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Posts tagged: rural communities

REAPing America’s Clean Energy Future

Administrator Sam Rikkers discussing the Central City Solar Garden Project

Administrator Sam Rikkers (left) discusses the Central City Solar Garden Project with (L-R) City Administrator Chris Anderson, Cliff Mesner of Mesner Development Company (with his back to the camera), and Bill Sheppard and Jeff Carpenter of USDA Rural Development’s Nebraska offices.

USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program, commonly referred to as ‘REAP’, provides financial resources for rural agricultural producers and small businesses to help them improve their bottom line. REAP provides loan guarantees and small grants to support these producers and owners as they improve the energy efficiency of their operations and develop renewable energy sources.

Today, Secretary Vilsack announced hundreds of new projects like the one I visited over the summer in Central City, Nebraska.  It exemplifies the strategic thinking our rural communities use daily to find new ways to prosper.  A community just shy of 3,000 residents, Central City is home to the first community solar garden project ever developed in Nebraska. Read more »

U.S. and Mexico Collaborate on Organic Monitoring and Enforcement

AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer and Enrique Sánchez Cruz, Director in Chief of the National Service for Animal and Plant Health, Food Safety and Quality of Mexico signing a terms of reference document

AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer and Enrique Sánchez Cruz, Director in Chief of the National Service for Animal and Plant Health, Food Safety and Quality of Mexico, sign a terms of reference document to establish the committee.

As consumer demand for organic products continues to grow around the world, the USDA Organic Seal has become a leading global standard. USDA provides support for the vibrant organic sector, representing a retail market of over $43 billion in the United States alone.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is excited to announce another way we are helping organic producers reach new markets and offering consumers additional organic products.

We plan to establish a Joint Organic Compliance Committee in support of a potential organic equivalency arrangement between the United States and Mexico. There is already a robust trade in agricultural products taking place between our two countries: Last year, the United States exported over $100 million of organic food products to Mexico – our third largest agricultural export market – and Mexico supplied the United States with food certified to the U.S. organic standards, including seasonal produce. Read more »

Celebrating Stakeholder Diversity is Essential for Success

Organic certifiers auditing an operation in Mexico

Given the size and growth of the U.S. Hispanic population and its purchasing power, the Hispanic community is a key driver of the growth of U.S. consumer markets, including our organic market.

On behalf of the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP), please join us as we continue celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.  The month-long observance, that occurs every year from September 15 through October 15, celebrates the cultures and traditions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.  At the NOP, increasing our appreciation of Hispanic cultures as well as our connections with Hispanic people are essential for our success.

There is much that we have done and continue to do in serving Hispanic stakeholders.  The USDA organic regulations, as well as the National Organic Program Handbook – which contain USDA organic standards, guidance documents, policy memos and instructions – are available in Spanish.  In addition, our recent Sound and Sensible initiative resources, which are helping make organic certification more accessible, attainable and affordable for small producers and processors, also include resources in Spanish. Read more »

El Celebrar la Diversidad de Participantes es Esencial Para el Éxito

Organic certifiers auditing an operation in Mexico

Dado el tamaño y el crecimiento de la población hispana en los Estados Unidos y su poder adquisitivo, la comunidad hispana es un motor clave del crecimiento de los mercados nacionales de consumo, incluyendo nuestro mercado de productos orgánicos.

De parte del Programa Nacional Orgánico (NOP, por sus siglas en inglés) del Servicio de Comercialización Agrícola (AMS, por sus siglas en inglés), por favor, únase a nosotros a medida que continuamos celebrando el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana.  La observancia de un mes, realizada todos los años del 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre, celebra las culturas y tradiciones de los estadounidenses que tienen sus raíces en España, México y países de habla hispana de América Central, América del Sur, y el Caribe.  En el NOP, el aumentar nuestra apreciación de las culturas hispanas igual que nuestras conexiones con los hispanos es esencial para nuestro éxito.

Es mucho lo que hemos hecho y seguimos haciendo para servir participantes hispanos.  Las regulaciones orgánicas del USDA, así como el Manual del Programa Nacional Orgánico – que contienen los estándares orgánicos, documentos de orientación, memorandos de política e instrucciones – están disponibles en español.  Además, nuestra reciente iniciativa orgánica “Sound and Sensible,” que ayuda a que la certificación orgánica sea más accesible, alcanzable y asequible para pequeños productores y procesadores, también incluye recursos en español. Read more »

Working Together to Develop Local Strategies for Strong Rural Communities

The USDA and Smart Growth America team touring the historic Greer Mill

In preparation for the workshop in Alton, Missouri, the USDA and Smart Growth America team tours the historic Greer Mill, which is being revitalized as an educational facility and event space through a partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the nonprofit Friends of Eleven Point River.

How will decisions about where we locate new development or upgrade existing infrastructure impact our future economic vitality and fiscal health?  How can we site and plan public facilities and housing so they have the greatest benefits for our community?  How can we rebound from years of population loss?  How can we capitalize on our unique history to become the kind of place we want to be in the future?  These were some of Alton, Missouri’s residents’ many questions Smart Growth America addressed during a recent USDA Rural Development supported technical assistance workshop.

During my visit to Alton, I was amazed at this small town’s vision, energy, and commitment to revitalizing its economy and improving the lives of its 870 residents.  Local leaders are bringing life back to their downtown by improving the built environment and hosting cultural events, developing the regional food system, strengthening tourism to nearby National Forests and beautiful rivers, and more.  However, I’ve seen rural communities with similar dreams fall short of their goals due to a lack of technical expertise, local capacity, financing, and partnerships.  That’s why USDA is working with Smart Growth America to bring innovative solutions, funding ideas, and insights from their experiences around the nation to communities who want a brighter future. Read more »

Digital Connection Helps Kodiak Students

Cross-posted from the Alaska Dispatch News:

For students heading back to school this month in Kodiak, it’s anything but “class as usual.” Because at Kodiak Island Borough School District, 400 miles from Anchorage and accessible only by airplane and ferry, ConnectED investments in high-speed internet and new technology have transformed the student experience — with remarkable results.

Walking through Kodiak High School offers a glimpse at the transformative role education technology is playing in rural America. In one classroom, students use videoconferencing technology to connect with teachers and students from across the island — expanding their horizons through virtual field trips and never-before-available courses like music and civics. Math offerings, once limited to algebra, now include online and distance-learning courses all the way up through calculus. And before and after school, high-speed connectivity allows teachers to tap into interactive professional development and training to customize student learning based on individual needs. Read more »