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Posts tagged: Strikeforce

The Mississippi River: Mending the Mighty from North to the Gulf

Brian Parkinson working with NRCS District Conservationist Joe Gates to make conservation improvements to his land

Brian Parkinson grows cereal rye and other varieties of cover crops near Milan, Ill. Parkinson works with NRCS District Conservationist Joe Gates to make conservation improvements to his land. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

The mighty Mississippi – it’s a river with a history of romance and enchantment. Native Americans depended on the Mississippi River for food and water, and world explorers came in search of its riches.

Over time, farmsteads dotted the land, and small towns grew to large cities. Today, we see the fruits of our labor as industry, commerce and agriculture continue to thrive in the basin. But those successes come with environmental challenges. Many of the basin’s waterways suffer from poor water quality. Read more »

Serving More Summer Meals in Rural and Tribal Areas

Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX. USDA photo.

Catholic Charities began their second year providing meals to children up to age 18 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to children at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle, TX. USDA photo.

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

During the school year, over 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch each day through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. But, when school is out, many children who rely on these meals go hungry. The challenge is particularly great in rural areas and Indian Country, where 15 percent of households are food insecure. In these areas, children and teens often live long distances from designated summer meal sites and lack access to public transportation.

According to Feeding America, 43 percent of counties are rural, but they make up nearly two-thirds of counties with high rates of child food insecurity. The consequences are significant. Several studies have found that food insecurity impacts cognitive development among young children and contributes to poorer school performance, greater likelihood of illness, and higher health costs. Read more »

Partnerships Bring Rural Health Care to South Dakota

Dan Friedrich, Director of HealthPOINT at Dakota State University, moderating the health financing workshop

Dan Friedrich, Director of HealthPOINT at Dakota State University, moderated the health financing workshop.

“We wouldn’t be all that we are today if it weren’t for USDA”, said Verne Hansen, Board President of the Faulkton Area Medical Center (FAMC).  With help from Rural Development, South Dakota, FAMC leveraged $5 million in loans and loan guarantees to build a state-of-the-art 12-bed facility serving as the Critical Access Hospital for Faulkton (population 744) and the surrounding community.  This new facility has yielded a 500% increase in patient revenues and improved the level of care. Due to overwhelming demand, FAMC is planning an expansion to continue meeting the health care needs of rural South Dakotans.

Recently, South Dakota’s Rural Development office teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services, the State of South Dakota, the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, Dakota State University, and East River Electric Cooperative to bring together providers and funders to generate concrete plans improving access to rural health care in our state. One concrete outcome was workshop on the collaborative Rural Health Financing Initiative, where we focus on maximizing and utilizing the resources we currently have at our disposal to best meet the needs of today and the future. To illustrate the path to success, Faulkton Area Medical Center CEO Jay Jahnig gave a first-hand example of how USDA was able to provide the financial support that allowed FAMC to significantly increase its quality and quantity of service to the community. Read more »

From Tomatoes to Yarn: Value Added Producer Grants Help Agriculture Entrepreneurs Get Ahead

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admiring an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon.

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admires an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon. The Ranch used a USDA Value Added Producer Grant to develop the yarn.

“When you are a small farm, you don’t have a lot of capital.” says Julie Donnelly of Deepwoods Farm, a small tomato farm she runs with her husband in Bradley County, Arkansas. Despite being in an area known for its tomatoes, Deepwoods Farms was having a hard time getting ahead.  “We couldn’t get past the commercial tomatoes.” Julie remembers.  “We were almost bankrupt. I thought ‘I’ve got to do something!’ ”

What Julie decided to do was diversify her tomato crop to produce more varietals, including heirlooms and different colored tomatoes. She believed this would give her farm a competitive edge and open up new market opportunities. The tomatoes were growing well and tasted good.  However, no one knew the Donnelleys were doing something different than before. Deepwoods Farms needed marketing and branding support to tell customers why their tomatoes were different.   “When I heard about the Value Added Producer Grant, I thought this might be the answer,” said Julie. Read more »

USDA Goes All in for Produce Safety Outreach

Small grower Warren Ford in a field

The Harmonized GAPs Food Safety audit provided by AMS has helped small grower Warren Ford expand his business from selling a couple hundred bushels of peas a summer to selling more than 3,000 cases a summer to Walmart. Photo courtesy Warren and Rosha Ford.

For the produce industry, the summer and fall of 2015 is more than a chance to share a new season of crops with customers. It’s when several of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) laws will become final. FSMA will make significant changes to the country’s food safety laws, including the first-ever regulation of fresh produce and a more proactive approach to preventing foodborne illnesses. My colleagues at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) have been working hard with our partners to expand our outreach efforts about food safety to help the produce industry prepare for compliance.

One of the ways that we help the industry prepare for compliance is through a successful partnership with Cornell University and the FDA via the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA).  We recently renewed this partnership through a Cooperative Agreement that enables the three entities to devote funds for training and outreach events. Since 2010, AMS has enjoyed working with our colleagues to engage with produce growers, industry members, regulators, and extension educators through working committees, public meetings, focus groups, and webinars. Read more »

Colorado Hay Producer Improves Farm Efficiencies through StrikeForce Initiative

Along with growing and selling commercial hay to supplement his income, Ken Sills also spends his time raising and racing pigeons. Sills shares a photo of himself as a kid alongside his dad. NRCS photo.

Along with growing and selling commercial hay to supplement his income, Ken Sills also spends his time raising and racing pigeons. Sills shares a photo of himself as a kid alongside his dad. NRCS photo.

Ken Sills has had difficulties getting water to his hayfields for years, impacting his ability to use his Grand Junction, Colorado land efficiently.

“I just couldn’t get irrigation to the back of my place,” Sills said. “I tried a ditch and siphon tubes, but there were areas that were not getting water, so that’s when I went to the NRCS.”

In his quest for help, he found USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and staff there helped him install an efficient irrigation system. The system included an above-ground conveyance system, gated piping and a small concrete distribution structure that now provides irrigation water to about five acres of grass hay. Read more »