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Posts tagged: economic opportunity

Creating New Opportunities for the Sheep Industry

USDA is committed to working with our partners in the sheep industry to support them as they provide quality products to consumers and increase producer returns here at home. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

USDA is committed to working with our partners in the sheep industry to support them as they provide quality products to consumers and increase producer returns here at home. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

Since they were brought over during the earliest explorations of North America, the sheep industry has played a vital role in the agricultural history of our nation.  In the 1940s, there were over 55 million sheep in the U.S., but today those numbers hover around one-tenth of that total.  There are about 80,000 sheep ranchers across the U.S., and, with support from the 2014 Farm Bill, they will have additional resources to help develop innovative approaches to address their long-term needs.

Consolidation of the U.S. sheep packing industry, higher feed and energy costs, loss of animals to predators and lower lamb consumption, along with competition from imported of lamb cuts, have taken their toll on U.S. sheep producers.  In response to industry needs, USDA is committed to working with our stakeholders to ensure the long-term viability of the sheep industry. Read more »

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

A strong rural economy benefits the whole nation. Sales of specialty crops – which include everything from fruits and vegetables to tree nuts, cut flowers and nursery crops – total nearly $65 billion per year.  The success of specialty crop farmers and businesses creates opportunities for new jobs and is critical to the rural economy. That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is partnering with states to support the hardworking American farmers who grow these products.

 This week Secretary Tom Vilsack announced millions of dollars in grant funding authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, including $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) awarded by AMS.  The goal of the SCBG program is to promote and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers by supporting projects that create new business opportunities, boost productivity and improve food safety.  Every state department of agriculture receives a block grant that it can use to fund projects that support its specific priorities. This year’s specialty crop block grants fund 838 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. 

Read more »

Continued Support for Local Food

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

Strong local food systems are one of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies.  On Monday, he announced the award of over $52 million to support local and regional food systems and the organic industry through five USDA grant programs. Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.

As part of that announcement, my agency—the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program, as well as over $1 million in matching grants through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). For years, AMS has led USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems by awarding grants that give farmers and ranchers around the country tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food. Read more »

The Easy Way to Find Local Food – USDA Launches New Local Food Directories

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

What a great time of year to visit your local farmers market! From root crops such as beets, carrots and radishes to salad greens like Swiss chard, lettuce and spinach—farmers markets are full of fresh ingredients that you can use in your favorite fall recipes. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, maintains the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, where you can search for local markets and discover where to get your squashes, pumpkins, pears and apples. There are over 8,200 farmers markets listed with their locations, operating hours and other details, providing a simple and easy way for consumers and producers around the country to find each other.

Local and regional food systems, including farmers markets, are one of USDA’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies and improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans. Last month, I announced that AMS was building three new local food directories for food hubs, community-supported agriculture operations and on-farm markets. I asked local food enterprises to go online and list the details of their businesses in the new directories—and they responded! Read more »

USDA Marks 50th Anniversary of the Job Corps

Daniel Stevenson, carpentry student of the Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center shows Tom Tidwell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service a map he created of the 28 Job Corps Centers in the United States at the 50th Anniversary of the Job Corp Civilian Conservation Centers celebration at the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, Wed. Sept. 17, 2014. The U.S. Forest Service operates the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Corps, the Nation’s largest residential, educational and career technical training program for young Americans. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Daniel Stevenson, carpentry student of the Harpers Ferry Job Corps Center shows Tom Tidwell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service a map he created of the 28 Job Corps Centers in the United States at the 50th Anniversary of the Job Corp Civilian Conservation Centers celebration at the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, Wed. Sept. 17, 2014. The U.S. Forest Service operates the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Corps, the Nation’s largest residential, educational and career technical training program for young Americans. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Economic Opportunity Act.  This Act, part of the government effort to wipe out poverty, created the Job Corps program, which has had a positive effect on countless young lives, giving them a chance to break multi-generational cycles of poverty, get an education, and find jobs in the federal and private sectors, and in the military.  The U.S. Forest Service works closely with the Department of Labor to operate Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers (Job Corps CCCs) around the country.

Last week, dignitaries including Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, and Tina Terrell, Forest Service National Director of the Job Corps, along with colleagues from the Department of Labor, came together in Washington at USDA’s Whitten Building to mark the anniversary. Read more »

Celebrating Farmers and Communities during National Farmers Market Week

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

We just wrapped up the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week here at USDA. It has been an AMAZING week filled with celebrations at farmers markets across the country.  Last Friday, at our own USDA Farmers Market, we hosted hundreds of youths to introduce them to healthy back-to-school snacks; and we even had a special guest appearance from our old friend Smokey Bear (who turned 70 years old on Saturday).

Every year, the first full week of August is our opportunity to highlight the country’s thousands of farmers markets, the farmers and ranchers who make them possible, and the communities that host them.  Farmers markets and, more broadly, local and regional food systems, are one of the four key pillars that USDA is focusing on in order to encourage rural economic development and improve the quality of life for rural Americans. Read more »