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Seizing the TechHire Opportunity in Rural America

Cross-posted from the WhiteHouse.gov blog:

There’s an exciting trend underway across the country. More and more, major companies are leaving offshore hubs and turning to rural communities in America for high-quality IT talent. In addition to a narrowing wage gap and higher quality of work in these rural areas, the employee attrition rate in rural areas of the U.S. is less than half the rate typically seen in offshore locations.

The Obama Administration has supported the growth of IT jobs in rural America with unprecedented investments in rural broadband and other key infrastructure, and through innovative efforts like the White House TechHire Initiative, a multi-sector initiative and call to action to rapidly train Americans with the skills they need for well-paying, open tech jobs. Read more »

FAS Capacity-Building Efforts in Central America Yield Benefits There and at Home

Pablo Chacón, a Guatemalan farmer

Pablo Chacón, a Guatemalan farmer, takes notes at the CATIE dairy farm and research center in Turrialba, Costa Rica, where he is studying agroforestry on an FAS-funded scholarship.

Pablo Chacón, a young Guatemalan farmer who is studying agroforestry at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Turrialba, Costa Rica, can now show the people in his home community how livestock grazing and hardwood forests can co-exist and prosper. Earlier this month, he told me and other Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) visitors to CATIE that the education he gained from his FAS-funded scholarship to CATIE has equipped him to be a change maker.

“CATIE’s research in the tropics shows that degraded lands can be restored using combined forest and pastoral production systems,” Chacón said. “The benefits of trees in pastures are clear: The shade helps reduce stress in animals during the dry season, keeps moisture in the soil and retains the strength of pastures during the dry season.” Read more »

A Momentous Change is Underway in the Egg Case

Hens outside

Less than 30 million of the over 300 million hens that lay our nation’s eggs are raised in cage free systems. AMS is committed to working with the U.S. egg industry to facilitate their efforts to address this challenge.

Have you been to a supermarket to buy a carton of eggs lately?  If so, you may have found an array of food marketing claims on the packages.  All natural, organic, cage-free, pasture-raised, free range, non-GMO, raised without antibiotics, Omega-3 enriched and vegetarian-fed diet are just a small sample of the many claims consumers might see in the egg case. The modern food shopper is inundated by choice.

From its inception, the role of AMS has been to facilitate an efficient, fair, and competitive marketing system to benefit producers and consumers.  One of the ways AMS accomplishes this is by establishing and applying grade standards to different agricultural products. Terms such as “Grade A” and “Large” have become a trusted part of the American egg vocabulary, helping both farmers and consumers with descriptive labels. Other marketing terms that now appear on egg cartons have evolved to reflect consumers’ demand to understand things like where the eggs come from, how chickens were raised and who raised them. Read more »

USDA Signs Three International Agreements Supporting Animal Health and Global Trade

U.S. delegation at the World Organization for Animal Health in Paris

A U.S. delegation, led by Dr. Jack Shere, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer, and Dr. John Clifford, U.S. Delegate to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) participated in the 84th General Session in Paris, France.

International trade is a key factor in the economic and financial stability of many countries.  Trade restrictions resulting from an animal disease outbreak can have devastating economic effects.  With this in mind, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service signed three international agreements on this very topic last month at a meeting of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) in Paris, France.  These agreements will make it easier to maintain safe and fair trade of animals and animal products if an animal disease outbreak occurs. They emphasize the cooperation and understanding of the countries involved to promote shared knowledge, data and resources, which can be crucial during an animal health event.

The three arrangements, signed by the United States, relate to the International Animal Health Emergency Reserve (also signed by Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom), the Sharing of Vaccines for Foot and Mouth Disease (Australia, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand), and Supporting the Recognition of Zoning for Foreign Animal Disease Outbreaks (Australia, Canada, and New Zealand). Read more »

Rebuilding Lives: Celebrating Homeownership Month

USDA Works with Families to Realize Their Dreams of Homeownership infographic

USDA Works with Families to Realize Their Dreams of Homeownership infographic. Click to enlarge

Five years ago, Christy Carr seemed like a long shot as a future homeowner.  She was a newly divorced, unemployed mom of five, and her credit score was in the 300’s. The home she shared with her children had no heat, no electricity and no running water. A neighbor let Christy run an extension cord to his garage outlet just so that the family could keep the lights on. Since they had no car and only a cooler to keep their food cold, they walked to the store three times a day.

In order to rebuild her life, Christy had to find work and clean up her credit score.  After many interviews, Christy was offered a good job at a marketing company. She was able to move into an apartment but it was too small to house all of her children, and her older sons had to stay with another family member. At the same time, Christy brought her student loans out of default and paid off old marital debts. After 18 months, her credit score had risen by 300 points, and she was able to open a credit card secured through her bank. Read more »

Ripe for Trade – GIPSA Helps It Happen

Different varieties of wheat

Wheat is one of the grains that GIPSA helps move through the marketplace.

There’s certainly a lot of talk about trade this month at USDA.  As the U.S. looks to expand connections with Asian nations, American ranchers, growers, and producers are also keeping an eye on potential economic dealings in the Caribbean.

I’m joining the discussion to shed light on how the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) plays a role in facilitating American grain sales into foreign markets and assuring those markets are maintained through its world-class service of weighing and inspection.  First let me set the stage about recent events. Read more »