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April 2011

Become a Champion to End Hunger. Make A Commitment and Take Action Today!

In 2009, nearly 1 million children simply didn’t get enough to eat in the United States. It’s a startling statistic but one that we can change, and you can help.  Today, USDA launched a series of new online tools and volunteer initiatives to increase the number of individuals, organizations, and governments actively working to end childhood hunger.   These tools will help you to get involved and become a champion to end hunger in your community!  We can end hunger if we all work together.  Whether you represent a non-profit, faith-based organization, state or local government, school, private company, or you’re an interested and passionate member of the public, it’s time to get involved and take action.

FACT from FICTION on Pilot Project to Enhance Quality, Timeliness and Cost-Effectiveness of Environmental Analyses and Documents Related to Biotechnology

We have seen several stories and concerned comments circulating on blogs regarding USDA’s pilot project to examine ways to enhance quality, timeliness and cost effectiveness of environmental analyses and documents related to biotechnology. We want to separate fact from fiction and ensure that the public knows exactly what this pilot program will do and what it will not do.

The pilot program will test an approach where USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will work closely with petitioners and outside experts while maintaining responsibility for scope and content of its environmental analyses. The pilot program will not allow biotechnology firms to conduct their own environmental assessments (EA) or environmental impact statements (EIS).

Repair the World: USDA Hosts its First Food and Justice Passover Seder

Matzah, the traditional flatbread eaten by Jewish people to commemorate Passover, decorated six circular tables, along with bitter herbs (maror), “mortar” for bricks (haroset), and green leafy vegetables (carpas).  Around the tables, USDA employees, Administration officials, and a host of guests from the non-profit and Jewish community gathered to celebrate the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Justice Passover Seder this week.

A traditional seder is a ceremonial Jewish meal commemorating the Passover holiday and Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt after being freed from slavery.  Held in partnership with Jewish Funds for Justice and the Progressive Jewish Alliance, USDA’s modernized symbolic seder was held after Passover and focused on issues where food and justice intersect.

Secretary Vilsack Talks about “Building the Clean Energy Economy with Equity” at Environmental Justice Conference

Building a clean energy economy with equity was the topic of this year’s “The State of Environmental Justice in America” conference held this week in Washington.

In opening remarks on Thursday, Vice Admiral Melvin Williams Jr. (retired), associate deputy secretary, U.S. Department of Energy, said that the key to a new energy economy can be summed up by “commitment, fairness and collaboration.”  He noted that the mission of the Department of Energy is to “help ensure the security and prosperity of America” and environmental justice is integral to that commitment.

A Great Day at Delaware State University

Last week, I got the chance to address students at Delaware State University’s first-ever Graduate Research Symposium. Delaware State is part of the land-grant university system that is called an “1890 institution,” because it was founded through the second Morrill Act, passed in that year to extend the education system of the land-grants to African-Americans.

I’m a former dean of an agriculture school (at Iowa State University), so talking to students is one of my favorite parts of my job as USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary of Research, Education and Economics. I had to agree with Provost Alton Thompson who said, in my introduction, “It’s a great day to be at Del State!”

USDA Official Hails Michigan Project to Improve Water Quality in Lake Huron

Earlier this month we were honored to have Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture Doug O’Brien join USDA Rural Development Michigan State Director James J. Turner at our Earth Day ceremony in Buena Vista Township.  The township board of trustees was there and Township Supervisor Dwayne A. Parker served as our master of ceremonies.

Locally known as “BV Township,” Buena Vista is located next to Saginaw and like many rural communities, its sewer infrastructure was in a state of disrepair when they approached USDA for help.

High Tourism Area in Pennsylvania to Benefit from New USDA-Funded Wastewater System

USDA Rural Development officials and Congressman Glenn Thompson celebrated Earth Day this week in Benezette Township, Elk County, Pennsylvania.   Benezette Township, home of the largest wild elk herd in the Northeastern United States, lacks public sewer, preventing economic growth and damaging two watersheds with run-off from malfunctioning on-lot septic systems.

Farm Service Agency Disaster Assistance Available for Producers Affected by Flooding, Fire and Tornadoes

The Farm Service Agency is reminding crop and livestock producers throughout states that have recently experienced severe damage from flooding, wildfires and tornadoes that FSA programs may be available to assist with recovery.

According to Acting FSA Administrator Val Dolcini, whether it’s wildfires in the Southwest, flooding or tornados in the Midwest, Plains, and Southeast, learning about our FSA disaster programs is an important first step for producers in the recovery process.

Let’s Move! to grow more Community Gardens

Cross posted from the Let's Move! blog:

Spring is here and that means it is time to get your hands in the soil and start gardening!  As part of Let’s Move! Faith and Communities, First Lady Michelle Obama has challenged congregations and neighborhood organizations to plant gardens in their communities.

Sharing the Benefits of KORUS in North Carolina

This week, I traveled to North Carolina and partnered with Korean Ambassador Han Duk-soo, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others in support of the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement or KORUS.

The Obama Administration recognizes that exports are vital to the health of the agricultural sector and our nation’s economy as a whole. That’s why we’re working hard to ensure passage of the KORUS agreement, as well as the pending free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama.