From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center. The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.
For over a century, my hometown of Chicago has been a cultural, financial, and agricultural hub. And as a hub, it has a long history of supporting innovation and opportunity. From the first cattle drives came the great Chicago Stockyards that supplied meat to the nation. From the early trading of the Chicago Butter and Egg Board came the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The city’s richly-woven tapestry of cultural diversity and the success of its food businesses prove Chicago’s value as an ideal business cultivator.
That is why it was so fitting that AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal and I were invited to present at the Good Food Festival & Conference in Chicago on March 14. Hosted by Jim Slama of FamilyFarmed.org, the event is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America. Each year it brings together stakeholders including farmers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and food industry representatives. Read more »
Cross posted from the White House Rural Council Blog:
Recently, representatives from the White House Domestic Policy Council, the US Department of Agriculture, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of the Treasury joined representatives from various community projects from around the country to discuss how to increase healthy food access to communities in need. The event included representatives from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Food Research and Action Center, Policy Link, and the Fair Food Network.
Participants shared their stories of success, and what we can do to encourage more healthy foods in these communities. For example: Read more »
(L – R) Jim Nordlund, State Director – Alaska RD and 90 year old Xenia Nikoli, a resident of the village of Kwethluk. Photo credit: Tasha Deardorff
When I traveled to Alaska with USDA StrikeForce National Coordinator Max Finberg last month, our eyes were opened to both the beauty of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region and the challenges of living in that landscape. We were heartened to see firsthand that USDA’s investments are improving the lives and well-being of Village residents and their communities. That support will be augmented by the expansion of USDA’s StrikeForce For Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative (StrikeForce) into the western and interior regions of Alaska.
The StrikeForce Initiative is part of USDA’s commitment to growing economies, increasing investments, and creating opportunities in rural communities facing extreme poverty. Ten southeastern Alaskan boroughs and areas joined the StrikeForce efforts in 2013. This year, we expanded the number to eighteen to reach the northwest and interior of the state. Read more »
At the first ever "Opportunities for Diversity" event, AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (at the podium) was joined by Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (first seat) and several members of the commodity Research and promotion boards. The event discussed the changing face of agriculture and the importance of including members from all schools of thought, backgrounds and culture.
The face of agriculture is changing. The changes are reflected in the Ag Census data released last week, in the rural communities we serve, and in the way the Department is looking toward the future. With a 12 percent increase in minority farm operators and a 21 percent increase in Hispanic farm operators since 2007, it’s clear that the agricultural landscape is changing. And it is vital that industry leadership evolves, too.
My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), oversees more than 20 Federal Research and Promotion (R&P) boards, whose members are appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. These boards serve a variety of commodity industries, focusing on nutrition, research, marketing and consumer outreach. By helping develop new markets and strengthening existing ones, they create opportunities for farms and businesses across the country. Read more »
The 2014 Farm Bill, passed by Congress and signed last week by President Obama, strengthens the farm safety net and ensures vital nutrition assistance for hardworking children and families during tough times. It closes loopholes and achieves much-needed reform, saving billions of taxpayer dollars.
Those accomplishments are significant and should be commended, particularly at a time when bipartisan victories in Washington are so rare.
We have already started work on a plan to implement the new Farm Bill. However, many of its provisions are new and complex. As we have done every step of the way in helping to craft this legislation, we will work to keep Congress and our stakeholders informed as we identify and prioritize everything—new regulations, guidance and other activities—that will be required so that we can implement the legislation in an efficient, timely and responsible manner. Read more »
Dairyman Bob Giacomini (center) discusses his dairy operations and the critical need for more rainfall to Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills and other participants.
On a recent trip to California, I had the pleasure meeting several farm families who are impacted by the state’s worsening drought. Both stops gave me a first-hand view of the challenges these farmers face. We discussed how USDA can further help them with available resources. While the discussion centered on concerns over water supply, I was heartened to see that the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) recommended conservation practices have helped them better prepare for the state’s historic water shortage.
During the first stop, I visited with a distinguished dairyman and conservationist in Marin County, Bob Giacomini, and his four daughters, who operate the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Driving over the hill towards Bob’s milking complex, I could see the pastures had little, if any, grass. In talking to Bob, he said that typically the grass would be at least two feet tall by now. He has real concerns about having enough forage for his cows. I also spoke with Paul Bianchi, who had joined us. Paul owns a dairy operation in neighboring Sonoma County and, like Bob, is very concerned about his ability to feed his cows. Both discussed the real possibility that they may have to sell some of their herd. Read more »