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Posts tagged: Tom Vilsack

USDA Hosts Stakeholder Forum on the Benefits and Opportunities of the New Farm Bill Program Designed to Expand the Market for Bio-based Products

The Three Rivers Energy biorefinery in Coshocton, OH

USDA Rural Development's investment in the Three Rivers Energy biorefinery in Coshocton, OH brought it back online after eight years of sitting idle. It now produces corn-based ethanol and employs 30 people in the mid-Ohio region. Photo courtesy Three Rivers Energy.

This Thursday, July 16, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and I, along with staff from my Rural Business Energy Division, will have the honor to host a national stakeholder forum on the improvements to, and opportunities available, under the new Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (Section 9003), formerly the Biorefinery Assistance Program.

The forum begins at 12:30 Eastern Time. While seating is limited, you can participate via a webinar, which can be accessed at: https://www.webcaster4.com/Webcast/Page/789/9401. Read more »

Lessons from the Field: A New Series for Food Hub Development

Lilian Salerno, Administrator, Rural Development Rural Business-Cooperative Services in California

Lilian Salerno, Administrator, Rural Development Rural Business-Cooperative Services (third from right), met with the Sacramento County of Governments and other partners to discuss food hubs in the greater Sacramento area. Rural Development’s new report Running a Food Hub: Lessons Learned From the Field, is part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to food hub development and other local food enterprises.

Since 2009, USDA has invested in 29,100 local food opportunities, including food hubs, small scale processing and farmers markets across all 50 states and the US territories. These investments include over 12,000 loans and micro-loans to small-scale producers who often sell products locally and over 13,000 high tunnels (low-cost covered structures that extend the growing season and make locally-grown products available later in the year).

However, as with any investment, the success of a business depends not just on an infusion of capital, but also on good planning.  Technical assistance services such as feasibility studies, business planning, financing strategies, supply chain logistics, marketing, and guidance with the policy and regulatory environment are equally important. Read more »

A Farmers Market Soars in Michigan

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (center, in brown suit) breaking ground for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribal leaders and local residents

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (center, in brown suit) breaks ground for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribal leaders and local residents.

The Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation sits in rural Central Michigan about 90 minutes northwest of Flint. One of the newest business enterprises to open on Reservation is the Native Farmers Market.  I was there for the groundbreaking with Tribal Chief Steve Pego, and other tribal members to represent USDA’s investment in this exciting project. USDA Rural Development provided a $200,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to build the farmers market pavilion and supporting parking lot.

As we took shovel to ground, Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Chief Steve Pego recalled how the typical local diet consisted largely of home-grown foods and game from hunting when he was a kid. He lamented how packaged foods and other items have since taken their place. His vision is that the Native Farmers Market will reconnect tribal members with their traditional foods and increase access to healthy food options for the community. Read more »

Fun in the Sun – #USDARoadTrip Through Conservation and Recreation

United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite (SMAP). Photo by NASA’s Kim Shiflett.

United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket with NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite (SMAP), a remote sensing mission designed to measure and map the Earth's soil moisture distribution and freeze/thaw stat with unprecedented accuracy, resolution and coverage. Photo by NASA’s Kim Shiflett.

The second stop on our #USDARoadTrip is our recreation and conservation portfolio, including our vast and spectacular forest and grassland system managed by USDA’s Forest Service as well as some of the cooperative conservation efforts underway by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA). 

With Independence Day fireworks behind us for 2015, USDA gives you another reason to look up into the night sky. With a new satellite, NASA and USDA have partnered to map Earth’s soil moisture from orbit, letting us monitor droughts, predict floods and forecast the water supply in major cities. 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 »

Conserving Monarch Butterflies and their Habitats

A monarch butterfly on flowers

Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed species. Photo credit: Bugwood.org

With more than 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants relying on pollinators, their importance to natural ecosystems and agriculture cannot be overstated. However, populations of pollinators, including bird, bat, butterfly, beetle and bee species, have been declining around the world. Recognizing the importance of pollinators, Secretary Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proclaimed June 15 to 21, 2015 as National Pollinator Week.

To celebrate Pollinator Week, we are sharing some of the Forest Service’s work to conserve one iconic pollinator species and its habitat – the Monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies complete incredible migrations of hundreds to thousands of miles each year across North America. Along their migratory paths, Monarchs rely on habitats that contain milkweed species, which is the only plant that they lay their eggs on. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, which contains chemical compounds that make them poisonous to potential predators. Read more »