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October 2010

USDA Grant to Enhance Sustainability of Beginning farmers and Ranchers

One of our biggest opportunities to increase employment and income in rural America is to enhance the sustainability of beginning farmers.  Many farmers are retiring, and coupled with a renewed interest in local foods is causing an increased demand on small and medium-sized farmers. Nearly 25 percent of U.S. farmers are 65 years and older.  The average age of the farm operator is 57 years.  I have noticed a shift is occurring with an increase in the number of new farm operations with many Americans interested in becoming beginning farmers and ranchers.  However, these farmers face unique challenges, including rising cost of farm land, lack of knowledge about accessing farm land and the capital to buy the land, lack of training in sustainable farming practices, a lack of operating capital in their initial years, and many need experiential learning to be successful.

An Opportunity for Producers to Learn About the Information Resources Available to Make Decisions on Implementing Renewable Energy Technologies

As USDA continues to roll out energy programs contained in the 2008 Farm Bill, more producers are expressing their interests in better understanding of renewable energy, reaching out to us to find out how to make informed decisions and decide if there are opportunities for them. Opportunities that include producing biomass for renewable energy, producing renewable energy, reducing energy costs, and developing a new and sustainable farm income source.

USDA Healthier US School Challenge Winners during National School Lunch Week

What better way to celebrate National School Lunch Week than visiting winners of our USDA HealthierUS School Challenge! It was an honor to visit North Dakota and Texas schools that are going the extra mile to help children adopt healthier lifestyles. Our winners, the Phoenix, Brenham, and Krause elementary schools, respectively achieved Gold of Distinction and Gold status by providing students safe, nutritious, and healthy meals, in addition to plenty of on-site physical activity.

New Jersey USDA Recovery Act Water Improvements Spur Economic Growth

After struggling for several years with a stagnant economy, the future is looking brighter for Paulsboro, New Jersey.  Earlier this week, USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook, Assistant Administrator for the Water and Environmental Program Jacki Ponti, and I attended an event to celebrate a Recovery Act-funded water project that will help to stimulate job creation while also upgrading Paulsboro’s water system.

A New Dialogue With the 1890 Land-grant Institutions

This week I had the opportunity to meet with representatives from the 1890 land-grant institutions from across the country to begin a new dialogue and chart a new course together to help ensure that American agriculture remains productive, prosperous, and sustainable.  These institutions, historically black universities that were established under the Second Morrill Act of 1890, are critical to USDA research and to the vitality of U.S. agriculture.

USDA a Hit at FFA Convention in Indianapolis

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and several other U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies had staff at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis last week to share agricultural information with 50,000 enthusiastic FFA members, aged 12-21, and their families.

Nature Is Their Classroom-USDA Honors a Utah School as they Dedicate new Classrooms

Blue Skies and excitement in the air was the setting for the recent celebration of dedicating three new classroom buildings at Soldier Hollow Charter School (SHCS), in Midway, Utah.  The new buildings were designed to fit perfectly into the stunning mountain terrain.  The school is recognized for its unique learning environment for K-8th grades.

North Carolina School Construction Project Moves Forward Thanks to the Recovery Act

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Vasquez and Congressman Bob Etheridge along with North Carolina Rural Development State Director Randall Gore visited the Middlesex Elementary School construction site in Nash County, North Carolina earlier this week.  The project was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.