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Forest Service Hosts Two-Day National Science Forum to Discuss Planning Rule

The Forest Service is collaboratively developing a new planning rule for the National Forest System that will be rooted in science. The collaborative dialog really opened up March 29-30 in Washington DC at the National Science Forum. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the Forum in demonstration of his support of a new planning rule that embraces participation and is science-based.

 The Science Forum was just the first of many opportunities for the public to participate in the development of a new planning rule. In fact, on April 1st and 2nd a National Roundtable discussion is taking place. To view the schedule and watch live selections of National Roundtables.  We are also inviting people to join the Virtual Roundtable at our planning rule blog.

 The Forum was designed to provide scientific information to serve as the foundation for future collaborative meetings and aid in integrating science into the development of the next planning rule.  During the Forum, scientists shared in discussion on the latest science on topics such as restoration, climate change, watershed health, diversity, and the national forest’s contribution to vibrant local economies. The entire forum was made available on a streaming live web cast and online participants were able to participate and ask questions of the scientists via the planning ruleblog. We heard diverse viewpoints and we’re excited to keep the conversation going.

 An interim summary of some of the major themes discussed at the Forum is available now on online. This product shares some highlights of the science and viewpoints offered by Science Forum presenters, attendees and online participants. A more complete summary of the Science Forum will be available in coming weeks. Panelist’s presentations are also available on the planning rule Web site, and it is our intent to post video segments from the Science Forum on the planning rule web site in the coming weeks.

 Our collaborative process to develop the planning rule is in the early stages. We are continually adding new and broader opportunities to get involved. If you’ve got ideas, let us know what they are by commenting on our blog. Check our Web site for the latest, or follow the Forest Service on Twitter.

 The current schedule of future National and Regional Roundtables can be found here.

 Secretary Vilsack addresses attendees of the Science Forum expressing support for a new planning rule.  Secretary Vilsack addresses attendees of the Science Forum expressing support for a new planning rule. 

Panelists, from left to right: Dr. Kevin McKelvey, Marilyn Stoll, Dr. Gary Morishima, Dr. Bill Zielinski

USDA Business Programs Administrator Promotes Job Opportunities at Nebraska Conference

USDA Rural Business-Cooperatives programs  Administrator Judith Canales was the luncheon speaker earlier this week to a crowd of nearly 100 at the Rural Jobs, Rural Opportunities conference hosted by Nebraska Rural Development in Kearney. The conference was a follow up to the Rural Jobs Forum held early in January.

At the January Jobs Forum, the critical elements identified for Nebraska were the rural economy, cutting edge technology, youth retention, community investment, business education and training, the creation of better paying jobs, and financial resources offered by local, state and federal agencies.   To move the discussion forward on these issues, panel experts at the March 29 conference discussed broadband, local foods, eco tourism, guaranteed loans/access to credit, business opportunities/business transition, renewable energy, revolving loan funds and local funding for community economic development.

Administrator Canales also led a roundtable discussion with economic developers and lenders at the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce, where the details and benefits of the Business and Industry programs and funding available to businesses through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were discussed.  Nebraska lenders provided suggestions to Ms. Canales on improvements that might be made to the Business and Industry programs to increase its use in rural Nebraska.

Co-conveners for the conference included the Nebraska Rural Development Commission, Nebraska Cattlemen, U.S. Forest Service, Nebraska Community Foundation, Heartland Center for Leadership Development, Nebraska Rural Initiative, and the Nebraska Resource Conservation and Development. 

 Ms. Canales and Nebraska RD State Director Maxine Moul also provided interviews to two TV stations, the daily newspaper and two radio stations.

By Nebraska Rural Development Public Information Officer Vicki A. Schurman

Under Secretary Tonsager Talks About USDA Renewable Energy Development Support at the Department of Energy’s Biomass Conference

Yesterday it was my privilege to address those attending the Biomass 2010 Conference, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.  The Obama Administration is committed to fighting the effects of climate change while supporting farmers and ranchers, and promoting sustainable economic growth. My speech centered on opportunities available to farmers and ranchers as a result of biofuel production.

Our budget at USDA contains billions of dollars allocated to build on new energy and environmental opportunities.  As part of this effort, President Obama issued the “Growing America’s Fuel” report, which lays out the Administration’s strategy to advance development and commercialization of a sustainable industry which grows and produces second and third generation biofuels while continuing to support first generation producers.  Congress has mandated that the U.S. produce 36 billion gallons of biofuel annually by 2022 and we estimate that by then farmer’s incomes will increase by $13 billion annually.  The caveat is that only 15 billion gallons of the yearly quota can come from corn ethanol.

Much of the new biofuel will be produced from an array of sources including grasses, cane, sorghum, oil seeds, algae and woody biomass.  To encourage production from these new sources, we are working to mitigate risk and get capital flowing.  One model that shows great promise is the so called “New Generation Cooperative” which is financed through sale of delivery rights: a member’s right to deliver a specific amount of a commodity to the cooperative.

As I said to conference members, we must continue to support development of new technology and demonstrate to lenders the importance of transitioning to advanced biofuels. Our responsibility is clear: We will support the entrepreneurs that have the drive to compete in the marketplace and build a new energy future for America.

To read more about the Under Secretary’s views on renewable energy, see the article on page 2 of Rural Cooperatives Magazine.

Dallas Tonsager is Under Secretary for Rural Development

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager addresses a biomass conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy - Photos by Stephen Thompson, USDA
USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager addresses a biomass conference sponsored by the                                  U.S. Department of Energy

 

Photos by Stephen Thompson, USDA

Deputy Secretary Merrigan Visits Yale and Announces Funding for Connecticut’s “Last Green Valley”

Late last week Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan attended the Working Lands Alliance’s Tenth Anniversary Conference at Yale University.

While there, the Deputy Secretary announced that a total of $207,000 in funds from the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program (RBEG) will be provided to several organizations around Connecticut to improve economic opportunities in the area.

About an hour’s drive from three of New England’s largest urban areas, “the Last Green Valley” is an area of fields, forests and rugged hills.  Forest and farmland make up 78 percent of its 695,000 acres.

Merrigan said The Last Green Valley, Inc., a non-profit organization Congress designated to manage this nationally recognized area, has been selected to receive a $28,000 RBEG to create a website to help farmers locate educational information, business assistance and marketing opportunities. The organization was also selected to receive a second $28,000 RBEG to create a “mastering the business of agriculture” educational program where farmers will receive classroom instruction on how to create effective business plans. The funding announcements build on previously announced support provided by USDA Rural Development for the area.

Working Lands Alliance’s Tenth Anniversary Conference, held at Yale University. (left to right): Connecticut State Conservationist (NRCS) Doug Zehner; MA/CT/RI Rural Development State Director Jay Healy; Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Chairwoman of the Agriculture-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee, Deputy Sec. Merrigan, and Connecticut Ag Commissioner F. Philip Prelli.

Working Lands Alliance’s Tenth Anniversary Conference, held at Yale University. (left to right): Connecticut State Conservationist (NRCS) Doug Zehner; MA/CT/RI Rural Development State Director Jay Healy; Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Chairwoman of the Agriculture-FDA Appropriations Subcommittee, Deputy Sec. Merrigan, and Connecticut Ag Commissioner F. Philip Prelli.

Submitted by Maril Alsup Stockwell, USDA Rural Development

USDA Forest Service Honored First African-American Smokejumpers

The last three living original members of the nation’s first African-American smokejumpers crew have been honored at USDA Forest Service Headquarters. The “Triple Nickles” were from the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion and were trained by the Forest Service to put out forest fires in the Northwest during the summer of 1945. Combat-ready, the “Triple Nickles” served a unique, secret assignment called “Operation Firefly.”

“These highly skilled paratroopers used their military training in a different kind of combat few people were aware of,” said USDA Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Fighting the fires that had the potential to do great harm to the nation in a time of war was dangerous, important work. We are extremely pleased to honor them at our national headquarters for their heroic service to the Agency and the nation making more than 1,200 individual jumps during the summer of 1945.”

The Triple Nickles served in more airborne units, in peace and war, than any other parachute group in history. The 555th paved the way for African-American soldiers to become part of the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division, when the triple Nickles were absorbed into the 82nd Airborne in 1947.  The 555 Parachute Infantry Association located in Tampa, Florida was founded in 1979 to keep alive the legacy of the Triple Nickles.  There are more than 1,000 members in 28 Triple Nickles chapters. For more information, visit:  www.triplenickles.com.

Walter Morris a former 1st Sgt of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment Smoke Jumpers, speaks with Deputy Chief for Business Operations, U. S. Forest Service Chuck Myers. The Smoke Jumpers visited the the Forest Service on March 26, 2010 in Washington, D. C.
Walter Morris a former 1st Sgt of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment Smoke Jumpers, speaks with Deputy Chief for Business Operations, U. S. Forest Service Chuck Myers. The Smoke Jumpers visited the the Forest Service on March 26, 2010 in Washington, D. C.

Former members of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment Smoke Jumpers, L to R Sergeant Clarence H. Beavers, National Triple Nickles Association President Joe Murchison, Smokey Bear, First Sergeant Walter Morris and Lt. Col Roger S. Walden. The Smoke Jumpers visited the U. S. Forest Service in Washington, D. C., on March 26, 2010.
Former members of the 555th Parachute Infantry Regiment Smoke Jumpers, L to R Sergeant Clarence H. Beavers, National Triple Nickles Association President Joe Murchison, Smokey Bear, First Sergeant Walter Morris and Lt. Col Roger S. Walden. The Smoke Jumpers visited the U. S. Forest Service in Washington, D. C., on March 26, 2010.

By: USDA Forest Service Office of Communication

President Obama Visits Afghanistan, Meets USDA Staff

March 29, 2010 – On Monday in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Bagram Air Base to visit with U.S. civilian and military men and women supporting the U.S. government’s efforts in that country. Among those in attendance were staff members from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, including employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture working as part of the U.S. government team.

President Barack Obama greets U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, March 28, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama greets U.S. troops at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, March 28, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Some, like USDA employee Jaime Adams (right, blue scarf), shook President Obama’s hand at the event.

At Bagram, President Obama said, “So I want you to know, I want every American serving in Afghanistan, military and civilian, to know, whether you’re working the flight line here at Bagram or patrolling a village down in Helmand, whether you’re standing watch at a forward operating base or training our Afghan partners or working with the Afghan government, your services are absolutely necessary, absolutely essential to America’s safety and security. Those folks back home are relying on you.”

Read President Obama’s full remarks to military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan, here, and learn more about USDA’s activities in Afghanistan, here.