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The True Spirit of the Holiday – A USDA Story from Kentucky

There is no better demonstration of the holiday spirit than when people give their time and resources to help those in need.

USDA employees are a shining example of how a small gesture can go a long way toward helping others. In rural communities across the Commonwealth, many of them worked diligently this holiday season to collect food donations and personal items for agencies that help those less fortunate.

In Grayson County, Kentucky, staff members from Rural Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency partnered with the local conservation district to collect 2,800 pounds of non-perishable food items for Community Food Pantry as part of the annual “Harvest of the Heart” food drive.

Photo of Grayson County - Harvest of the Heart

Photo of Grayson County - Harvest of the Heart

Donna Wilson, director of the Community Food Pantry, was overwhelmed at the outpouring of support and food.

He told me that the USDA drive is one of the food drives that they look forward to and depend on every year. He said “Our county is such a poor county, and our numbers have increased dramatically this year. We are feeding 1,000 families a month – more than 2,000 individuals. This drive was huge. They collected 2,800 pounds of food. Without their assistance, I don’t know where this food panty would be.”

Harvest of the Heart drive also worked with more than 20 churches across Grayson County, as well as CoreMark International, which supplied the collections bins used in the food drive.

All of the donated food collected by the USDA Service Center employees was given to Community Food Pantry. The food drive is held each year to help replenish the shelves at the food pantry, which needs donations year round to meet the growing demands of those needing assistance.

Rural Development employees in the Morehead, Kentucky, Area Office, also collected food as well as personal items to help those less fortunate this holiday season.

It has become an annual tradition for the small staff to collect food and other items for non-profit agencies that assist victims of domestic violence or those who are homeless.

This year, the staff collected food and personal items such as shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste for the Gateway Homeless Shelter in Morehead.

Morehead Area Office photo

Morehead Area Office photo

Area Assistant Brian Glover said each year during the holidays the staff chooses to collect money, personal items and food for people in need rather than exchange gifts among themselves.Those of us who work for Rural Development recognize how fortunate we are to work for an agency that has such a positive impact on rural communities. Each day, we see first-hand the ways in which our programs and services improve the quality of life for those who need them the most.

It’s heartwarming to see so many RD employees continue this support through community service — long after the workday ends.

Submitted by Katherine Belcher, Public Information Coordinator, Kentucky

USDA Rural Development Hosts Jobs and Economy Roundtable in Livingston, Montana

On December 18, USDA Rural Development hosted a Jobs and Economy Roundtable discussion in Livingston, Montana in Park County.  About 7,000 people live in Livingston, which has an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent.  The local economy was once dominated by the railroad and agriculture, but in recent years, because Yellowstone National Park is less than an hour away, tourism has become a growing business segment. Read more »

Arizona Jobs Roundtable, December 21, 2009 – Somerton, Arizona

Oscar Wilde once said, “The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.”

It was within that frame of mind that the Obama Administration brought its ‘Jobs Roundtable’ series to Somerton, Arizona.  The goal of the roundtable was to reach out to local leaders for their thoughts and ideas on how to create jobs, move the economy forward, and create rural wealth.

The roundtable, hosted by USDA Rural Development and Farm Service Agency, was comprised of a diverse group of community and employment advocates and leaders all looking to provide solution on how the Administration could stimulate job creation in their region.

Job forum roundtable Somerton, ArizonaIt wasn’t long before the 35 participants had a constructive dialogue going on how our Federal agencies could best promote job growth in rural Yuma County, the state’s hardest hit region of job loss. Paul Newman, Arizona Corporation Commissioner, spoke of the potential for green technologies. It turns out that the Yuma area has the largest area in the world of contiguous solar potential. State Senator Amanda Aguirre and State Representative Lynne Pancrazi emphasized the drastic cuts the State has taken in trying to mitigate a projected $2 billion deficient, noting that federal assistance in job creation is very important.

The discussion ranged from tapping into the green energy potential, taking a more regional approach to projects and jobs creation, and making changes to the Workforce Investment Act to add more flexibility and system building.

Among the other participants were bankers, city and county officials, representatives of the local community college and school districts, hospitals, food banks, and housing groups.

Somerton in heeding the advice of Oscar Wilde passed on some great advice and without a doubt, it will be of use to their community and to the nation.

USDA Communications Coordinator, Aaron Lavallee

Udderly Necessary Help For Dairy Producers

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was pleased to deliver a little holiday cheer to our nation’s dairy producers when he announced the implementation of the new Dairy Economic Loss Assistance Payment (DELAP) program. The 2010 Agricultural Appropriations Bill authorized $290 million for loss assistance payments to eligible dairy producers. Read more »

Michigan Jobs Forum – Roundtable on Job Creation and Economic Growth

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner and Farm Service Agency Director Christine White held a roundtable on job creation and economic growth on Thursday, December 17 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lansing Community College’s West Campus. Read more »

Silver City, New Mexico USDA Jobs Forum Attracts a Crowd

USDA Rural Development-New Mexico, along with the Farm Service Agency held a Jobs Forum yesterday in Silver City — a community nestled in the Gila Wilderness of Southwestern New Mexico.  Silver City is working hard to address its local economic situation.  The recent drop in copper prices caused local mines to lay off more than 600 employees in a community of 10,000.  Those layoffs and other economic factors caused the County’s unemployment rate to rise by 10 percent in three years. Read more »