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Posts tagged: Tom Vilsack

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

A strong rural economy benefits the whole nation. Sales of specialty crops – which include everything from fruits and vegetables to tree nuts, cut flowers and nursery crops – total nearly $65 billion per year.  The success of specialty crop farmers and businesses creates opportunities for new jobs and is critical to the rural economy. That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is partnering with states to support the hardworking American farmers who grow these products.

 This week Secretary Tom Vilsack announced millions of dollars in grant funding authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, including $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) awarded by AMS.  The goal of the SCBG program is to promote and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers by supporting projects that create new business opportunities, boost productivity and improve food safety.  Every state department of agriculture receives a block grant that it can use to fund projects that support its specific priorities. This year’s specialty crop block grants fund 838 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. 

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Secretary’s Column: Farm to School Programs Create New Opportunities for Farmers

This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.

An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »

Continued Support for Local Food

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

Strong local food systems are one of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies.  On Monday, he announced the award of over $52 million to support local and regional food systems and the organic industry through five USDA grant programs. Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.

As part of that announcement, my agency—the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program, as well as over $1 million in matching grants through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). For years, AMS has led USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems by awarding grants that give farmers and ranchers around the country tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food. Read more »

USDA Volunteers Receive Presidential Honor for Service

Secretary Tom Vilsack presents the NRCS Presidential Volunteer Service Awards presented to Jerry Hattan, Torrington, Wyoming; and Russell Dorrough of Clarksville, Texas. From left: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Donna Hattan, Jerry Hattan, Torrington Wyoming; Russell Dorrough, Clarksville, Texas and Chief Jason Weller, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Hattan and Dorrough have a combined volunteer effort of 12,000 hours. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Secretary Tom Vilsack presents the NRCS Presidential Volunteer Service Awards presented to Jerry Hattan, Torrington, Wyoming; and Russell Dorrough of Clarksville, Texas. From left: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Donna Hattan, Jerry Hattan, Torrington Wyoming; Russell Dorrough, Clarksville, Texas and Chief Jason Weller, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Hattan and Dorrough have a combined volunteer effort of 12,000 hours. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Two dedicated volunteers of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently received the top honor for American volunteers – the lifetime Presidential Volunteer Service Award.

Russell Dorrough, of Texas, and Jerry Hattan, of Wyoming, have volunteered more than 4,000 hours with NRCS. Between 4,500 and 6,000 Americans receive this award each year.

The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation created the President’s Volunteer Service Award program as a way to thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, give back and inspire others to engage in volunteer service. The lifetime award presented to Russell and Jerry is the program’s highest honor. Read more »

Michigan Farmers Tour Lake Erie, Hear from Water Quality Experts

A research boat operated by Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory, takes a group of Michigan farmers to the research facility on Gibraltar Island on Lake Erie. NRCS photo.

A research boat operated by Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory, takes a group of Michigan farmers to the research facility on Gibraltar Island on Lake Erie. NRCS photo.

Michigan farmers heard firsthand from experts about the water quality issues facing Lake Erie as well as the importance of conservation work to cleaning water.

A group of 40 farmers from southeast Michigan visited Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island in Lake Erie. The tour was held in late summer, not long after 500,000 people in the Toledo area were forced to spend days without public drinking water. Read more »

The Easy Way to Find Local Food – USDA Launches New Local Food Directories

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

What a great time of year to visit your local farmers market! From root crops such as beets, carrots and radishes to salad greens like Swiss chard, lettuce and spinach—farmers markets are full of fresh ingredients that you can use in your favorite fall recipes. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, maintains the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, where you can search for local markets and discover where to get your squashes, pumpkins, pears and apples. There are over 8,200 farmers markets listed with their locations, operating hours and other details, providing a simple and easy way for consumers and producers around the country to find each other.

Local and regional food systems, including farmers markets, are one of USDA’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies and improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans. Last month, I announced that AMS was building three new local food directories for food hubs, community-supported agriculture operations and on-farm markets. I asked local food enterprises to go online and list the details of their businesses in the new directories—and they responded! Read more »