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August 2010

Commemoration of 5th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina

On Friday, August 27, 2010, I was in New Orleans to commemorate the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation to the Gulf Coast.  The event was held at the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana.  It was a hot and humid morning as we began the assembly of emergency food boxes alongside Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond, food bank executive director Natalie Jayroe and other notable citizens of New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and federal officials.

New Marketing Center for Local Producers Opens in Kentucky Thanks to Recovery Act Support from USDA

USDA Administrator of Business and Cooperative Programs Judy Canales got a taste of true southern hospitality when she visited Kentucky recently. Canales was able to experience the products of local artisans and agriculture producers that were on display in new Bath County Agricultural Education and Marketing Center in Owingsville.

ERS Announces Partnership with the National Farm to School Network

This week my kids headed back to school, and I’ll be busier than last year, having been drafted to be PTA president.  While  getting to know the new parents at our school, I learned that several are interested in improving school meals and exploring the possibility of purchasing locally and starting a school vegetable garden.  Our new principal is interested too.  I myself have something of a brown thumb, but everyone was excited to hear that I work at the Department of Agriculture and had have been studying Farm to School initiatives throughout the country. I have been in close touch with USDA’s Farm to School team that will visit 15 school districts across the country to learn about their Farm to School activities.

When our agency, the Economic Research Service (ERS), put together the Food Environment Atlas earlier this year, we included information on which counties had at least one Farm to School program, using data from the National Farm to School Network.  The Network maintains the only national data base of Farm to School programs.  After the Atlas was released on our website, we received phone calls from programs that hadn’t been included, and this underscored the need to build a complete data base of these programs.

SNAP Community Roundtables in Chicago Yield Feedback

Chicago in August concluded our USDA Community Roundtable tour, where our Food and Nutrition Service and Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships met with almost 100 community and state partners to discuss how to improve access to SNAP at a time of growing need for food throughout the country. There my colleague Max Finberg, Director of the Center, and I met with wonderful people all over the city dedicated to fighting hunger. From the South Side to the West Side, we shared ideas with churches and other faith-based organizations, community advocates, food banks, outreach workers, school districts, community hospitals and clinics, and our state partners to discuss how to improve access to SNAP and our other fourteen USDA nutrition assistance programs.

Understanding Farms in the United States

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

What are U.S. farms like?  Are they largely family businesses, or corporate operations?  Describing farms is challenging because they vary in size and other characteristics, ranging from very small retirement and residential farms to businesses with sales in the millions of dollars.  Descriptions based on U.S. averages hide much of the variation.

“Raising of the Ball”-A South Dakota Community Uses Recovery Act Funds to Improve its Water System

USDA Rural Development joined Ipswich, South Dakota city officials, congressional staff, partners, and members of the community recently for a “raising of the ball” event.    There was excitement in the air as the National Anthem was sung by members of the Ipswich High School chorus, drum roll, and all eyes focused on the crane raising the “ball” to complete the 150,000 gallon elevated tower.    This was definitely a site to see as history was in the making in this small rural town – population 943.  The original system, including the tower and lines were constructed back in 1910 – 100 years ago.

An Introduction to Mobile Slaughter Units

In the United States the slaughter and processing of meat sold in the marketplace must take place at a state or federally-inspected facility.  The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, or FSIS, is responsible for this important task.  While these requirements are important for protecting the public’s health, they can create challenges for farmers, ranchers, and processors looking to do business.

For example, small livestock producers are finding it hard (and at times, cost prohibitive) to transport their livestock the long distances necessary to the closest FSIS-inspected slaughter facility.  This is especially troubling to producers at a time when markets for locally grown and specialty products are becoming more and more profitable.  FSIS-inspected “mobile slaughter units” provide a feasible option for small red meat and poultry producers wanting to provide safe, wholesome product to local and interstate markets.