- Wind-devastated farmland in Kansas during the Dust Bowl.
The U.S. Southern Plains states have always been known for their wild weather. Stories of the volatile climate of this region abound. Whether you’re talking about Pecos Bill roping a tornado in Texas, Dorothy being blown away by a twister to the Land of Oz, or the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma where “the wind comes sweeping down the plains,” all three of the Southern Plains states have a well-deserved reputation for extreme weather events. Never has this been more on display than in 2015. At the beginning of this year, the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas had suffered through four long years of an extreme drought greater even than those that ravaged the region during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. This extreme weather cost agriculture in the region well over $20 billion and put an incredible strain on the available water supplies of numerous communities. Then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, in a repeat of what has happened so many times in the past, the extreme drought on the Southern Plains was finally broken by extreme rainfall. Read more »
A technician installs cables at Pine Net Telephone and internet stations. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
Getting broadband to unserved rural areas is one of the toughest challenges we face. It’s far easier to make a business case to serve 500 people per square mile than it is where there are only five people per square mile. Broadband is expensive to deploy through hundreds of miles of countryside, including mountains, canyons, forests and deserts. But that’s our challenge.
The Broadband Opportunity Council report the White House released today lays the groundwork to build on the tremendous success of deploying broadband under the Recovery Act, which helped USDA and the Commerce Department expand essential broadband service nationwide. Yet even with this historical investment, we have much more to do. Read more »
AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (standing in the middle) joined USDA state colleagues and New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball for a roundtable on Women in Agriculture and Local Foods at the Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Center in Syracuse, N.Y.
The future of agriculture depends on the next generation of farmers and ranchers. That’s why the Department of Agriculture is committed to creating more opportunities for new and beginning farmers and removing barriers for women and minority farmers.
To advance these priorities, I traveled to Syracuse, N.Y., last week, where I was joined by my USDA state colleagues and New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball for a roundtable on Women in Agriculture and Local Foods at the Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Center in Syracuse, N.Y. The discussion focused on the big picture of how a thriving local food system can help women succeed as farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs. We had a vibrant conversation that ranged from sharing ideas to creating valuable connections and networks to mapping out strategies for further progress. Read more »
A team of USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives participated in the first ever Local Foods for Local Tables conference. The group got together with the common goal of promoting local foods. USDA Photo.
I was thrilled to join USDA colleagues at the first-of-its-kind “Local Foods for Local Tables” conference in Omaha, Neb., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. USDA Rural Development (RD) State Director Maxine Moul and the office of Congressman Brad Ashford led the effort to bring together groups and community members with the common goal of promoting local foods. Along with RD state leadership, the event featured Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Dan Steinkruger and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Craig Derickson, all of whom serve on the Nebraska State Food and Agriculture Council (SFAC). They brought together a panel of public servants who are experts in their field, as well as community leaders who are on the front lines of bringing fresh, healthy food to the American table.
With more than 150 people in attendance, there was tremendous energy in the room. The discussions were lively and the ideas inspired! For everyone sitting in the room – whether a volunteer gardener or a state conservationist – it was a great opportunity to learn about programs and initiatives right in their backyard that are supporting local and regional food systems. I had the privilege of serving as the keynote speaker during the luncheon, which was prepared using delicious, locally-sourced foods. I shared how my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a key role in providing technical assistance, awarding grants, and conducting research that contribute to ongoing efforts in Nebraska and across the country to strengthen local and regional food systems. Elanor Starmer from the Office of the Secretary also attended and talked about the Department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to support local food. Read more »
Here at USDA, we know that having strong rural communities is critical to ensuring that rural America remains a viable place for families to call home. That’s why, through smart investments and regional partnerships, we continuously work to expand opportunities by fostering the creation of diverse and productive rural economies through everything from home loans to financing for infrastructure and business ventures.
Infrastructure, like homes, buildings, roads and power, is the first step toward prosperity and growth in any community. For small rural communities, however, large-scale infrastructure development can be challenging. Small towns have more limited resources and a smaller tax base that can make access to credit difficult. Fortunately, USDA Rural Development can help. We are proud to partner with rural communities across America to provide affordable financing for these essentials, including financing to bring high speed broadband, including remote, poor and under-served areas. Additionally, we provide loans, grants and technical assistance for water systems, wastewater systems, essential community facilities like schools and hospitals, small business start-up or expansion. Read more »
Sheldon Rockey, co-owner of White Rock Specialties of Mosca, Colorado.
What do you get when you combine an abandoned rural high school, two Colorado farm families and potatoes? White Rock Specialties.
The innovative potato packing facility in Mosca, Colorado, is an economic driver for valley potato growers and employment in this small, unincorporated community in the San Luis Valley.
For generations, the Rockey and New families have been farming in the valley. Each family business had their own potato packing facilities, however, time and an increase in demand for their products proved the old equipment too inefficient. Discussions started between the families and it was decided a couple years ago to merge their packing businesses and White Rock Specialties was formed. Read more »