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Posts tagged: Rural

In-patient Hospice Care Close to Home

Steve Richard of SUN Home Health and Hospice and Tom Williams, Pennsylvania State Director, USDA Rural Development at the SUN Home Hospice Care Center ribbon cuttingI recently had the pleasure of participating in a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony with Steve Richard, President/CEO, SUN Home Health and Hospice and otherstakeholders, for a new hospice center located within the Sunbury Hospital. USDA Rural Development awarded Sun Home Health Services, Inc. $99,500 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Rural Business Enterprise Grant funding to create a six-bed inpatient hospice unit within the hospital.  Terminally ill cancer patients in Central Pennsylvania now have an alternative to travelling 30–150 miles to an urban area for short-term in-patient hospice care. Read more »

USDA: A Farm Team Worth Playing For

My first three weeks interning for USDA have been extremely interesting and enjoyable.  A native of Austin, Texas, I grew up spending most weekends on my grandparents’ farm, the same farm where we currently raise Texas Longhorn cattle. Instead of returning to Austin after the baseball season, I came to Washington, DC to take advantage of this great opportunity to learn about both agriculture and the government while also making a difference.

I knew USDA played a significant role in the lives of farmers and ranchers, but I continue to be amazed by the breadth of programs and agencies here.  Rural Development, for example, does amazing work in rural communities, from building hospitals to improving water supplies to increasing the availability of broadband internet.  I also have a greater appreciation for USDA’s role in disease and pest control and its significant impact on the success of our country’s agricultural output and economy over the years.

In addition to learning about USDA, I have been afforded some great opportunities through my internship.  This week I went to a Tribal Leaders Reception for the National Congress of American Indians.  I met several interesting people, both tribal leaders and people who work in other departments of the government.

The reception was held in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.  It was my first time visiting the museum and reminded me of all the great museums and government buildings in Washington, DC.  I have been to a few of them now, with my favorite two being the Library of Congress and the National Archives.  I’m looking forward to more great experiences in the weeks to come.

Ross Ohlendorf, a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, is spending part of his off-season at the United States Department of Agriculture. A graduate of Princeton University, he is spending eight weeks as an intern with USDA’s Marketing and Regulatory Programs.

Photo of Ross Ohlendorf

Ross Ohlendorf

Donativo del Programa de Energia Para USDA Asegura la Continuacion de la Cosecha del Café en Puerto Rico

Cuando la mayoría de los americanos piensan en café, piensan en Sur America o Hawaii. Lo que no saben es que Puerto Rico tiene una larga tradición en la producción de café de alta calidad. Un donativo otorgado al dueño de una hacienda de café  por USDA Rural Development bajo el programa de Energía Rural para America (REAP) está ayudando a conservar la tradición.

El café llego a nuestra isla en el año 1700 y fue por mucho tiempo, nuestro principal producto de exportación. Algunos de los mejores café del mundo son producidos en la zona montañosa central en el pueblo de Adjuntas. La combinación de la altura, ambiente fresco, lluvia y suelo volcánico contribuyen a que crezca una variedad de café con un sabor exquisito.

José Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico, coffee plantation owner Jimmy Román, and workers at the plantationJosé Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico, holds freshly roasted coffee at the Hacienda Monte Alto plantation.

Un problema grande que tenemos en Puerto Rico es el alto costo del gas propano combustible que se usa para secar y tostar el grano del café. Recientemente, el Sr. Jimmy Román dueño de la Hacienda Monte Alto, hacienda productora de café vino a USDA Rural Development buscando fondos para comprar un horno especial para tostar café. El horno en vez de usar gas propano usa la cáscara del café como combustible. Pudimos otorgarles un donativo de $14,000 al Sr. Román y a su familia para la compra de los hornos.

Debido a este nuevo sistema de tostar el café, esta pequeña plantación familiar no va a tener que subir los precios del café por la fluctuación del precio del combustible. El Sr. Román me indicó que este sistema de tostado del café, va a estabilizar los costos de producción, preservando 15 empleos permanentes y 40 de temporada en la cosecha del café. Es un placer trabajar con el dueño de esta plantación de café, el Sr. Román y su familia  y asegurarnos en continuar esta larga tradición de la cosecha del café puertorriqueño, y que esta familia pueda continuar trabajando su tierra en Puerto Rico.

Por José Otero-García, Director Estatal en Puerto Rico de USDA Rural Development.

USDA Rural Energy for America Grant Helps Ensure the Continuation of Puerto Rico’s Coffee Harvest

When most Americans think of coffee, they think of South America or Hawaii.  What they may not know is that Puerto Rico has a long and significant relationship with coffee.  Funds provided to a coffee plantation owner by USDA Rural Development through the Rural Energy for America (REAP) program are helping to preserve that heritage.

Coffee first came to our island in the 1700s, and was for a long time, a primary export.  Some of the finest coffee in the world is produced in the central mountain range in the town of Adjuntas. A combination of high altitude, cool weather, precipitation and volcanic soil allows the growing of a coffee variety with very flavorful beans.

José Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico, holds freshly roasted coffee at the Hacienda Monte Alto plantation.

José Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico, holds freshly roasted coffee at the Hacienda Monte Alto plantation.

José Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico, coffee plantation owner Jimmy Román, and workers at the plantation

José Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico, coffee plantation owner Jimmy Román, and workers at the plantation

The one significant drawback to coffee production here in Puerto Rico is the expense of purchasing propane gas for roasters to dry and roast the beans.  Recently, the owner of the Hacienda Monte Alto plantation, Jimmy Roman, came to USDA Rural Development seeking funds to buy special toaster ovens.  Instead of propane, these ovens use coffee bean shells for fuel.  We were able to provide a $14,000 grant to Mr. Roman and his family.

Because of this new drying system, this small family-owned plantation won’t be forced by rising fuel costs to raise the price it charges for its beans.  Mr. Roman tells me that the drying system will stabilize production costs, preserving the 15 permanent and 40 seasonal jobs that the plantation supports.  It is a pleasure to work with this plantation owner, Mr. Roman and his family to help ensure that a long-established custom, that of harvesting locally grown coffee, will continue and that a hard working family will continue to work the land here in Puerto Rico.

José Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director for Puerto Rico

Biofuels Testimony

I had a chance this morning to testify before the House Agriculture Committee about USDA’s commitment to energy security for America.  I shared the spotlight for this hearing with Under Secretary Tonsager, and together we impressed on our colleagues on the Hill the great challenges we have before us in developing a new biofuels industry, and expertise and knowledge of the many people here at USDA working on this critical issue.

Congress has laid out a significant challenge to produce 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022 to power our cars, trucks, jets, ships and tractors. This is a substantial goal, but one that the United States, with the help of American agriculture, can meet or beat. However, I believe to achieve this goal we will need to expand our focus on drop-in or third generation fuels. These are biofuels that can directly substitute for gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel.

Today more than 9 billion gallons of biofuels are produced annually by first-generation biofuel technologies that turn corn grain starch into ethanol, an increase from 1% of the U.S. fuel supply in 2000 to 7% in 2008.

However, Congress in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) stipulated that only 15 billion gallons of the 36 billion can be provided by ethanol produced from grain, or what is called first-generation biofuel. This means that 21 billion gallons of biofuels will need to come from sources other than corn grain. Second-generation biofuel technologies that turn crop residue such as corn stover or dedicated energy crops such as switchgrass into ethanol, and third-generation biofuel technologies that turn these feedstocks into advanced biofuels – synthetic substitutes for gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel – will have to come rapidly into commercial use.

If we are to reach our target of 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022, we will need to change the way we do business. The U.S. has funded thousands of worthy projects, but there has been little effective integration of these efforts across government agencies, and also there has not been a focus on partnering with public and private resources to rapidly develop biofuel supply chains capable for achieving our nation’s biofuels goals.  Significant parts of the supply chain have been ignored or have received too little attention such as sustainable feedstock production systems, solutions to lower the cost of biomass transport, and efforts to leverage America’s existing fuel distribution and utilization systems.

Switchgrass and Genetecist Ken VogelFor example, the amounts of biomass and other dedicated energy crops that are needed to produce second- and third-generation biofuels basically requires creation of an entirely new agricultural commodity sector. There are many economic and environmental uncertainties to be expected as this sector emerges.   We intend to focus on feedstock development for a range of second- and third-generation bioenergy crops.  We will continue to work in corn – where our Agricultural Research Service scientists have made important recent discoveries in genomics.  And we will build a robust research portfolio in perennial grasses (like switchgrass and miscanthus), energy cane, sorghum, and other potential dedicated feedstocks.  To ensure continued genetic improvement of bioenergy crops, NIFA and DOE Office of Science have partnered to fund six projects totaling $6.3 million for fundamental science to accelerate plant breeding programs by characterizing the genes, proteins, and molecular interactions that influence biomass production.

Under Secretary Tonsager and his team have taken a leadership role in helping to ensure that people throughout rural America can contribute to building this new capability to produce and deliver biofuels to the market.  Without their work in commercializing biofuels and developing markets to realize rural wealth, our research on biofeedstock development and cultivation won’t ensure the energy security biofuels can bring.  Promising developments in the laboratory or inventions by a farmer or an aspiring entrepreneur will simply never see the light of day. Innovation and our ability to meet the food, fuel and fiber needs of the country will come from all sorts of places and we need to incubate those technology breakthroughs as well.

We need this now more than ever, so that we can unleash the creativity and skills of people in government, in college laboratories, in the garages of aspiring entrepreneurs, and in the R&D facilities of the private sector.

– Raj Shah, Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics

Recovery Act Funds Upgrade Berlin Wastewater Treatment Systems

USDA Rural Development announced on Friday that $20.6 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding will be provided to the Town of Berlin and to the Worcester County Commissioners on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to help upgrade two wastewater treatment systems.

Jacqueline Ponti-Lazaruk Assistant Administrator, Water and Environmental Programs for USDA Rural Development during a ceremonial groundbreaking

Jacqueline Ponti-Lazaruk Assistant Administrator, Water and Environmental Programs for USDA Rural Development during a ceremonial groundbreaking

“The Recovery Act is putting people back to work like Mike Dale, helping them to provide for their children’s education and a home for their family,” said Jacqueline Ponti-Lazaruk Assistant Administrator, Water and Environmental Programs for USDA Rural Development during a ceremonial groundbreaking. “This wastewater treatment project in Berlin is an example of how the Recovery Act is not only creating jobs, but is also protecting the environment and providing much-needed infrastructure improvements for the residents for years to come.”

Shovel ready projects

Shovel ready projects

The Assistant Administrator spoke on behalf of Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager. Dale operated heavy equipment for nearly 10 years before he was laid off in the summer of 2008 due to the downturn in the economy. He’s now back to work full-time as a construction worker with Bearing Construction at Bottle Branch Road in Berlin. Bearing started working on the upgrade and expansion of the wastewater treatment project on June 17, 2009. The upgrades and expansion to the Berlin wastewater treatment system are necessary to comply with more stringent environmental regulations and to prepare the Town for expected growth and development.

The project is expected to cost $16 million and is being funded in partnership with state and federal funding; a USDA Rural Development low-interest loan in the amount of $5,988,000 and USDA grant $5,828,217. The Maryland Department of the Environment is providing a $1.5 million grant, and the Department of Housing and Community Development is providing $700,000 through the Community Development Block Grant program. $2 million towards the project is provided by the Town. Jack Tarburton, USDA Rural Development State Director also highlighted $8.8 million in funding provided to Worcester County Commissioners for improvements to the Mystic Harbour wastewater treatment plant.

“Rural Development understands the unique challenges that municipalities and county governments face to maintain and operate wastewater treatment systems,” said Tarburton. “USDA’s water and environmental programs are designed to help make the process easy to deal with and affordable for the entire community.”