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.
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This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.
An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »
One of the major partners in the Sapelo Island Red Pea Project is SICARS which has a facility on Sapelo Island. NRCS photo.
Sapelo Island off the coast of Georgia has a handful of residents, some of whom make their living raising livestock, farming produce and managing forests. While the barrier island is isolated and only accessible by ferry or private boats, USDA agencies in Georgia recently held a meeting on the island to talk about available assistance.
“This workshop was a great opportunity for many of our partner agencies to come together to meet these coastal area residents, discuss their needs and provide information and assistance to a group of individuals that have worked very little with us in the past,” said Karri Honaker, a district conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »
Today, September 3, 2014, marks two important 50th anniversaries: the signing of the Wilderness Act and the establishment of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Since President Lyndon Johnson signed both pieces of legislation in 1964, Americans in all 50 states, across thousands of rural and urban communities, have reaped the benefits of accessible outdoor recreation opportunities and protected natural areas.
Together, these landmark pieces of legislation helped to usher in a new era for conservation.
The Wilderness Act protects wild and scenic undeveloped land across the United States for the benefit of all. Today, the National Wilderness Preservation System includes more than 750 wilderness areas covering almost 110 million acres. Read more »
(Left to right) Shawn White and Tom Bielecki, both U.S. Army veterans, and Kevin Black, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, spent the Fourth of July weekend in Plumas County, California. The three veterans are part of the 2014 Warrior Hike. While in Plumas County, they took part in the Mohawk Valley Independence Day celebration. The local Portola Rotary Club and employees from the Plumas National Forest supported the veterans during their stay. (U.S. Forest Service)
U.S. Army veterans Shawn White and Tom Bielecki, along with U.S. Marine Corps veteran Kevin Black, set off to hike the entire Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail on April 12 as part of the Warrior Hike’s Walk Off the War program.
Along the 2,650-mile journey, they will hike through 25 national forests.
They recently passed through Plumas National Forest and stopped in Plumas County, California, where they were welcomed by the local community and invited to participate in the Mohawk Valley Independence Day festivities. The warrior hikers attended all of the weekend’s festivities, including a special recognition ceremony honoring all veterans that followed the Independence Day parade, appropriately themed “Honoring Our Veterans.” Read more »
Peanuts, Pecans, Poultry, Peaches – and cotton and quail - Georgia’s agriculture is as diverse as its people. Check back next week to learn about another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.
The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
Georgia may be known as the peach state, but as the 2012 Census of Agriculture results showed, in reality we are ranked 3rd in total peach acreage. The census results also showed, that just like our agricultural producers, Georgia agriculture is very diverse.
In addition to harvesting thousands of acres of peaches, Georgia farmers also now lead the United States when it comes to chickens. When I say ‘chickens’, I mean ‘broilers and other meat type chickens’, which is what you buy when you purchase chicken at the local grocery store, or what you eat when you get a chicken sandwich at your favorite fast food restaurant. When it comes to these birds, Georgia had more than 235 million, more than in any other state. Poultry producers sold 1.37 billion broilers in 2012. That is more than 4 chickens for every man, women and child in the country, based on 2010 Population Census numbers. Read more »