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North Dakota to Get New Hospital Through Recovery Act Funding

Groundbreaking for the Jamestown Hospital ProjectI had the pleasure of joining USDA Under Secretary Tonsager, Senator Kent Conrad, Senator Byron Dorgan and Congressman Earl Pomeroy in the ground-breaking of a new regional medical center in Jamestown, North Dakota. This project is a direct result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that President Obama signed into law in February. Read more »

A Visit to the National Association of Farm Broadcasting

On Thursday Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager participated in Trade Talk during the National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) convention in Kansas City. Read more »

Turkey Tweets and Facebook Live Chat for Holiday Food Safety

Today USDA’s first “Turkey Tweets” campaign takes flight. Every day until Friday, Nov. 27, the Food Safety and Inspection Service will send out a fresh turkey tip via Twitter, the popular instant messaging service. The tips help you prepare a successful and safe holiday meal.

Twitter users can follow the profile @USDAfoodsafety to read all the Turkey Tweets. The tips take you day by day through buying, freezing, refrigerating, thawing, preparing, roasting and serving the bird—and, of course, to storing and eating the leftovers.

You can find all the Turkey Tweets on Twitter by searching or clicking on the #turkeytweets hashtag.

Live Facebook Chat on Safe Turkey

One week from today FSIS’s food safety education staff introduces another innovative way to connect: A live Facebook chat with Diane Van of the Food Safety Education Service. She’ll answer questions about safe holiday food prep on the USDA Facebook page on Thursday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

You can ask questions during the chat or leave them in advance on the Live Chat page.

Twitter and Facebook Join USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline & Ask Karen Services

The new Turkey Tweets and Facebook Chat join two long-standing USDA holiday food safety outreach services:

  • The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline phone service, available daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, in English and Spanish. 1-888-674-6854 (Special Thanksgiving Day hours: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET)
  • The Ask Karen “virtual assistant” service, which provides answers to common food safety questions 24/7 at www.askkaren.gov.

South Dakota Municipal League Benefits from Recovery Act Funds

It’s a source of pride to me that South Dakota is benefitting from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that President Obama signed into law in February.  As an example, the South Dakota Municipal League is breaking ground on a lot in the Teton Island Addition in Fort Pierre for new office and training space.  The new facility will provide office space for six employees, plus two additional spaces to allow for future staff expansion. These federal funds will help improve services offered by the League, including trainings and meetings sessions. Read more »

Serving Those Who Serve America

This morning, I was privileged to represent USDA at a Military Families Summit hosted at the University of Maryland and organized with us by the Department of Defense Military Community and Family Policy program.  More than 300 leaders who provide support to military families – including the office of the Secretary of Defense, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, the National Guard and Reserve, land-grant universities, and other non-governmental partners – also attended the event to review the Defense Department’s commitment to family support and readiness, the status of military families, and challenges military families will experience in the future.

Why was USDA at this event in the first place?  For one thing, we have more 20 years of experience in partnering with the different military branches providing educational programs and support for military youth and families on bases and installations and in local communities. In 2009, for example, more than 24,000 youth participated in 248 4-H club programs on bases and installations in the United States and around the world.  These programs offer the mentorship, guidance, and restored sense of pride that many children of military parents lose when they have limited support around.

Currently, 24 extension staff members are on direct assignment with the military services providing important leadership and working in partnership with service personnel to deliver quality 4-H youth development programs; more than other 240 4-H professionals work in support of this partnership

across the United States.  More than 75 Cooperative Extension staff members are working with Army bases in Texas alone to address some of the most critical needs being faced by military families (i.e., health, nutrition, financial management, and family stress).  Our Extension staff, in partnership with military services, has developed nine new curricula or programs in 2009 that address important issues for military families such as health, nutrition, stress, and leadership.

DOD and military families benefit directly from an extensive cooperative extension network that spans nearly every county in the United States.  The Defense Department supports these programs through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), which in turn partners with several land-grant universities who work with the extension agents to provide support to military families.

Today’s Military Families Summit offered me a great opportunity to renew and reaffirm this relationship. We announced today formation of an expanded joint effort between NIFA and DOD.  The partnership will focus on three overall areasa:  community capacity building in support of military families, workforce development, and strengthening family, child care, and youth development programs.

As the nation this week honors the service and sacrifices of our military members – and their families – we can be very proud of the role that USDA plays in reaching out and helping those families in the United States and abroad.

Rajiv Shah is Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics.

USDA: A Farm Team Worth Playing For

My first three weeks interning for USDA have been extremely interesting and enjoyable.  A native of Austin, Texas, I grew up spending most weekends on my grandparents’ farm, the same farm where we currently raise Texas Longhorn cattle. Instead of returning to Austin after the baseball season, I came to Washington, DC to take advantage of this great opportunity to learn about both agriculture and the government while also making a difference.

I knew USDA played a significant role in the lives of farmers and ranchers, but I continue to be amazed by the breadth of programs and agencies here.  Rural Development, for example, does amazing work in rural communities, from building hospitals to improving water supplies to increasing the availability of broadband internet.  I also have a greater appreciation for USDA’s role in disease and pest control and its significant impact on the success of our country’s agricultural output and economy over the years.

In addition to learning about USDA, I have been afforded some great opportunities through my internship.  This week I went to a Tribal Leaders Reception for the National Congress of American Indians.  I met several interesting people, both tribal leaders and people who work in other departments of the government.

The reception was held in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.  It was my first time visiting the museum and reminded me of all the great museums and government buildings in Washington, DC.  I have been to a few of them now, with my favorite two being the Library of Congress and the National Archives.  I’m looking forward to more great experiences in the weeks to come.

Ross Ohlendorf, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is spending part of his off-season at the United States Department of Agriculture. A graduate of Princeton University, he is spending eight weeks as an intern with USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs.

Photo of Ross Ohlendorf

Ross Ohlendorf