A woman picking apples—one of many specialty crops—grown in New England. Since the beginning of the Obama administration, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has awarded $455.5 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants to all 50 states and several U.S. territories. These grants have supported 6,138 projects that increase capacity, opportunity, and economic success for America’s specialty crop growers. Photo courtesy Alberto Romero.
Specialty crops—fruits, vegetables, nuts and nursery crops—are an agricultural and dietary staple. They’re a central part of a healthy diet and are vital to the economic success of American agriculture and to the farmers and businesses that rely on them for their livelihoods.
That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, works to support and expand markets for specialty crop growers and producers. This year, through our Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, we awarded $62.5 million to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories to support critical work related to this segment of the agricultural industry. Read more »
Kansas State University used a FSMIP grant to develop social media strategies for rural businesses to expand their customer base.
From Facebook to Snapchat, rural businesses are exploring how to use social media to improve their customer’s experience and expand their customer base. Over the last eight years, USDA and the Obama Administration have partnered with rural communities to build more opportunities that support rural small business owners, farmers and ranchers through applied research. Today USDA awarded nearly $1 million in Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) grants to support market research to strengthen markets for U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally.
Administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), FSMIP projects make a real difference to diverse stakeholders and largely benefit rural communities. For example, in 2013, FSMIP awarded a 2-year grant to Kansas State University to develop social media strategies for small green businesses, including nurseries, garden centers and lawn care operations, and to explore the potential of social media to expand their markets and profitability. Social media holds promise as a strategy for these rural businesses which frequently have a small customer base and struggle to be profitable throughout the year, given the seasonal nature of their business. Through social media, business owners could reach more potential customers for little to no cost but they often do not know how or why they should use these tools. Read more »
Canola is the subject of a rural economic growth project in Western Oklahoma. USDA ARS image
Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) play a unique role in USDA’s service to rural America. They link the research and educational outreach capacity of the nation’s public universities with communities, local decision makers, entrepreneurs, families, and farmers and ranchers to help address a wide range of development issues. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides core funding for RRDCs and integrated research, education, and extension activities.
By Rachel Welborn, project manager with the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University
How can rural communities compete in an ever-expanding global market?
Rural counties across the country are finding innovative ways to capitalize on their local strengths. Through a guided process, more than 400 counties in 38 states are discovering new ways to work together to grow their economies. Read more »
USDA Rural Development Civil Rights Director Angilla Denton (left) and City of Nunapitchuk Administrator Juliana Wassillie (right) exchange contact information during the Office of Civil Rights’ visit to Alaska.
Last month, USDA took time to reflect on the great strides we’ve made in achieving better Civil Rights results for those who work here and those we serve. This month’s chapter, Rural America is Back in Business, examines how USDA has helped the rural economy rebound. By embracing Civil Rights and opportunity for all, the case can be made that the two themes are closely related.
As I reflect on some of the ways USDA Rural Development (RD) has demonstrated equity and inclusion for our external and internal customers. One of the goals Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed last month is USDA’s “New and Improved Outreach to Expand the Breadth of Our Service.” Perhaps one of RD’s biggest expansion efforts is the creation of specific outreach plans to reach the underserved and unserved populations, particularly through our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Read more »
Through a USDA-AMS grant, the New York Department of Agriculture and Markets will join Cornell University and Virginia Tech - Eastern Shore to look for ways to improve food safety practices in produce packing houses and processing facilities.
July is the height of summer grilling season and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence.
Its summer and specialty crops – fruits, vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits – fill our plates with color, taste and nutrition. Consumers are finding their favorite fresh produce in the grocery store or their farmers market. Other specialty crops like cut flowers and nursery crops lend beauty and interest to our homes and yards. And the growers responsible for the produce are making sure it is safe through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
USDA is working closely with FDA and the specialty crop industry to help address concerns and research needs as they work to implement the produce safety rule. One resource to help growers address food safety issues is the new Specialty Crop Multi-State Program (SCMP), administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). This grant program brings together multi-state teams to research and develop solutions to practical problems that cross State boundaries within the specialty crop industry. Read more »
Grand Union Hotel owner Cheryl Gagnon gives Under Secretary Lisa Mensah a tour of the renovated historic hotel in Fort Benton, Montana. The Gagnons used a Business & Industry Loan Guarantee to finance the rehabilitation, along with financing from a revolving loan through Bear Paw Development funded by USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program. Just another example of how USDA Rural Development helps America's rural small businesses.
America’s economy rides on the wheels of small businesses.
The U.S. Small Business Administration says more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. The contributions of these firms will be honored May 1-7 during National Small Business Week — #DreamSmallBiz — and USDA Rural Development is proud to join in the celebration.
As the leading federal agency working exclusively to foster economic opportunity in rural America, Rural Development knows Main Street businesses drive the rural economy. Money earned and spent at a small town “mom-and-pop” store, or a small-scale manufacturer gets re-invested locally. Read more »