U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack (center left, second row) meets with members of the USDA Council for Native American Farming and Ranching (CNAFR) in Washington, D.C. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.
Late last month it was my privilege to join representatives from multiple USDA agencies at Wisconsin’s Mole Lake Indian Reservation to discuss ways to work together, across agency lines, to provide needed services to Tribes. Thanks to funding support through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and other USDA programs, the Obama Administration has boosted federal support for Tribes, but now we are working to step up our effort even more, to work as one to support projects and initiatives that the Tribes have told us they support and need. As we observe Native American Heritage Month, it is important to note that this effort is consistent with Secretary Vilsack’s “One USDA” policy. The intention is to have “one USDA speaking with one voice.”
Because we are such a large department, sometimes those seeking services just don’t know where to start. At USDA we are moving to unify our brand identity and broaden our outreach. We know that when a member of a Tribe approaches a USDA representative, they don’t want a process. They want an answer, and we should be giving them answers from all of our agencies. That was the message I shared with my USDA colleagues at Mole Lake. Read more »
A Missouri Coteau wetland near Bismarck, N.D., in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region. Credit: Jim Ringelman, Ducks Unlimited, used with permission.
The Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana provides sanctuary to millions of nesting waterfowl each summer. With an innovative partnership led by Ducks Unlimited (DU), USDA is helping to provide new opportunities for agricultural producers in the region to sequester carbon while cultivating new revenue streams.
With the help of a grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, these partners have created a carbon credit system for private landowners in North Dakota who agree to avoid tillage of grasslands. Grasslands store carbon dioxide, one of the leading greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.
The North Dakota Prairie Pothole project, funded by a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) of $161,000, provides potential new revenue streams for landowners while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and increasing carbon sequestration. Read more »
Michael Scuse, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, listens to those impacted by the Atlas Blizzard in South Dakota.
Farmers and ranchers know many variables are sometimes not in their hands, especially when it comes to weather. That’s why USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Senator Tim Johnson asked me to travel to South Dakota this week to see firsthand the widespread destruction to livestock in the wake of the Atlas Blizzard, and to consult with affected producers on how USDA can help right now – - despite two years of Congressional inaction on the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill.
When I joined one farmer in his living room, learning how his livestock losses, including pregnant stock, meant years of income gone, I thought of Congress, how it lurches from one crisis to the next, and how that legislative atrophy creates real consequences beyond just American farmers but for entire rural communities. Read more »
A surreal blend of colors harkens at winter yet provides peaceful warmth to fall on the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho. While some may feel fall colors signals the end of summer, others see it as the beginning of the rebirth of spring. (U.S. Forest Service)
What to see, when to see it, and where to see it is what the U.S. Forest Service 2013 Fall Colors web pages are all about — making the colors of fall that much easier to find, appreciate and understand.
The glorious colors that come with autumn across our nation should not be missed. From New Hampshire to Arkansas and from Alaska to Virginia, and nearly every state in between, the changing shades of leaves from green to brilliant reds, vibrant oranges and golden yellows is a must see. Read more »
Ajo, Arizona’s Sonoran Desert Retreat Center recently received an ArtPlace grant to promote small town vitality. The town’s annual International Day of Peace parade brings together people from the Tohono O’odahm Nation and Sonoyta, Mexico. Pictured here Eric Alegria (board chair of the Center), Lorraine Marquez Eiler of the Hla C-ed O’odham district on the Tohono O’odham Nation legislative Council, and (behind) Brian Mackenzie, the principal of the Ajo school. Photo courtesy of Tracy Taft.
As rural communities search for new and viable economic approaches, it is becoming clear that one core component of many successful rural communities is the presence of vibrant arts and cultural opportunities. Last month I had the opportunity to speak about rural arts initiatives and how USDA Rural Development is engaged with local communities and private foundations to provide awareness of our infrastructure programs and how they can assist in supporting local cultural strategies.
At the Americans for the Arts annual meeting I had the honor of representing USDA on two panels where our Rural Development programs were part of the mix. The sessions included discussion of ArtPlace, a consortium of national and regional foundations, and their efforts to support rural communities. Projects in Lanesboro, Minnesota and Ajo, Arizona are recent ArtPlace grantees, and we had the opportunity to explore ways in which USDA’s infrastructure programs might be able to leverage this new boost of philanthropic support as these communities work to demonstrate how cultural development is an essential ingredient for rural communities in the next generation. Read more »
The 1911-built Scenic Theater in Lisbon, N.D. With support from USDA, the theater, a focal point for the community, will continue to operate. USDA photo.
The Scenic Theater in Lisbon, North Dakota, like many small-town theaters, was struggling with the high cost to convert from a film to digital format. Film had been an industry standard for more than a hundred years, but Hollywood studios will stop printing on actual film by the end of the year.
Established in 1911, the Scenic is the oldest, continually operating theater in the United States. Due to the digital upgrade, theater owners, Al and Betty Michels, were worried that it would be forced to go dark for the first time. To make the transition, all new equipment would have to be purchased and installed, which would cost close to $100,000. With this daunting number, the community rallied to help preserve the historic theater. Read more »