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Posts tagged: California

Secretary’s Column: Help for Rural Californians Suffering Through Drought

This week, I visited the small town of Cameron Creek Colony in Tulare County, California and saw firsthand the challenges drought poses, particularly for those living in rural communities.

About 10 percent of Cameron Creek Colony residents have no access to water because their wells have run dry. Still others have only intermittent access to water. Many are in danger of losing access to water permanently in the near future. One long-time resident told me that until this drought, she’d never worried about water. Now, worrying about having enough water is constantly on her mind. Read more »

Forest Service Leader and Partners Work to Conserve California Landscapes

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories on Twitter at @USDA or using the hashtag #RuralPartners.

Working with partners to accomplish mutual goals in conservation management is one of the greatest joys for Diana Craig in her role as the deputy director of Ecosystem Management in the Pacific Southwest Region for the U.S. Forest Service.

She is especially proud of her work on the California Landscape Conservation Cooperatives steering committee for the past two years. Comprised of non-governmental organizations and state and federal agencies, their goal is to look at landscape scales and improve the link between science and management in how to maintain ecosystems in the face of climate change, urbanization, and other stressors. The cooperative has facilitated a number of projects, including looking at where sensitive ecosystems are headed with climate change, which species and species habitat is the most vulnerable, and checking sea levels to see if they are on the rise. Read more »

USDA Joins National Hispanic Medical Association to Discuss Health in Latino Communities

As schools across the country were winding down for the summer, the conversation around school meals standards was heating up.  School districts, parents, community members and Congressional representatives have engaged in an important discussion about the role of the new standards in our nation’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.  Created to boost the health of our next generation, the standards encourage schools to get more creative and health-conscious about the food they serve to their students. Last month, USDA joined the National Hispanic Medical Association to reinforce this critical message.

During a Congressional briefing held by the National Hispanic Medical Association, dozens convened to learn how the Latino community was leveraging the new standards to support healthier lifestyles for their children. While the association focused on educational and healthcare institutions heightening awareness around nutrition programs, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Western Regional Administrator, Jesus Mendoza, underscored the importance of healthy eating, emphasizing his experiences with the new standards in his region. “Since the passing of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act,” Mendoza explained, “kids are eating a lot more fruits and vegetables, 90 percent of schools report that they are able to abide by the standards, more water is being offered to our children in cafeterias, and we’re exposing kids to foods they’ve never seen or heard of before.” Read more »

Conservation as a Source of Innovative Partnerships for All

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden tours rice fields in the Sacramento Valley at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on Jun. 24, 2014. Rice grower Mike DeWit has a cooperative arrangement to provide habitat for wildlife while growing rice. Photo courtesy California Rice Commission.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden tours rice fields in the Sacramento Valley at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on Jun. 24, 2014. Rice grower Mike DeWit has a cooperative arrangement to provide habitat for wildlife while growing rice. Photo courtesy California Rice Commission.

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories at #RuralPartners.

My passion and commitment for conservation started on the farm learning from our first and finest conservationists:  American farmers. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers care deeply about the land, which is why they are incredible environmental stewards. Earlier this month, I visited the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, a popular wildlife refuge just minutes from downtown Sacramento. Here, farmers like the DeWit family are growing rice and providing some of the best wildlife habitat in North America.

Mike DeWit and his father, Jack, brought me right into the middle of the Sacramento Valley rice fields, where more than a half million acres are used as a source of America’s sushi rice. Equally valuable is the role these rice fields play as a habitat for nearly 230 wildlife species, including providing nearly sixty percent of the winter diet for millions of migrating ducks and geese. It was a thrill to walk on the levee of a shallow-flooded, brilliantly green field and observe several pairs of nesting American Avocets all around. When I noticed a nest with four small eggs, I knew that it represented a part of the future generation of wildlife. Read more »

Deputy Under Secretary Meets California Producers to Discuss Drought Resilience Measures

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills meets with producer Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California. USDA photo.

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills meets with producer Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California. USDA photo.

Recently I traveled to California to meet with farmers who are coping with the state’s historic drought.  This was my second trip to the Golden State in recent months to see first-hand how USDA’s disaster assistance and conservation programs are helping producers and rural communities, and to continue the conversation about how USDA and the federal government as a whole can support efforts to build long term resilience to drought.

My first visit was with Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California.  Rick practices land stewardship on the 4,000 acres he farms and through his leadership as a member of the area Resource Conservation District.  While he doesn’t face the exact same set of water shortage pressures experienced by California’s Central Valley farmers, Rick recognizes that the state’s drought may well extend into the foreseeable future and has a long-term plan to build resilience for his operation.  As he has done over the past several years, he continues to install drip irrigation in his tomato fields and is experimenting with drip irrigation for his alfalfa and corn crops.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides cost share assistance for some of these investments – but Rick pays for 100 percent of other investments because it makes good business sense.  He is able to reduce water use and input costs while increasing yields. Read more »

From an Orchard in California to a Table in Canada and Beyond

Seen here are David Anthony and Antonia Praljak of Oro Loma Ranch/Ruby Fresh Pomegranate. They are proudly promoting their new “Salad Jewels“ product line, which was introduced at the 2013 Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) trade show.

Seen here are David Anthony and Antonia Praljak of Oro Loma Ranch/Ruby Fresh Pomegranate. They are proudly promoting their new “Salad Jewels“ product line, which was introduced at the 2013 Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) trade show.

What does a pomegranate need to do to get from an orchard in California to a dining table in Canada? The pomegranate doesn’t have to do anything, but U.S. growers must prepare the ground for their products in more ways than one. It takes knowledge and resources to bring U.S. food and agricultural products to the global marketplace – a daunting challenge for many farmers and small businesses.

But help is available. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) supports four non-profit trade organizations, called State Regional Trade Groups (SRTGs), that provide hands-on support and assistance to U.S. small-and medium-size companies seeking to build a global business. SRTGs, working in conjunction with the state departments of agriculture in their respective regions, can help beginning exporters with everything from learning the fundamentals of exporting to identifying overseas opportunities and finding potential distributors. With support from FAS’ Market Access Program, SRTGs also help fund international marketing campaigns and promote U.S. farm and food products overseas. Read more »