From left to right: Tony Schwager, Good Natured Family Farms Project Manager; Sara Cano, USDA Senior Auditor; Doreen Choffel, USDA Senior Auditor; and Diana Endicott, GNFF Founder and Director review audit information. In August, Good Natured Family Farms became the first cooperative certified under USDA’s GroupGAP program.
For more than four generations, Amish farmers in the Kansas City area have abided by a simple tenet: farm sustainably and care for the earth to preserve their way of life for future generations. Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF), a cooperative of 18 Amish family farms in Missouri, is using GroupGAP, a new USDA audit program, to help them safeguard their future by building strong markets for the high-quality, local foods they produce. In August, the group made USDA history as the first to receive an official USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification through our new GroupGAP program.
Since 2002, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has provided the traditional USDA GAP audit program to the fruit and vegetable industry. GAP is a voluntary program that verifies its participants follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and industry best practices to minimize risks of food safety hazards when producing, handling, and storing fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops. In 2016, AMS conducted nearly 4,000 traditional GAP audits. Read more »
Yesterday, Secretary Vilsack and RUS Administrator McBride announced an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program award to Pedernales Electric Co-op of Johnson City, TX. Left to right: RUS Administrator Brandon McBride, Secretary Vilsack, John Hewa (CEO, Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc.), Emily Pataki (Board President, Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc.), and Cindy Thyfault (Founder & CEO, Westar Trade Resources)
This is a special year for rural electric cooperative utilities. Eighty years ago, Congress passed and President Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936.
The REA brought electricity to rural America, ultimately making the United States the source of the world’s food, fuel and fiber—the breadbasket for the world. Read more »
USDA National Cooperative Month Proclamation (Click to view a larger version)
October is National Cooperative Month, and this year, USDA is helping to focus attention on the multiple ways cooperatives help build more vibrant communities and improve the livelihoods of their members. USDA’s theme for the annual celebration is: “Co-ops Empower America, USDA Empowers Co-ops.”
Cooperatives are a versatile business model that can address many needs, such as affordable housing, utility services (including electricity and broadband), agriculture production (including local foods) and can help convert existing businesses to worker ownership. Read more »
Valley Telephone Cooperative of Raymondville, Texas uses a high-speed fiberoptic distribution network to provide up to 50mbps service to its customers in south Texas thanks to support through the Recovery Act Broadband Initiatives Program.
For over 15 years, Valley Telephone Cooperative, Inc. provided its customers in the southernmost part of Texas with broadband service. Neighboring communities, however, lacked access to high-speed Internet. That changed seven years ago this week when Congress passed and President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Thanks to Recovery Act funding, Valley Telephone Cooperative received a $40 million loan and a $38.5 million grant from USDA to build broadband in unserved and underserved rural areas. Now, 11 communities—many with residents who live below the poverty line—can take advantage of services that until now were unavailable. Read more »
Rory Hagerty, a seventh grade student from Alice Deal Middle School, plants beans in USDA’s Three Sisters Garden, part of the People’s Garden on the National Mall in Washington. USDA’s Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships office sponsored the event. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.
USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska. Follow along on the USDA blog.
For centuries, Native Americans have cultivated the soil and produced corn, beans and squash. Stories, ceremonies, songs and cultural traditions surround the annual planting, growing and harvest of gardens. Life lessons were learned throughout the gardening season. Stories of the Three Sisters refer to a tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mound. It is a sophisticated, sustainable planting system that provided long term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations of Native Americans. Read more »
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) infographic highlighting food purchases and programs that help feed those in need. Click to view a larger version.
USDA has programs and services that bring the bounty of American agriculture to people and communities across the country. One of the most impactful ways my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), fulfills its mission is through our USDA Foods purchase programs. Our food purchases begin with American farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, and end their journey on the tables of our nation’s schools, food banks, and communities.
AMS plays a central role in this supply chain that delivers about 2 billion pounds of domestically-grown and -processed food each year. That equates to about 52,000 semi-trucks full of food every year—enough trucks to stretch the length of Florida tip to tip! Read more »