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Posts tagged: Tom Vilsack

During National Farm to School Month, USDA Celebrates Grantees’ Accomplishments and a New Office

Food service staff at a Delaware high school serving up a local lunch, including kale

Food service staff at a Delaware high school serves up a local lunch, including kale from the school farm.

Along with brilliantly colored hard squash, crisp apples, and hearty greens, October ushers in National Farm to School Month, a time to raise awareness about and celebrate the impact of farm to school programs on children, producers, and communities. Since 2012, I have directed USDA’s Farm to School Program, guiding the work of a small but enthusiastic team at the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Each October, we have more to celebrate: more USDA funds awarded to schools, agencies, and organizations to advance these programs; more money ending up in the pockets of local producers; more school gardens in which students can learn and grow; and more healthful school meals that feature local foods.

A new report, announced by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack earlier this month, helps quantify our celebration. An analysis of grant-making over the last three years reveals that USDA has awarded $15.1 million through 221 grants in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fifty percent of funded projects included expanding healthy menu options offered in the cafeteria; 46 percent included training for food service staff about menu planning, meal preparation, and cooking with local and regional foods; and 65 percent included nutrition education activities. These funds have helped 12,300 schools improve nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities. Read more »

2015 Dietary Guidelines: Giving You the Tools You Need to Make Healthy Choices

One of our government’s most important responsibilities is protecting the health of the American public, and that includes empowering them with the tools they need to make educated decisions. Since 1980, families, nutrition and health professionals across the nation have looked to the Departments of Health and Human Services and Agriculture for science-based dietary guidelines to serve as a framework for nutritious eating.

The guidelines help our citizens make their own informed choices about their diets and create a roadmap for preventing diet-related health conditions, like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. They also provide guidance to public and private programs and support efforts to help our nation reach its highest standard of health. Diet is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce the onset of disease and the amount of money we spend on health care. Read more »

USDA Grants to Help Farmers, Entrepreneurs and Retailers Market Local Foods

Baskets of fruits and vegetables on tables

Across the nation there is a strong interest to supply healthy, local foods to schools while supporting regional farmers and the local economy. Photo: Auburn University College of Agriculture.

Thanks to a recent grant from USDA, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is now in better position to help get locally grown potatoes, carrots, apples, broccoli, and cheese onto school lunch plates. In Wisconsin, and across the nation, there is a strong interest to supply healthy, local foods to schools while supporting regional farmers and the local economy.  USDA is helping create economic opportunities for producers by supporting projects that increase access to fresh, healthy food for students and consumers, and connect rural and urban communities.

Today Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $35 million in grants to help ensure the livelihoods of our nation’s farmers and ranchers while strengthening rural economies around the country. These grant programs play an important role in American agriculture and in communities by supporting local and regional food systems and giving farmers and ranchers the chance to explore new market opportunities. Read more »

Secretary Announces New York and Oregon Tall Wood Building Prize Winners

SHoP Architects proposed 475 West 18th in New York

SHoP Architects proposed 475 West 18th in New York, uses extensive wood structural elements and other wood products and allows the team to set ambitious sustainability targets in the building's design, construction, and operation. Copyright image, permission for use.

All around the world, including here in the United States, builders are adopting new, cutting edge technologies to save energy and reduce a structure’s carbon footprint.  Now, technological advances are enabling architects and contractors to use one of the most traditional materials, wood, to construct lighter-weight, more energy efficient tall buildings.

Today in New York, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced two winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition.  The design projects, one to be built in the Chelsea section of New York City and the other in Portland, Oregon, were selected by a panel of architectural and engineering professionals and meet the competition’s criteria for safety, practicality and sustainability. Read more »

An Update on the EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets

Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Ann Mills addresses the audience at the first ever EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets

Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Ann Mills addresses the audience at the first ever EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets.

This week, I have the privilege of participating in the first ever EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska.  More than 200 attendees from agriculture, utilities, industry, state agencies, and research institutions gathered at the University of Nebraska’s aptly named “Innovation Center” to think critically about how we can improve and expand water quality markets across the country.

As Secretary Vilsack noted in his introductory video remarks, water quality markets can be effective tools in helping communities improve the quality of their water at lower cost.  Markets create financial incentives for private landowners to manage their lands more sustainably to produce cleaner water while generating environmental benefits at lower cost.  They promote public awareness of the role sustainable private land management can play in protecting public health and natural ecosystems. They inject private dollars and innovation into efforts to improve water quality – leveraging finite federal funding. Read more »

New Sage Grouse Conservation Strategy Good for Cattle Ranches, Good for Birds

Sage-grouse on land

USDA today unveiled Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0, its roadmap to guide voluntary conservation efforts on private grazing lands in the West. Photo courtesy of Ken Miracle.

Today, USDA released its new long-term investment strategy for sage grouse conservation—Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 (SGI 2.0). USDA’s planned investments will complement the great conservation work already happening throughout the West and build on the work of the Sage Grouse Initiative, a partnership between USDA, ranchers and conservation groups that began in 2010. SGI 2.0 provides our partners a roadmap to fill unmet needs by rallying around a cohesive, partnership-focused conservation strategy that is good for cattle ranches, good for the bird, good for rural economies and good for sustaining the Western way of life.

The SGI 2.0 investment strategy is intended to be a living document, shaped by the best available science and the priorities of our partners. SGI 2.0 and other strategic partnership initiatives like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program underscore the growing demand for a new conservation philosophy of putting local partners in the driver’s seat and allowing them to set priorities and develop strategies that make sense for their operations and communities while still meeting conservation goals. Read more »