Rural Development is the lead Federal agency that works to ensure that rural families have access to safe, well-built, affordable homes. In February 2012, the agency initiated a two-year, pilot refinancing program in 19 states hardest hit by the Nation’s housing downturn to help eligible USDA borrowers reduce their monthly housing costs.
Today, USDA announced that the program is expanding to include eligible rural residents in Puerto Rico, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Read more »
In many parts of the United States, the summer months are a time when food banks and pantries experience a higher demand alongside decreased donations. As part of this past summer’s Feds Feed Families food drive, USDA employees in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, enthusiastically joined in the effort to help friends and neighbors struggling to put food on the table. The 28 members of the staff at the Tropical Agriculture Research Station include scientists, farmers and gardeners, as well as employees in supportive roles. As part of their research efforts, the USDA Tropical Research Center periodically harvests hundreds of pounds of green bananas at a time from experimental plots. Rather than let this healthy food go to waste, the office donates the bananas to a government-run nursing home in Mayaguez. There the bananas are used to prepare traditional, local dishes.
Some of the dishes prepared with the donated bananas include pasteles, which are made from ground banana stuffed with meat or chicken, wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked. Two other delicious dishes are bollitas, or small ground banana balls cooked with pigeon peas and served over rice, and serenata, a dish of boiled green banana served with codfish, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper. Bananas are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, and magnesium, are rich in Vitamins B6 and C, and make a delicious dessert or snack–just make sure to let them ripen first! Read more »
Late last month, Arlene Zambrana, Rural Housing Program Director, was recognized as the Public Servant of the Year by the Puerto Rico Housing Builder Association.
Through her professional career, she has escalated higher positions that have provided the opportunity to obtain the present position as Rural Housing Program Director. As part of her responsibilities, she has successfully administered a budget of $1,071,533,067 during fiscal years 2009 to 2011 and has provided homeownership opportunities to 7,830 families.
Arlene has been working with the Agency since 1986. She started as assistant to Loan Specialist of the local office of the municipality of San Sebastian. Read more »
This solar electric system, funded in part through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program has reduced a Puerto Rican Paint company’s electric bill from $180,000/year to zero.
On September 13, Master Paints & Chemical Corporation located in the Municipality of Guayanila, Puerto Rico realized their goal when they became independent of the use of fossil fuel sources energy.
Master Paint & Chemical Corp is a local rural paint manufacturer that employs 260 people. This company represents one of the main jobs sources in the municipality. In the past, the cost of electricity totaled more than $180,000 annually. Energy savings in this area became a priority to grantee. With the installation of this system, the company will save 100 percent in yearly energy costs. Read more »
Olga Morales admits she is kind of a workaholic.
Two decades ago, Olga Morales worked inside an egg products plant in Elizabeth, N.J., inspecting food to make sure it was safe for the public to purchase and to eat. Today, after rising through the ranks at the Food Safety and Inspection Service, she works at a desk job in Washington, D.C., where she investigates food safety violations by meat, poultry and egg products companies.
Despite the changes in her work environment between then and now, Olga feels the same excitement when she goes to work every morning as she did 20 years ago. “I am proud of my work, and I want everyone to know that,” she said.
Born and raised in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, Olga knew when she was 5 years old that she wanted a career where she could help people and “make a difference” in their lives. It was in high school that her interest in science grew and she had the opportunity to do well in her favorite subjects—anything related to science. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Medical Technology from the InterAmerican University in Puerto Rico, she began her federal career with the U.S. Department of Defense working as a health technician and held other health-related jobs in the private sector. Read more »
Earlier this month, USDA Rural Development Staff in Puerto Rico held an energy stakeholders meeting to present the new online tools available on the revamped Energy Programs website. Also an overview of the projects developed in the island with the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) funds were highlighted throughout the reunion.
The forum moderator was José Otero-García, the State Director for USDA Rural Development in Puerto Rico. The list of attendees include representatives from the banking industry, universities delegates, federal & state government executives, business owners, technical consultants and local ranchers and farmers. Also present at the meeting was the Resident Commissioner in the United States Congress, Honorable Pedro Pierluisi, who offered the greeting remarks and reaffirmed his commitment to support renewable energy initiatives in the island. Read more »