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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 »

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 »

Biomass and Biofuel – What’s in it for Hawaii’s Agriculture?

Hawaii and the Pacific Basin

The dwindling global supply of fossil fuels and the resulting escalation in prices has set the stage for entry of commercial biofuel produced from biomass, including co-products and bi-products.  This transition in the energy sector’s feed stocks offers Hawaii a unique opportunity to locally produce biofuel from locally produced biomass feed stocks, and ultimately support the stabilization of the state’s energy resources; increase the local circulation of energy dollars; and further under gird Hawaii’s agricultural industry.  Read more »

Meat and Poultry Hotline Expert Diane Van to Host Live Facebook Chat on Summer Food Safety—Just in Time for 4th of July Grilling!

By Diane Van, FSIS Meat and Poultry Hotline Manager 

Remember when you were a student and your teacher would say, “If you have a question, someone else in the class is wondering the same thing?” Well, after many years of working with the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, I can tell you that nearly every parent, cook, and party-planner—no matter how experienced—has questions about keeping the food that they serve safe for those who will eat it. Not surprisingly, the questions we receive at the Meat and Poultry Hotline are often repeats that we’ve heard many times before.

For this 4th of July weekend, I’m going to try a new approach to answering summer food safety questions. Thursday afternoon at 1:00, I’ll be hosting a real, live “Summer Food Safety Chat” on USDA’s Facebook page and USDA Live. To join the chat, all you have to do is log in to your own Facebook account, go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s page, and ask away.

Sure, I’m expecting the usual suspects: “How long can potato salad stay out before it’s unsafe to eat?” “How long can I leave fried chicken in the refrigerator?” “Do hot dogs need to be hot?”

I’ll gladly answer those, but I’m hoping some of you can come up with a few clever new ones.  Watch what others ask, and there’s a good chance you’ll learn something you didn’t know you were even wondering.  Ask something you thought should be common knowledge, and someone else will be glad you spoke up.

The chat will begin at 1:00 p.m. ET, on Thursday, July 1—just in time to get you started on your shopping, prepping, and grilling for the July 4 holiday weekend. In the meantime, you can find food safety tips tailored for the summer season on FSIS’ Twitter and YouTube accounts.  See you there!