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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
With support from a USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan, the Cellars at Jasper Hill in rural Greensboro, Vermont was able to expand its facility, grow its business and reach new markets.
Last month, Secretary Vilsack announced a historic level of funding available for local and regional food: $78 million, including $48 million through USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program and $30 million through the newly-expanded Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The 2014 Farm Bill gave USDA these and other tools and resources, expanding our ability to connect rural and urban communities, increase access to healthy foods, and support rural economies through local food systems.
What does this mean for rural economies? Consider Cellars of Jasper Hill in Greensboro, Vermont. The Kehler brothers took their passion for dairy and founded a cheese making operation 10 years ago. Partnering with Vermont’s Community National Bank, USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program helped the company construct a 22,000-square-foot facility and expand its on-farm value-added cheese production. The project helped save 20 existing jobs and created 14 new ones in a town with fewer than 1,000 residents. Read more »