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Posts tagged: Rural America

Expanding Opportunity in Indian Country

Secretary Vilsack speaks to National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit in Washington, DC on March 13.

Secretary Vilsack speaks to National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit in Washington, DC on March 13.

Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack published an op-ed in Indian Country Today discussing USDA’s efforts to improve access to capital for Tribal citizens. You can read the original op-ed here.

Last week, I spoke to several hundred tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit here in Washington, DC. The conversation was wide ranging, but boiled down to two key topics: what have we achieved, and how can USDA programs better support sustained economic growth in Indian Country?

USDA and our partners in Indian Country have made significant improvements to critical infrastructure over the past five years. In the past year alone, USDA invested more than $625 million in Indian Country through our Rural Development programs. We have worked with Tribes to bring new and improved electric infrastructure to Tribal lands and financed Tribal community facilities, including schools, medical facilities and Tribal colleges and universities. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Growing Opportunity for Small and Mid-Sized Farmers and Ranchers

The recent Census of Agriculture shows that there is tremendous potential for growth among the smaller producers that make up the middle of American agriculture, but they need our support to get there.

That can mean a lot of different things. Some small and mid-sized farms and ranches are happy just the way they are, and simply need stability to help them keep afloat during tough times. Others want to grow and expand, but don’t know how to access support that meets their specific needs.

Recognizing these challenges, we have launched a new package of education, credit, technical assistance, and marketing tools and resources geared specifically to small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers. 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 »

Opportunities for Local Foods Expanding In Iowa

FarmTek greenhouse manager Sam Schroyer describes how basil is raised hydroponically to Deputy Under Secretary O’Brien and John Whitaker (left), USDA Farm Service Agency Executive Director in Iowa.

FarmTek greenhouse manager Sam Schroyer describes how basil is raised hydroponically to Deputy Under Secretary O’Brien and John Whitaker (left), USDA Farm Service Agency Executive Director in Iowa.

All across the country local and regional food systems provide a wealth of opportunities for rural residents.  They provide opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and producers to meet growing customer demand for local foods. Local food entrepreneurs are starting to start small businesses like food processing, distribution and retail markets.

Local and regional food systems are also building stronger connections between urban and rural communities.  Eastern Iowa is case in point. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second biggest city, the NewBo City Market features the region’s local food offerings. Secretary Vilsack was on hand in the fall of 2012 to open the 18,000 square foot market, local food distribution center, and culinary training facility. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Census of Agriculture Results Tell Story of Unlimited Potential in Rural America

This week, USDA released preliminary data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture that provides a snapshot of a rural America that remains stable in the face of difficult economic times. While the data do not paint a perfect picture, they do tell a story of the unlimited potential and growing opportunity in modern rural America.

Census data indicate that the loss of farmland has slowed significantly since 2007, which means that while a total of 72 million acres of farmland have been lost since the 1982 census, we have begun to stem the tide. New tools in the 2014 Farm Bill should help to further slow and perhaps even reverse this trend in some areas of the country.

The results reinforce what we have known for many years: the farm population is aging. While that is a concern, the data also show that the number of young farmers increased slightly and the number of minority farm and ranch principal operators increased dramatically, reflecting the changing face of America as a whole. We are hopeful that USDA policies that attract and retain the next generation of talent into rural America will help to continue this trend. Read more »

Keeping USDA Employees Connected For Better Service

Developing a modern USDA for a stronger rural America means equipping USDA’s employees who work in every American state and U.S. territory, as well as in over 50 countries, with information technology tools that ensure they are better informed, better engaged and better able to provide critical feedback to policy makers in real-time.

Mobile devices, enterprise e-mail, video teleconferencing, online employee forums, social media and instant messaging allow employees who fight against hunger, food-borne illness and wildland fires to deliver their mission as well as serve the American public, while coordinating efforts with co-workers and decision makers across vast geographic distances. By remaining connected to both customers in the field and to regional and national government leaders, the on-the-ground knowledge of customer needs can much more quickly drive needed changes in policies and procedures that make USDA’s programs more accessible to the American public. Read more »