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Posts tagged: Tom Vilsack

Secretary’s Column: Local Markets, Local Growth

Many consumers want to “buy local” and support their local economy with their purchases. When local food marketing opportunities exist for rural producers, they cause ripple effects throughout the rural economy.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture results indicate that nearly 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, and 50,000 are selling to local retailers. Today, local food is a more than $7 billion industry and growing, according to industry estimates. The excitement around this market is drawing young people back to rural communities, generating jobs, and improving quality of life. Read more »

The Promise of a Brighter Future

L to R: Vernon Brown, USDA Community Program Director in Kentucky; RHS Administrator Hernandez; and Thomas Fern, USDA Rural Development State Director for Kentucky.

L to R: Vernon Brown, USDA Community Program Director in Kentucky; RHS Administrator Hernandez; and Thomas Fern, USDA Rural Development State Director for Kentucky.

Recently, I visited southeastern Kentucky, where I joined Rural Development State Director Tom Fern on a whirlwind tour to parts of an eight-county region designated by President Obama as a rural Promise Zone and by Secretary Vilsack as part of USDA’s StrikeForce initiative covering 73 Kentucky counties.

During my first stop, I joined Congressman Hal Rogers as he announced a $23 million loan (funded by USDA’s Community Facilities program) to purchase the property and facilities of the Knox County Hospital in Barbourville.  That loan was the first one to come across my desk last December shortly after I joined USDA. Meeting with some of the 200-plus dedicated employees of that hospital affirmed my belief that granting that loan was the right decision, as the funding will enable those healthcare workers to continue to serve the families of the region. Read more »

Silver City, NM, Student Draws Winning Poster for Homeownership Month

State Director Terry Brunner presents an award to Mireya Cisneros as her parents and her younger brother look on.

State Director Terry Brunner presents an award to Mireya Cisneros as her parents and her younger brother look on.

The Sixth Street Elementary School in Silver City, New Mexico, has seen a lot of students over the years.  But May 8th 2014 was a very special day at the 130-year-old school. Why? Because 10-year-old Mireya Cisneros, a fourth grader, was honored for her winning illustration for New Mexico’s 2014 National Homeownership Month poster contest.

The theme, “What my home means to me!” was the inspiration for the fourth and fifth grade students who participated in the contest held by USDA Rural Development in New Mexico. Read more »

Calling on Communities to Help Feed Children in Need

Cross-posted from the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships blog:

With summer’s arrival, officials at the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are preparing for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). This program ensures that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Free meals that meet federal nutrition guidelines are provided to all children 18 years old and under at approved SFSP sites in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.

Our offices recently hosted a nationwide conference call to thank faith and community leaders for their work in this area and to inform them about efforts surrounding the SFSP this summer. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack kicked off the call, challenging community leaders to strive for an aggressive, but attainable goal: serving an additional 10 million meals over the course of the summer to better reach our children in need. Secretary Vilsack discussed the need for children to be well-nourished, an essential part of our commitment to helping children learn and thrive. Read more »

Chef Art Kicks off Pride Month

Celebrity Chef Art Smith gives the keynote address at the 2014 Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) Pride Observance event held in the Jefferson Auditorium at USDA in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Jun. 5, 2014. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

Celebrity Chef Art Smith gives the keynote address at the 2014 Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) Pride Observance event held in the Jefferson Auditorium at USDA in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Jun. 5, 2014. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

Renowned chef Art Smith was the official guest speaker for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s observance of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. Openly Gay, and formally the personal chef to Oprah Winfrey, Chef Art has made numerous TV appearances, and is one of the most popular chefs in the country.

The USDA and its agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, was one of the first cabinet-level departments to recognize its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees through the establishment of an LGBT Special Emphasis Program. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Rural-Made Goes World Wide

This week, I visited Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, a small city outside of my hometown of Pittsburgh to kick off the first of five Made in Rural America forums designed to help rural small businesses access the information they need to grow through exports.

The global appetite for high-quality, American-made products is well established. Over the past five years, rural America has achieved record agricultural exports, but the rural economy is diverse. Last fiscal year, agricultural exports reached a record $140.9 billion and we are on track for another record year, with fiscal year 2014 agricultural exports projected to reach $149.5 billion. Last year was also the fourth-straight record-setting year for U.S. exports as a whole, reaching $2.3 trillion. Read more »