Earlier this week, I had the privilege to join members and guests of the Farm Credit Council at their annual meeting in San Diego. It was a great opportunity to see some old friends and make new ones.
But it was also a time for me to continue to share the story of how critically important rural America is to our nation and why we can’t afford to allow rural areas to be left behind in the nation’s forward march to progress.
In meetings before large national farm and business groups, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack often speaks about how agriculture continues to change and innovate. He notes how it has transformed from a two-dimensional approach that used to focus on production and livestock, to a multidimensional approach that now also emphasizes specialty crops and niche market opportunities, exports, developing fuel and energy crops through a bio-based economy, supporting local and regional food systems, and committing to conservation and outdoor recreational opportunities. Read more »
At USDA, we’ve made record efforts in the past four years to support homegrown energy. This year, we’re looking ahead to a promising future for biofuels.
Biofuels have already contributed a great deal to our economy, to our energy security and to the bottom line on our farms and ranches. Today we’re taking steps to strengthen the biofuels industry and helping innovate the next generation of advanced biofuels.
For example, we’ve invested more than $320 million into biofuels research to help accelerate the development of technology needed to take the next big steps. Read more »
USDA is committed to fostering a clean energy economy and to improving the environment by conducting operations in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner, complying with environmental laws and regulations, and leading by example. In order to fulfill its mission of providing leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues, USDA focuses on the future. The Department recognizes the significance of global climate change and how potential impacts such as more frequent or severe weather events can affect our programs and operations.
To better coordinate USDA’s sustainability efforts and build on past success, USDA has prepared its 2012 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan that underscores strategies and goals to save taxpayer dollars, reduce carbon emissions, cut waste and save energy. As part of this effort, this year we have also prepared a Climate Change Adaptation Plan that outlines how the Department will address the impacts of climate change on its key mission areas such as agricultural production, food security, rural development, and forestry and natural resources conservation. The plan is available and open for a 60-day public comment period.
The USDA Climate Change Adaptation Plan includes input from eleven USDA agencies and offices. It provides a detailed vulnerability assessment, reviews the elements of USDA’s mission that are at risk from climate change, and provides specific actions and steps being taken to build resilience to climate change. The plan advances President Obama’s efforts to prepare the federal government for climate change. We expect to revise and update the plan in 2013 in response to comments received from the public. Read more »
Almost three years ago, two biology professors at Delta State University in Mississippi brainstormed how to give science undergraduates research experience in microbiology and entomology.
They hit upon the idea of searching for “science gold” in the bellies of bugs.
Professors Tanya McKinney and Ellen Green received $40,000 through a grant for under-represented colleges from the U.S. Forest Service to help with the project. As part of their research experience, students in the program search the guts of beetle larvae to discover new cellulases, enzymes that break down cellulose, an organic compound that helps make plant cell walls rigid.
Read more »
During a brief but busy trip to Oregon Monday, January 28, Agriculture Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager highlighted opportunities to increase public-private collaboration and innovative financing models for rural community and economic development. That morning, Mr. Tonsager delivered the keynote address at the Harvesting Clean Energy conference in Corvallis. Later that day in Portland, Mr. Tonsager sat down with a diverse group of business, technology, education, agriculture, finance and state government representatives to stress the importance of inter-entity teamwork to achieve a common vision for a self-sustaining, prosperous rural America.
“Our mission is to help create jobs in rural America,” Mr. Tonsager explained. “We are looking for creativity, especially as it relates to putting capital together for rural areas so that we can extend our resources further in a thoughtful, sensible way.” Read more »
Using a first-of-its-kind steam boiler fueled by spent grain, the Alaskan Brewing Company in Juneau will reduce its use of fuel oil by over 65 percent. The boiler was funded in part through the USDA Rural Energy for America (REAP) Program. Photo credit: Alaska Brewing Company photo.
In Alaska, it’s all about great beer and the Alaska Brewing Company, LLC (ABC) in Juneau is the 12th largest craft brewery by sales volume in the U.S. According to their website, the Alaskan Brewing Company became the 67th operating brewery in the United States and the only brewery in Alaska in 1986. Read more »