerable. They numbered about 800,000 of the 2.2 million U.S. farms in 2007, and the value of their output exceeded the production of all Corn Belt farms. And many small operations remain profitable.

What about the product mix? Some observers regard fruit and vegetable production, with limited land needs, as a viable small farm option. But many surviving small commercial farms focus on commodities that involve a limited labor commitment. Cattle, poultry, and grains/soybeans – which can be produced on a part-time basis – account for over 70 percent of small commercial farm production.

Along with my colleagues Bob Hoppe and Penni Korb, I invite you to learn more about these issues from our report Small Farms in the United States: Persistence Under Pressure.

By Jim MacDonald, Chief, Agricultural Structure and Productivity Branch, Economic Research Service

Small farm

Small farm. Photo courtesy Shutterstock.