Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Mississippi Hosts A Recovery Act Broadband Workshop-Five Counties to Receive Broadband Service

With much of Mississippi located in rural areas and many of those rural areas lacking broadband access, it should be no surprise when USDA Rural Development’s Mississippi team chose to take extra initiative to make sure that Mississippi’s rural cities and counties take full advantage of the opportunities presented under the Recovery Act’s broadband funding.

And that is exactly what Mississippi’s State Director Trina N. George did when she hosted a Outreach and Training Workshop, held in Jackson on Tuesday, February 23rd for Mississippi applicants for USDA Rural Development Broadband funding available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

“For rural Mississippi to get its fair share of broadband funds,” said State Director George, “we feel we must submit competitive and complete applications. This workshop was to help us achieve that goal.”

Earlier today, USDA announced that the Bay Springs Telephone Co.’s Bay Springs Broadband Initiatives Project would receive a $4.3 million loan and $4.1 million grant. The funding will expand advanced DSL broadband services to unserved and underserved areas within five counties Jasper, Jones, Rankin, Scott, and Smith.

The workshop was modeled after the outstanding ARRA broadband workshops that have been held across the country hosted jointly by USDA Rural Development and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Like those workshops, the Jackson event spotlighted USDA broadband funds available through the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP).

The workshop was a huge hit and underscored State Director George’s concentration on outreach in promoting USDA Rural Development programs and opportunities for rural Mississippi. The workshop was also attended by staff members for a number of Mississippi’s U.S. Congressional delegation, one of whom (a staff member for a U.S. Senator) remarked as she was leaving: “This event today was just great, and so informative. It is precisely what we need to get the word out about this opportunity. It is great to see the agency doing this kind of outreach event, because it will really help a lot of Mississippians.”

“USDA Rural Development has too many good programs to just keep them to ourselves,” said State Director George. “The more we spread the word, the more rural Mississippians will benefit. And thus, our work will always begin with outreach, including such events as this one. Regarding Recovery Act opportunities, this outreach is doubly important, as that window of opportunity will close later this year.”

State Director George would also like to commend her staff,  including Rural Community Programs Director Bettye Oliver, and Linda Stovall, Janis Nolan, Nicole Barnes, Patricia McDowell, and Nita Stringer on the program staff, for their professional work in putting the workshop together.

From left: Randy Jenkins, ARRA General Field Accountant with USDA RD in Washington, DC; USDA RD Mississippi State Director Trina N. George; and David J. Villano, USDA Assistant Administrator for Telecommunications Programs.
From left to right: Randy Jenkins, ARRA General Field Accountant with USDA RD in Washington, DC; USDA RD Mississippi State Director Trina N. George; and David J. Villano, USDA Assistant Administrator for Telecommunications Programs.

Over 50 potential applicants came to Jackson, MS to hear from the experts about the application process for Recovery Act broadband funds.Over 50 potential applicants came to Jackson, MS to hear from the experts about the application process for Recovery Act broadband funds.

Written by Ken Stribling, USDA Rural Development-Mississippi

National Nutrition Month “Green Nutrition—Local, Sustainable, Healthy Eating”

With 3,000 employees and visitors stopping by the U.S. Department of Agriculture cafeterias on a  daily basis, I was pleased to kick off the annual  National Nutrition Month at the  South Building Cafeteria at the USDA  headquarters here in Washington today.  I was joined by fellow USDA employees to introduce the 2010 theme “Green Nutrition—Local, Sustainable, Healthy Eating.”   This year’s event and theme are special to us because Secretary Vilsack and I have made nutrition and healthy living a top priority at USDA through the “Know Your Farmer,  Know Your Food” initiative. Read more »

Our Challenge to America: Let’s Move! and Double the Number of HealtherUS Schools

By Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture

The timing of the School Nutrition Association’s (SNA) annual legislative action conference couldn’t have been better as USDA and the Obama Administration continue working on advancing the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act.  I really appreciated the opportunity to address the national organization representing 55,000 school nutrition professionals who are on the front lines of the effort to improve the health and nutrition of our nation’s children.

Last month, SNA announced their support for First Lady Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative and agreed to a number of key steps to further improve the nutritional quality of school meals and advance nutrition education for America’s students.  SNA is an important partner in our efforts to improve the health of our children and reduce childhood hunger throughout the country.

SNA knows that the answer to improving child nutrition and combating obesity lies in our ability to work together and bring everyone on board this effort.  I am pleased that I could speak with them about joining me as I challenged parents, educators, and community leaders to double the number of HealthierUS Schools across the country in the next year. All have us have a stake in working together to improve the health and nutrition of our children and in turn the future of our nation.

Earlier in the week, First Lady Michelle Obama also attended the SNA conference to talk about her Let’s Move! initiative and its focus on raising a generation of kids to be healthy adults. The proposed enhancements to the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act that the Obama Administration put forward form the legislative centerpiece of the First Lady’s campaign and our efforts to ensure the health of our youngsters.

We are encouraged by the leadership that the School Nutrition Association and others have demonstrated. Looking forward we are excited to work with SNA and other organizations to encourage America’s families to get involved in school nutrition programs and promote physical activity and healthy eating at home.

This post was originally featured on the Let’s Move! Blog.

Honduran Oil Palm Cooperative Doubles Capacity, Opens Plant with Food for Progress Program Help

Since 2008, a cooperative of 154 oil palm farmers that comprise the Aguan Valley Palm Producers Association (APROVA) more than doubled their profits and their fruit collection capacity and opened their own refinement plant with assistance provided by TechnoServe under USDA’s Food for Progress (FFPr) Program.

Before this FFPr project began, the farmers lacked access to scales and a centralized collection center. Their disorganization put them in unfavorable negotiating positions and hurt their earning power.

Recognizing that APROVA needed a clear business strategy to succeed, TechnoServe submitted an FFPr proposal that USDA accepted in fiscal year 2005. USDA donated 4,000 tons of soybean meal and 9,350 tons of wheat to TechnoServe to sell in Honduras. The funds generated from the sale were used by TechnoServe to help APROVA develop their organizational, financial, administrative and marketing capacity.

With TechnoServe’s support, APROVA grew its assets by 185 percent, implemented a quality control and accounting and auditing system, and put into place a clear business plan. In April 2009, APROVA made additional strides by obtaining funding from USDA through the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture to open its first palm oil processing plant. The plant processes up to five tons of palm oil per day. Now, after selling their fruit to a processing plant, which extracts the palm oil and sells it back to APROVA, the farmers can refine their own oil, thus increasing their share of the profits.

The plant also extracts oil components that can be used to create commercially valuable products such as glycerin and soap. In addition, APROVA is now recognized by the national palm oil industry for its progress and sustainability, and the cooperatives membership has increased.

A member of the Aguan Valley Palm Producers Association holds the fruit from which palm oil is extracted. (Photo by TechnoServe.)

A member of the Aguan Valley Palm Producers Association holds the fruit from which palm oil is extracted. (Photo by TechnoServe.)

USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service administers the program, authorized by the Food for Progress Act of 1985.  More information is available online at:

http://www.fas.usda.gov/excredits/FoodAid/FFP/foodforprogress.asp

For more information about TechnoServe’s development work, visit http://www.technoserve.org/

USDA Self Help Housing Forum Held in Arkansas

U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln recently welcomed USDA Rural Development Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Tammye Trevino to Little Rock for the department’s first of ten public forums on the Self-Help Housing Program.

Over eighty people from Arkansas and surrounding states attended the forum held at the William Jefferson Clinton Library.  In addition from hearing from Senator Lincoln, Administrator Trevino, and Lawrence McCullough, USDA, Rural Development State Director, Arkansas Self Help Housing Grantees spoke.  The forum provided the opportunity to share their personal experiences with the program.

Also while in Arkansas, Administrator Trevino participated in another forum at the Arkansas Studies Institute, focusing on rural libraries. Ms. Trevino announced an initiative to a crowd of over seventy, librarians, mayors, city officials and representatives of local businesses.

Immediately following the Rural Library Listening Forum, Ms. Trevino made the announcement of the selection of community based organizations in 18 states to receive funding to promote economic growth.  The organizations will receive more than $6.5 million in total grants to support rural economic development efforts.

Left to right: Lawrence McCullough, Arkansas State Director, Tammye Trevino, USDA Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln.
Left to right: Lawrence McCullough, Arkansas State Director, Tammye Trevino, USDA Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln.

Written by Karen Petrus, USDA Rural Development, Arkansas

Ugandan Dairy Cooperatives Quadruple Sales and Create Jobs with Help from the Food for Progress Program

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack today announced that USDA will donate more than $145 million in international assistance under the Food for Progress Program in fiscal year 2010. This figure will benefit more than 3.4 million people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East by providing access to new opportunities for farmers and rural communities.

In 2006, Uganda’s Eastern Dairies, a company comprised of 11 local dairy cooperatives, quadrupled its sales in one year with assistance provided by Land O’Lakes, Inc., under USDA’s Food for Progress (FFPr) Program.

Before this FFPr project began, the cooperatives’ more than 500 members—of which 50 percent are women—were suffering from insufficient household incomes and lacked the ability to independently address Uganda’s low milk prices, volatile demand swings and unreliable payments by some buyers. In recognition of these problems, Land O’Lakes submitted an FFPr proposal to provide technical assistance and training to Uganda’s dairy industry to increase its productivity and competitiveness through market development, quality assurance and capacity building activities.

In 2005 USDA accepted the proposal and donated 11,100 tons of U.S. hard red winter wheat to Land O’Lakes. The wheat was sold in Uganda and the funds were used to partly pay for the cooperatives to install a 2,000-liter milk cooler at Eastern Dairies. With guidance from Land O’Lakes, the cooperatives reinvested their profits and member contributions to purchase more assets, upgrade their milk bulking center, and open two new sales outlets, which sell more than 15,000 liters of milk per month. As a result, household incomes have grown by more than 50 percent and Eastern Dairies‘ average monthly profit is more than $3,000. The expansion of the company has created input and service industry jobs and the company itself has grown from one employee to 10 fulltime workers.

The successes achieved at Eastern Dairies have prompted Land O’Lakes to begin working with MADDO Dairies to set up a new milk collection center in Lwagenge, a remote village in Masaka, Uganda, where dairy market accessibility is limited due to poor roads. Last year, MADDO Dairies was expected to install a new milk cooler with a 3,000-liter capacity, benefiting 80 dairy farmers and helping them reduce spillage and spoilage.

Uganda Farmers milk center

Farmers deliver milk to the Eastern Dairies milk collection center. (Photo by Land O'Lakes/Uganda.)


USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service administers the program, authorized by the Food for Progress Act of 1985.  More information is available online at:  http://www.fas.usda.gov/excredits/FoodAid/FFP/foodforprogress.asp

For more information about Land O’Lakes development work, visit http://www.idd.landolakes.com/.