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Posts tagged: REAP

USDA Celebrates Rural Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs During National Small Business Week

National Small Business Week began yesterday with a proclamation from President Obama recognizing the small businesses across the Nation which, especially in our rural and small-town communities, making vital contributions to communities and the American economy.

Individually, the impact of a small business may seem minor in comparison with conglomerates. The Small Business Administration (SBA), however, estimates that more than half of our American workforce either owns or is employed by a small business, and two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year is created by–you guessed it–a small business. It’s clear this portion of economy is significant, but in rural towns and areas where each job and transaction has an effect on the community, small business is essential.  In rural America, the entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops, agri-businesses, small-scale manufacturers, and other enterprises are the local economy. Read more »

Renewable Energy: Bringing New Opportunities to Indian Country

A tractor tills the soil among wind turbines in Oklahoma on August 13, 2009. USDA photo by Alice Welch.

A tractor tills the soil among wind turbines in Oklahoma on August 13, 2009. USDA photo by Alice Welch.

In rural communities across the country, USDA Rural Development is bringing new energy efficiency and cost saving opportunities to Indian Country.

Choggiung Limited, a Native American Corporation in southwest Alaska, received a $20,000 energy assistance grant from USDA Rural Development to install a wind turbine at the courthouse in Dillingham – a Native-owned building and leased to the state – that has reduced its energy costs by 80 percent and is saving Choggiung about $20,000 a year.  Choggiung is a for-profit Native corporation serving Tribal residents in Dillingham, Ekuk, and Portage Creek, Alaska. “This wind turbine marks a new approach to sustainable business management and renewable energy in Dillingham,” Choggiung CEO Doug Calaway said.

In the southwest, USDA awarded the Arizona-based Navajo Tribal Utility Authority a $100,000 grant to conduct energy audits that helped farmers, ranchers, and small business owners across the Navajo Nation make their operations more energy efficient and economical. Read more »

USDA Helps Syrup Producers Cut Back on Energy Use but Not Sweetness

A youngster enjoying how maple syrup is made. NRCS photograph.

A youngster enjoying how maple syrup is made. NRCS photograph.

In New England – or anywhere for that matter – nothing says the weekend like a short stack fresh off the griddle, covered by its inimitable mate, maple syrup. Whether the color is dark amber or golden light, the flavor is unmistakable. But as we pick up our forks and dig in, how many of us really think about where it comes from or how it’s made?

Did you know the most common tree used is the sugar maple? It grows mostly in the Northeast and Canada.

Production of maple syrup continues to climb, and according to data from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Connecticut saw an increase in maple sugar production with a record 78,000 taps in 2013. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: New Farm Bill and 2015 Budget Expand Opportunity in Rural America

This week, President Obama released USDA’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal, which supports our ongoing work to create jobs and opportunity in rural America.

The budget builds on the new opportunities available to us through the recently-passed 2014 Farm Bill to achieve reform and results for the American taxpayer; foster opportunity for the men and women living, working and raising families in rural America; and support innovation through strategic, future-focused investments.

My team at USDA has been hard at work identifying everything that will be required—regulations, guidance and other activities—to develop a plan to implement the new Farm Bill. Read more »

Agriculture Innovates: USDA Then and Now, Part III

This week, our weekly photo series moves on to critical programs that support farmers, producers, and communities nationwide in times of need.

This blog is Part III of a four-part series highlighting some of the ways USDA has worked with federal and local partners to adapt to challenges facing rural communities across the nation. You can see Part I and Part II.

Don’t forget, you can share your innovation stories, too, using the hashtag #AgInnovates! Read more »

Native American Heritage Month – A Time for USDA to Consult with Tribes and Learn from Them

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.

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 »