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Posts tagged: Tom Vilsack

A Visitor’s Perspective: What Everyone Should Know about USDA and their Impact on Nutrition

Under Secretary Kevin Concannon taking a photo of his lunch mates at Arcola Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md.

Under Secretary Kevin Concannon takes a photo of his lunch mates at Arcola Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Until 6 months ago, I was a typical academic. I spent most of my time doing research on obesity. Apart from a few years in consulting between college and graduate school, my entire career has been in a university. Since so much of my research aims to inform policy, I decided it was time for me to see how decisions actually get made. This past summer, I had the good fortune of being selected to the White House Fellowship – a fantastic year-long program which provides an intimate view of federal policy making. Each fellow is placed in the executive branch, and my home for this year is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). At USDA, I work as a Senior Policy Advisor to Under Secretary Kevin Concannon in Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services. This is a great fit for me since USDA – among other things – oversees the suite of federal nutrition assistance programs that help low-income families (including mine when I was a young child) put food on the table in times of need.

To be frank, I thought I would love the experience and hate government. From my outsider perspective, government seemed clunky, inefficient and bloated with too many people doing redundant work. I was completely wrong. Read more »

Addressing the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Epidemic

Walk into any town in rural America, and ask someone if they know someone who is struggling or has struggled with addiction.  Chances are the answer will be yes.

In 2014, 28,648 Americans died of overdoses of opioids, a class of drugs that includes both prescription pain medications and heroin.  Heroin-related overdose deaths nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013.  In 2013, prescription opioid abuse or dependency affected 1.9 million Americans, and 517,000 Americans had abused heroin within the past year. Read more »

Acequia de Las Joyas Blooms with Traditional Irrigation Methods

Xavier Montoya, State Conservationist for NRCS New Mexico (left) and Mark Rose (center left), NRCS director of financial assistance programs manager, Kenneth Salazar (center right) and others

Xavier Montoya, State Conservationist for NRCS New Mexico (left) and Mark Rose (center left), NRCS director of financial assistance programs manager, talk about the successful partnerships and teamwork that led to the completion of the Las Joyas Acequia improvements near Nambe, New Mexico. Kenneth Salazar (center right), former president of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts and current President Jim Berlier (far right).

Spaniards built the Acequia de Las Joyas approximately 300 years ago. The acequia, a community irrigation watercourse or ditch, was the principal method of providing water to the farmers for their crop and rangelands in northern New Mexico. The parciantes (also known as acequia members) worked together to maintain the acequia and each member in return received a portion of the water.

Three centuries later, the practice is still key to making the land bloom. But, time and the elements have taken their toll on acequia and repair costs have escalated to the point that members can no longer shoulder the burden of maintaining the critical community resource alone. Read more »

People’s Garden Initiative Launches New Website to Celebrate National Garden Month

Children get hands on experience in the garden at the exhibits during the 2016 White House Easter Egg Roll on the south lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on Monday Mar, 28, 2016. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Children get hands on experience in the garden at the exhibits during the 2016 White House Easter Egg Roll on the south lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on Monday Mar, 28, 2016. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Spring has sprung and April is National Garden Month! It’s time to pick up your trowel and get gardening.

USDA launched the new People’s Garden website that provides tools and resources gardeners can use to start or expand a home, school or community garden. Unveiled during today’s annual Easter Egg Roll at the White House, here are just some of the new features: Read more »

Unlocking the Toolkit for Stronger Local Food Systems

El Bosque Garlic Farms' hand-tied garlic

Investing in local food systems creates market opportunities for businesses entrepreneurs to sell fresh local products in unique ways. El Bosque Garlic Farms sells their hand-tied garlic at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Photo courtesy of Peter Wood, USDA.

Every community wants to support initiatives that promote economic growth and create new jobs, but sometimes it can be hard to decide on the best way to accomplish these goals.  Now there is a new resource to help communities make the economic case for investments in local food. Today, Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the availability of “The Economics of Local Food Systems: A Toolkit to Guide Community Discussions, Assessments and Choices” at the Good Food Festival’s Financing and Innovation Conference in Chicago. Secretary Vilsack highlighted USDA’s continued support of local and regional food systems, much of which is coordinated through USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. Read more »

Kentucky “Landowner of the Year” Makes Conservation a Way of Life

Burchel Blevins holding his Landowner of the Year award

Burchel Blevins of Knox County, was named the ‘Landowner of the Year’ for the southeastern region, by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.

When Burchel Blevins drives visitors around his rural Kentucky farm, he points out the numerous conservation practices he has implemented to protect and preserve his land. Blevins owns more than 650 forested acres and 70 acres of open forest and grass land in different parts of Knox County, and he’s worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for about 15 years.

“You learn a lot working with them,” said Blevins, referring to NRCS staff.

Using NRCS programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) and the former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (now part of EQIP), Blevins has made many conservation improvements to his land. Read more »