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Secretary's Column: 2014, a Year of Action, Partnership and Innovation at USDA

Posted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Conservation Food and Nutrition Rural Research and Science
Dec 22, 2014

This has been a tremendous year for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the rural families and communities we serve. Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden recently shared a reflection on her most inspirational moments this year. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished at USDA over the course of this year, and I thought I’d take a moment to share just a few of our top accomplishments.

  1. Led what was widely called “the most successful Farm Bill implementation.”
    Farm Bill graphic.
    Farm Bill graphic.

    After the passage of the Farm Bill early this year, USDA pressed ahead at full speed to implement its programs and provisions, which have benefited America’s farmers, ranchers and rural communities. You can track our progress at

  2. Helped 146,000 rural Americans become first-time home buyers.
    Family behind a house.
    A family stands in front of their new home due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Development (RD) home ownership program.

    USDA has helped thousands of rural Americans achieve the dream of home ownership, and helped countless more make critical repairs and upgrades to their homes. Learn more at

  3. Achieved a record $152.5 billion in farm and ranch exports that supported 1 million jobs here at home.
    A ship at dock.
    A ship is unloaded at a U.S. port.

    America’s farmers and ranchers achieved record exports yet again this year, supported by Administration programs focused on opening markets abroad and connecting potential exporters here at home with the resources they need to get into the business of exporting. This year, we also launched the Made in Rural America initiative, an effort to help rural businesses export non-farm products made in rural communities.

  4. Launched new initiatives that take public-private partnership to the next level in rural America.

    A man with a NRCS employee.
    A farmer shakes hands with a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employee.

    Over the course of 2014, USDA launched several new initiatives, including the $10 billion Rural Infrastructure Opportunity fund, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and the $150 million Rural Business Investment Company, that leverage funding from private sector investors to build on USDA’s own investments in conservation, infrastructure, and small businesses, and expand opportunity in rural communities. Learn more at

  5. Served more than 187 million summer meals to low-income kids, an increase of more than 14 percent since 2009.
    A smiling girl with orange glasses at lunch.
    A smiling girl with orange glasses at lunch provided through assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Nutrition Service (FNS).

    During the summer months, USDA’s summer meals help make sure that kids get the nutrition they need even when school is not in session. With strong support from local partners, we’ve reached a record number of kids and ensured that they begin the next school year healthy and ready to learn. Learn more at

  6. Filed 109 patent applications for innovative products and techniques developed by USDA researchers.
    Secretary Vilsack looking into a microscope.
    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack looks into a microscope.

    Groundbreaking research conducted by USDA scientists ends up on your plate, in your home and as the clothes on your back. Their discoveries in the lab translate into science you can see. And thanks to the new Farm Bill, USDA was able to establish the new Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, which will leverage public and private resources to further boost agricultural research. For more stories on how USDA research impacts your everyday life, visit

The list above is just a small snapshot—after all, it’s hard to choose just a few success stories from a year where we moved more than $4.3 billion in critical disaster assistance to thousands of producers; answered nearly 1.3 million questions to help consumers stay food safe; made 340 investments in local food infrastructure and launched a series of new web directories designed to connect consumers with farmers markets, on-farm markets, CSAs and food hubs; provided more than 3,500 microloans to help beginning and veteran farmers grow their businesses; and lessened the threat of wildfires to communities by treating 1.7 million acres of forest land. This has truly been a year of action, partnership and innovation at USDA, and I know that as we look ahead to 2015, USDA will continue to focus on making a positive impact in rural communities.