Nurse Jennifer Witting stands beside newly installed telemedicine equipment at the Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital in Laurium, MI in June 2012. The Aspirus Health Foundation, Inc. received two Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development (RD) DLT Program, that enabled Aspirus to grow their Telehealth infrastructure into communities in north-central Wisconsin and the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. USDA photo.
This week at USDA we are celebrating National Health IT week by highlighting USDA’s ongoing efforts to expand modern health care access to rural America. Yesterday, we announced two new steps to improve health care for rural Americans – both through new investments in health infrastructure and ongoing interagency partnerships designed to better focus Federal efforts on rural health care.
USDA is expanding a partnership with HHS and the Department of Veterans Affairs, as part of our work together on the White House Rural Council, to leverage funds and other efforts that will support advanced health care technology in rural hospitals. This partnership is an extension of a successful pilot launched in five states – Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi and Texas – to identify rural critical access hospitals in persistent poverty areas in need of advanced health care technology. For example, during the pilot phase of this partnership, the USDA Rural Development Iowa State Office, the Iowa Regional Health IT Extension Center (REC) and the Iowa State Office of Rural Health convened the first Iowa Rural Health IT Forum to expand care for Critical Access Hospitals. Read more »
Low Elevation Spray Application and Low Energy Precision Application systems are being used on the Gonzales’ alfalfa field in Lovington, NM. This month, USDA celebrates our partnerships to encourage conservation practices on both public and private lands.
America’s farmers, ranchers and forest owners have a great tradition of stewardship of our natural resources and environment. The U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other USDA agencies work in partnership with farmers, ranchers, forest owners, conservation groups, sportsmen, local communities, businesses and many others to encourage the conservation of both our public and private lands. This month – National Conservation Month – the Forest Service and NRCS are making several announcements that highlight the commitment of USDA and its partners to natural resource stewardship on public and private lands.
Later today, Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce the latest round of recipients for the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants program (CIG). These grants stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches that improve the productivity of farms, ranches and forests while enhancing the environment. For example, last year the University of Delaware used a CIG grant from NRCS to assist poultry producers in improving their operations and their environmental performance, and helping them comply with federal and state environmental quality requirements. Read more »
Adam McCurry, Agricultural Technician for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Yancey County conducts a lesson about local apple varieties before taking students outside to plant an apple tree at Bald Creek Elementary School in Burnsville, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Asheville, North Carolina)
Kids are headed back to school and so are county Extension agents.
As schools continue to teach kids where their food comes from and bring local and regional products into the school cafeteria, one group they may want to partner with on their farm to school activities is their local or regional Cooperative Extension office. Cooperative Extension Systems are administered by each state’s Land-Grant University System. Programs are available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. and most states have local or regional Extension offices that are staffed by one or more experts, often referred to as Extension agents or Extension educators.
Nationally, more and more Cooperative Extension Systems are devoting key resources to supporting farm to school activities. Of the 68 fiscal year 2013 USDA Farm to School Grants distributed, 25 percent included partners from Cooperative Extension. State Extension Systems such as Ohio, Minnesota, and Illinois have already dedicated resources and personnel to leading their states farm to school programs. And at the upcoming national Extension conference, farm to school and local foods are sure to be a major themes discussed. Read more »
Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Patrice Kunesh recently visited Lily PADS Resale Boutique in Peru, IL, a community-supported funding vehicle for two Illinois Valley “Public Action to Deliver Shelter” (PADS) homeless shelters. Rural Development’s 2009 partnership with Hometown National Bank secured a loan guarantee, which PADS used to construct a new retail facility that enabled the organization to warehouse and sell goods from one location. The store has been so successful that Lily PADS recently expanded its storerooms and retail space again.
“This project exemplifies the significance of USDA funding to essential community facilities such as Lily PADS,” Kunesh said. “Because of the USDA Community Facility Guarantee, the owner’s dream to serve the community became a reality; and because of the owner’s perseverance, the resale boutique became successful.” So successful in fact that the bank was able to relinquish the guarantee earlier this year. “This is exactly the kind of project USDA Rural Development envisioned – community based and financed, playing a vital role in this rural community, and giving back in multiple ways!” Read more »
Acting Deputy Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse (center) talks to reporters after announcing USDA Grant funding to help Ottawa, Illinois refurbish its downtown. Scuse said it is important to the future of rural America to get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill passed as soon as possible. USDA photo.
Anyone that is familiar with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) knows of the important role that our local delivery system plays throughout the country. Farmers and residents can visit the USDA Service Center in their area to receive localized assistance. The Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Rural Development (RD) staff in these offices often come together to highlight programs that each can offer and support projects in the area. This concept of One USDA was evidenced recently as representatives of these agencies welcomed the Acting Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Michael Scuse, to Illinois.
While in Illinois, Mr. Scuse joined the Illinois Directors of FSA, NRCS and RD to visit LaSalle County. The Acting Deputy Secretary moderated a roundtable discussion with administrators and students at Illinois Valley Community College (IVCC). Topics included the President’s Climate Change Action Plan, USDA’s role in renewable energy investments, and a discussion of the need for a five-year Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Scuse said the bill is designed to continue the expansion of America’s rural economy, and that’s a primary reason why Congress must get a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill passed as soon as possible. Read more »
NRCS Soil Scientist Roger Windhorn shows participants the differences in soil layers and what makes a healthy soil.
A recent tour in Livingston, Ill. showcased the successes a powerful partnership has had in the Indian Creek Watershed.
The 6th Annual Conservation in Action Tour was organized by the Conservation Technology Information Center to highlight community efforts in the watershed taking place under the auspices of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative.
Through the initiative, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and partners work with landowners and farmers to address nutrient loading in priority small watersheds within the Mississippi River Basin. Program participants implement voluntary conservation practices that improve water quality, restore wetlands and enhance wildlife habitat while allowing them to sustain or improve agricultural productivity. Illinois is one of the 13 states included in the initiative. Read more »