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Posts tagged: Secretary Tom Vilsack

A Taste of the States with our Neighbors to the North

Secretary Vilsack talks with U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson and Chef Dino Ovcaric about the U.S. foods featured during the tasteUS! culinary showcase in Ottawa.

Secretary Vilsack talks with U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson and Chef Dino Ovcaric about the U.S. foods featured during the tasteUS! culinary showcase in Ottawa.

This week, I traveled to Ottawa to meet with Canadian trade group leaders as well as Gerry Ritz, the minister of agriculture in Canada. As part of these meetings, we discussed agricultural trade issues that both of our countries face and opportunities for collaboration. In between meetings, I had the opportunity to participate in the tasteUS! Culinary Showcase. This event took place at Ambassador Jacobson’s residence and guests included Canadian media, buyers from Canadian grocery chains and food establishments, and U.S. cooperator representatives in Canada. Read more »

From Sisters’ Generosity Grows a Garden to Benefit Carthage, Texas Community

Jane Ray was ironing clothes and watching the news when a story inspired her to action. The news story showed First Lady Michelle Obama speaking to employees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., telling them about the agency’s People’s Garden initiative. Ray, who grew up in Carthage, Texas, realized she had just heard how she and her sister, Jill Burkindine of Manhattan, Kan., could honor their parents and benefit their hometown community. After the newscast, Ray contacted the USDA in Washington, D.C., to learn how she could establish a People’s Garden. This call led her to Matt Feno, a district conservationist for the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service in Carthage. From Ray’s inspiring moment, has grown a unique People’s Garden national initiative site. It is the only privately owned initiative garden in the world. The sisters own the land where the more than one acre garden is located at the USDA Service Center in Carthage.

Fresh garden produce will benefit Mission Carthage, an organization that works to help families in need. The mission feeds 300 families of four each month from four surrounding counties. Children are a large percentage of individuals receiving food. The garden also will provide an area for the community to learn about gardening, water and soil quality, along with sustainable practices such as capturing rainwater.

Volunteers and NRCS employees have put in months of hard work to make the dream a reality. What began as barren land now has a decorative wooden fence around its borders. Volunteers have planted vegetable seeds and plants in the expansive area. Ornamentals have been planted and bird and butterfly houses dot the fence. Bee hives and water harvesting practices are also part of the garden’s future plans. A groundbreaking ceremony was held recently. Upwards of 100 people braved inclement weather to be a part of the dream.

“It is an example of what the Secretary envisioned,” said Livia Marqués, director of the USDA People’s Garden Initiative, adding that the garden exemplifies the mission of the national initiative, such as incorporating sustainable agriculture practices, while benefiting a community as a whole. She traveled from Washington, D.C., to speak at the event.

Numerous agencies and partners attended the ceremony and continue to volunteer and support the garden effort, such as the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and Resource Conservation and Development, Texas AgriLife Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District, the City of Carthage, Master Gardeners, Watson Organics and the Carthage Chamber of Commerce.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has recognized the sisters’ efforts. He highlighted their efforts during a video message on the People’s Garden initiative. He said “this story demonstrates the power that gardens have to make a difference in local communities.” The USDA also invited Ray and Feno to speak at its first People’s Garden Summit.

Washington, D.C. is a long way from Carthage, but People’s Gardens share common goals, such as feeding the hungry. From this commitment has grown the sisters’ mission statement for Carthage’s Hometown Garden – “Feeding Our Neighbors One Family at a Time.”

Don Gohmert, state conservationist for NRCS in Texas, who traveled from Temple to speak at the groundbreaking ceremony, commented on the garden’s uniqueness: “This is so much more than just a piece of ground with plants on it.”


Submitted by Beverly Moseley, NRCS Public Affairs Specialist, Texas


Along with community members, individuals from numerous agencies and partners instrumental in bringing the garden to fruition attended the groundbreaking ceremony. Some of these included the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and Resource Conservation and Development, Texas AgriLife Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District, the City of Carthage, Master Gardeners, Watson Organics and the Carthage Chamber of Commerce. Representatives from U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert’s office and the Texas Department of Agriculture also attended.

Jill Burkindine of Manhattan, Kan., and Jane Ray of Carthage, Texas, sisters, own the land where the more than one acre Hometown Garden is located at the USDA Service Center in Carthage. This is a unique garden. It’s a U.S. Department of Agriculture People’s Garden national initiative site. It also is the only privately owned initiative garden in the world.

Jill Burkindine of Manhattan, Kan., and Jane Ray of Carthage, Texas, sisters, own the land where the more than one acre Hometown Garden is located at the USDA Service Center in Carthage. This is a unique garden. It’s a U.S. Department of Agriculture People’s Garden national initiative site. It also is the only privately owned initiative garden in the world.

Matt Feno, left, NRCS district conservationist in Carthage, Texas, Livia Marqués, director of the USDA People’s Garden Initiative and Don Gohmert, NRCS state conservationist for Texas, took advantage of a break in the rain showers.

Matt Feno, left, NRCS district conservationist in Carthage, Texas, Livia Marqués, director of the USDA People’s Garden Initiative and Don Gohmert, NRCS state conservationist for Texas, took advantage of a break in the rain showers.

Along with community members, individuals from numerous agencies and partners instrumental in bringing the garden to fruition attended the groundbreaking ceremony. Some of these included the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and Resource Conservation and Development, Texas AgriLife Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District, the City of Carthage, Master Gardeners, Watson Organics and the Carthage Chamber of Commerce. Representatives from U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert’s office and the Texas Department of Agriculture also attended.

Along with community members, individuals from numerous agencies and partners instrumental in bringing the garden to fruition attended the groundbreaking ceremony. Some of these included the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency and Resource Conservation and Development, Texas AgriLife Extension, Soil and Water Conservation District, the City of Carthage, Master Gardeners, Watson Organics and the Carthage Chamber of Commerce. Representatives from U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert’s office and the Texas Department of Agriculture also attended.

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USDA/DOJ Workshop on Competition Issues – Important Step in the Right Direction

Today over 600 people packed the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny, Iowa to participate in the first ever USDA/DOJ workshop on competition issues in agriculture.

With FFA purple jackets helping direct the attendees (and selling boxed lunches), the hall was full nearly an hour before U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack and U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder began speaking to lead off the day.

The diverse audience included farmers and ranchers, union members, academics, representatives of both small and large businesses, lawmakers and federal officials, all eager to begin the series of 5 workshops that will be held over the next several months.

Many in the crowd expressed the opinion that this type of collaboration between USDA and DOJ was long overdue, and their appreciation that the Obama Administration was clearly taking their concerns about the market for agricultural products so seriously.

Once the program began, it became clear that AG Holder and Secretary Vilsack were not prejudging the results of these workshops, but were here to listen and engage in a discussion that would inform the efforts of both Departments over the coming months and years.

To underscore this point, Vilsack announced at the start of the second panel that public comments would be taken over the lunch hour to ensure that everyone had a chance to offer their comments.  It is clear that the issues are complex, but there was agreement that having today’s discussion was a critically important step in the right direction.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack at the USDA/DOJ Workshop on competition issues.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack at the USDA/DOJ Workshop on competition issues.

Caleb Weaver, Press Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture

USDA Rural Development Hosts Housing Forum in Puerto Rico

José Otero-García, USDA Rural Development State Director, and Tammy Treviño, USDA Rural Development Rural Housing Administrator sponsored a Self-Help Housing Forum at the Sacred Heart University in San Juan and was web connected with the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus and with the Catholic University, Ponce Campus on Friday March 5, 2010.

Over 151 persons joined the forum, one-hundred- seven at the University in San Juan and the rest through the web. The purpose of the forum was to create new ideas and promote the Self-Help Program in Puerto Rico. The activity was covered the Caribbean Business, Primera Hora and El Nuevo Dia Newspapers. The diversity of issues discussed was amazing and the group was composed of the best Professionals in their field, Faculty from the three Universities, Governors’ Aides, HUD’s Officials, Bank representatives, Mayors’ representatives and Communities leaders.

The information provided from the discussion will be sent to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and President Obama for consideration.

In attendance at the Puerto Rico Self-Help Housing Forum: Seated from left, Laura Cotte, Director of the Office of External Resources of the Sacred Heart University; Arlene Zambrana, Rural Housing Program Director (Puerto Rico); Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing & Community Facilities Programs, USDA RD; and José Otero, RD State Director for Puerto Rico.
In attendance at the Puerto Rico Self-Help Housing Forum: Seated from left, Laura Cotte, Director of the Office of External Resources of the Sacred Heart University; Arlene Zambrana, Rural Housing Program Director (Puerto Rico); Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing & Community Facilities Programs, USDA RD; and José Otero, RD State Director for Puerto Rico.

Submitted by Miguel A. Ramírez, Rural Development Public Affairs Coordinator for Puerto Rico.

New Green Curriculum Unveiled for USDA Forest Service Job Corps Conservation Centers

Today I am fortunate to attend an event in Nampa, Idaho, with Congressman Walt Minnick to celebrate Secretary’s Vilsack’s announcement of a new green curriculum for the USDA Forest Service’s 28 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers, located in 18 states around the country.  I will be able to see first-hand how USDA’s Job Corps Centers’ curriculum is preparing disadvantaged young people for careers that will be good for the environment, good for the economy, and good for them!

The USDA Forest Service has operated Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers for 45 years, and I am eager to see how the new focus on green jobs training for today’s economy can work for our students. The new green curriculum offered at the Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers provides training in growing trades such as:

Carpentry and construction: Students learn the principles of green construction, as well as how to build and retrofit buildings to achieve green building-certification.

Electrical: Students are learning to re-wire buildings and install smart meters, low-voltage thermostats, and energy-efficient appliances.

Culinary arts: Culinary students learn to incorporate fresh, organic, locally-grown produce into menus, decreasing the miles food has to travel and lowering carbon output.

Medical trades: Students learn the importance of nutrition and healthy, active lifestyles. Graduates will be part of a health care system that will help Americans live longer, healthier lives.

Natural resources: Jobs in natural resource trades will be key in forest restoration work that will ensure a healthy environment and clean, abundant water for communities throughout the nation.

Job Corps Centers provide free education and training and are located throughout the country. For eligible youth at least 16 years of age, Job Corps provides the all-around skills needed to succeed in a career and in life. To learn more visit our recruiting Website.

Check back soon for photos and stories from the event!

By Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment

Ugandan Dairy Cooperatives Quadruple Sales and Create Jobs with Help from the Food for Progress Program

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack today announced that USDA will donate more than $145 million in international assistance under the Food for Progress Program in fiscal year 2010. This figure will benefit more than 3.4 million people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East by providing access to new opportunities for farmers and rural communities.

In 2006, Uganda’s Eastern Dairies, a company comprised of 11 local dairy cooperatives, quadrupled its sales in one year with assistance provided by Land O’Lakes, Inc., under USDA’s Food for Progress (FFPr) Program.

Before this FFPr project began, the cooperatives’ more than 500 members—of which 50 percent are women—were suffering from insufficient household incomes and lacked the ability to independently address Uganda’s low milk prices, volatile demand swings and unreliable payments by some buyers. In recognition of these problems, Land O’Lakes submitted an FFPr proposal to provide technical assistance and training to Uganda’s dairy industry to increase its productivity and competitiveness through market development, quality assurance and capacity building activities.

In 2005 USDA accepted the proposal and donated 11,100 tons of U.S. hard red winter wheat to Land O’Lakes. The wheat was sold in Uganda and the funds were used to partly pay for the cooperatives to install a 2,000-liter milk cooler at Eastern Dairies. With guidance from Land O’Lakes, the cooperatives reinvested their profits and member contributions to purchase more assets, upgrade their milk bulking center, and open two new sales outlets, which sell more than 15,000 liters of milk per month. As a result, household incomes have grown by more than 50 percent and Eastern Dairies‘ average monthly profit is more than $3,000. The expansion of the company has created input and service industry jobs and the company itself has grown from one employee to 10 fulltime workers.

The successes achieved at Eastern Dairies have prompted Land O’Lakes to begin working with MADDO Dairies to set up a new milk collection center in Lwagenge, a remote village in Masaka, Uganda, where dairy market accessibility is limited due to poor roads. Last year, MADDO Dairies was expected to install a new milk cooler with a 3,000-liter capacity, benefiting 80 dairy farmers and helping them reduce spillage and spoilage.

Uganda Farmers milk center

Farmers deliver milk to the Eastern Dairies milk collection center. (Photo by Land O'Lakes/Uganda.)


USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service administers the program, authorized by the Food for Progress Act of 1985.  More information is available online at:  http://www.fas.usda.gov/excredits/FoodAid/FFP/foodforprogress.asp

For more information about Land O’Lakes development work, visit http://www.idd.landolakes.com/.