(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 »
The Produce Safety University is a collaborative effort between AMS, FNS, and local schools. The training teaches school foodservice personnel things like how to safely handle, prepare, and store fresh fruits and vegetables. USDA photo by Christopher Purdy.
Healthy eating plus physical fitness equals a positive lifestyle. It is a concept that has been talked about for years. Fruits and vegetables are an integral part of the equation and a corner stone for National Nutrition Month. Through a number of services, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) ensures that fresh, high-quality produce can reach each and every neighborhood.
USDA knows it is important to develop good eating habits early, so we work with schools to make sure our children fill their plates with quality, wholesome fruits and vegetables. For example, a Memorandum of Understanding between AMS, the Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Service (FNCS) and local schools helps introduce fresh, locally-produced foods on school menus. To date, the Produce Safety University (PSU) has taught more than 400 school food service personnel how to safely handle and confidently purchase fresh produce. Read more »
Secretary Vilsack speaks to National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit in Washington, DC on March 13.
Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack published an op-ed in Indian Country Today discussing USDA’s efforts to improve access to capital for Tribal citizens. You can read the original op-ed here.
Last week, I spoke to several hundred tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit here in Washington, DC. The conversation was wide ranging, but boiled down to two key topics: what have we achieved, and how can USDA programs better support sustained economic growth in Indian Country?
USDA and our partners in Indian Country have made significant improvements to critical infrastructure over the past five years. In the past year alone, USDA invested more than $625 million in Indian Country through our Rural Development programs. We have worked with Tribes to bring new and improved electric infrastructure to Tribal lands and financed Tribal community facilities, including schools, medical facilities and Tribal colleges and universities. Read more »
NRCS State Conservationist Keisha Tatem, NRCS Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin (center) and Eric Juan with the Gila River Tribal Community discuss the efficiency gains of the concrete-lined irrigation ditch in the community. Before this ditch was lined, much of the water was lost. NRCS photo.
I come from generations of Mississippi River towboat captains and family farmers. From as early as I can remember, our family believed that if you were going to do a job, you’d better do it right, and that no job was either too big or too small.
Hard work was valued, and everyone always looked for new ways of doing jobs better. The river and the land have long supported our family. From time to time, I have an experience that takes me back and today’s trip was one of those times.
Recently, when I was crossing the Colorado River from California into Arizona, I thought about how many times I had crossed the Mississippi River from Illinois to Iowa or Missouri. But crossing this river was very different. Driving into Arizona, there was desert as far as I could see in any direction. This instantly sparked my curiosity. Read more »
NRCS field staff work closely with Tribal members on education, outreach and implementation of on-the-ground conservation practices. Loren Crank Jr. and Barry Hamilton with NRCS worked with Bill Todachennie, the chapter’s vice president, on this project.
Grasses for grazing livestock are making a comeback on Utah’s McCracken Mesa thanks to a project partnership among the Aneth Chapter of the Navajo Nation, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Known as the McCracken Mesa Rangeland Project, the Aneth Chapter is working to rehabilitate degraded land through a grass establishment project. McCracken Mesa rises 5,500 feet and covers 57,000 acres. An estimated 37,000 acres are intended for grazing livestock. But the mesa’s terrain, extreme weather and overgrazing from livestock have left much of the land bare.
The use of native grasses ensures a more sustainable ground cover for the mesa along with habitat for wildlife. Plants that are native to an area typically are the most suitable for restoration efforts because they boast advantages such as adaptability to the soil and have mastered surviving and thriving in the sometimes harsh environment. Read more »
In the 151 years since the U.S. Department of Agriculture was founded, America’s oldest industry has evolved to meet the changing needs of our modern agricultural landscape. From growing overseas markets, building a 21st century rural infrastructure, and finding ways to address the challenges of climate change, USDA has worked beside farmers, businesses, and community leaders to streamline programs and spur innovative solutions for today’s challenges.
For USDA, that also means looking inward and changing the way we do business. We have done this by designing initiatives that collectively utilize the full scope of our mission, better focusing resources and staff across the Department to meet the needs of the communities we serve using modern tools, technology, and processes.
USDA’s recently expanded StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative illustrates this trend with a broad commitment to rally available tools and technical assistance to combat persistent poverty in rural communities in 20 states.
Our Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative aims to support the rapidly expanding local and regional food market with new products and services, as well as tailored cross-agency web resources and data that illustrate opportunities and promote local and regional food systems.
And finally, through the Blueprint for Stronger Service, USDA responded to the uncertain fiscal environment by streamlining mission critical work and taking a close look at operations to find ways to cut costs and modernize processes to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars – with great results.
Over the next month we’ll share more about the ways that USDA has evolved to meet the needs of modern agriculture in America. We’ll use hashtag #AgInnovates on social media to share these stories, but we want to hear from you too. In the video above, Secretary Vilsack asked you to lend your voice to our collective story of how YOUR community has evolved to meet the needs of the 21st century. A new hospital? Technology enhanced planning, harvest, or conservation practices? A better transportation infrastructure? Education programs to meet the needs of today’s high tech ag sector?
Use #AgInnovates to let us know. We can’t wait to hear from you.