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Posts tagged: Tom Vilsack

REAPing America’s Clean Energy Future

Administrator Sam Rikkers discussing the Central City Solar Garden Project

Administrator Sam Rikkers (left) discusses the Central City Solar Garden Project with (L-R) City Administrator Chris Anderson, Cliff Mesner of Mesner Development Company (with his back to the camera), and Bill Sheppard and Jeff Carpenter of USDA Rural Development’s Nebraska offices.

USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program, commonly referred to as ‘REAP’, provides financial resources for rural agricultural producers and small businesses to help them improve their bottom line. REAP provides loan guarantees and small grants to support these producers and owners as they improve the energy efficiency of their operations and develop renewable energy sources.

Today, Secretary Vilsack announced hundreds of new projects like the one I visited over the summer in Central City, Nebraska.  It exemplifies the strategic thinking our rural communities use daily to find new ways to prosper.  A community just shy of 3,000 residents, Central City is home to the first community solar garden project ever developed in Nebraska. Read more »

Gulf of Mexico Communities Depend on a Healthy Gulf

The Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf Coast ecosystem is vital to our nation and our economy.

The Gulf Coast ecosystem is vital to our nation and our economy, providing valuable energy resources, abundant seafood, extraordinary recreational activities and a rich cultural heritage.  This ecosystem was significantly injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history—and has also suffered from harm caused by hurricanes, subsidence and other human actions and naturally-occurring events.

With the historic settlement of the litigation with BP, there will be up to $16 billion available for ecosystem restoration in watersheds across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas through the RESTORE Act, the Natural Resource Damages Assessment process and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Read more »

Empowering America: USDA’s Cooperative Month Celebration

USDA National Cooperative Month Proclamation

USDA National Cooperative Month Proclamation (Click to view a larger version)

October is National Cooperative Month, and this year, USDA is helping to focus attention on the multiple ways cooperatives help build more vibrant communities and improve the livelihoods of their members. USDA’s theme for the annual celebration is: “Co-ops Empower America, USDA Empowers Co-ops.”

Cooperatives are a versatile business model that can address many needs, such as affordable housing, utility services (including electricity and broadband), agriculture production (including local foods) and can help convert existing businesses to worker ownership. Read more »

Our Commitment to Diversity and Equality at Rural Development

USDA Rural Development Civil Rights Director Angilla Denton (left) and City of Nunapitchuk Administrator Juliana Wassillie (right)

USDA Rural Development Civil Rights Director Angilla Denton (left) and City of Nunapitchuk Administrator Juliana Wassillie (right) exchange contact information during the Office of Civil Rights’ visit to Alaska.

Last month, USDA took time to reflect on the great strides we’ve made in achieving better Civil Rights results for those who work here and those we serve.  This month’s chapter, Rural America is Back in Business, examines how USDA has helped the rural economy rebound.  By embracing Civil Rights and opportunity for all, the case can be made that the two themes are closely related.

As I reflect on some of the ways USDA Rural Development (RD) has demonstrated equity and inclusion for our external and internal customers. One of the goals Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addressed last month is USDA’s “New and Improved Outreach to Expand the Breadth of Our Service.” Perhaps one of RD’s biggest expansion efforts is the creation of specific outreach plans to reach the underserved and unserved populations, particularly through our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Read more »

Digital Connection Helps Kodiak Students

Cross-posted from the Alaska Dispatch News:

For students heading back to school this month in Kodiak, it’s anything but “class as usual.” Because at Kodiak Island Borough School District, 400 miles from Anchorage and accessible only by airplane and ferry, ConnectED investments in high-speed internet and new technology have transformed the student experience — with remarkable results.

Walking through Kodiak High School offers a glimpse at the transformative role education technology is playing in rural America. In one classroom, students use videoconferencing technology to connect with teachers and students from across the island — expanding their horizons through virtual field trips and never-before-available courses like music and civics. Math offerings, once limited to algebra, now include online and distance-learning courses all the way up through calculus. And before and after school, high-speed connectivity allows teachers to tap into interactive professional development and training to customize student learning based on individual needs. Read more »

Building Partnerships for Diversity through the B.A.Y.O.U.

Elanor Starmer touring Southern University

AMS helped to establish a meat processing plant on the Southern University campus, giving students hands-on learning and providing resources for USDA Meat Grading and Inspection trainings. AMS staff, Curtis Chisley, gives AMS Administrator Starmer (center) a tour of the facility and talked about a proposed expansion project to increase capacity.

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Louisiana with my Administrator, Elanor Starmer, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and visit Southern University and A & M College (Southern), an 1890 Land Grant University and Historically Black College. Located on Scott’s Bluff overlooking the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, LA, the campus covers 512 acres, with an agricultural experimental station on an additional 372-acres just north of the main campus.  It is at this university that AMS began a strong partnership in the mid 1980′s to help establish a Beginning Agricultural Youth Opportunities Unlimited (B.A.Y.O.U.) Program.

BAYOU provides an opportunity for high school students to gain “first hand” knowledge about career opportunities in Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences and related disciplines.  With more than a third of career federal employees projected to be eligible for retirement in 2017, programs like B.A.Y.O.U. cultivate and nurture agricultural professionals for the future. Read more »