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June 2011

AMS: Feeding America’s Heroes

It is a little known fact that USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) inspects the Meals, Ready-to-Eat, or MREs, that provide nourishment to our soldiers serving overseas in the U.S. Armed Forces. Throughout their tours of duty, MREs serve as both daily nourishment and holiday meal for thousands of U.S. service men and women.

Conference Covers Past, Present, and Future of International Food Aid and Development Assistance

The USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have once again joined forces to collaborate with individuals and organizations that feed hungry people, promote sustainable development and provide technical assistance around the world.  This is the thirteenth year of the International Food Aid and Development Conference, and I was proud to deliver keynote remarks here in Kansas City, Mo. Nearly 600 people from more than 25 countries discussed what has worked, what has not, and what we can do in the future to improve our food assistance and program delivery.

The U.S. government’s international food assistance programs will benefit 5.2 million people in the developing world this year. The challenges of global food security are enormous -- nearly one billion people are malnourished, and this number will likely grow as the world population continues to rise. Meanwhile, the United States, like many other nations, is facing serious budget pressures. In addition, commodity prices and demand continue to rise, squeezing food assistance dollars further.

A North Dakota Family Buys a Home with Help from USDA

Starting a new career, Cody Thibert moved his wife and their three children to a new community.   Searching for a home in Valley City, North Dakota, Cody heard about USDA Rural Development through his father’s co-worker.  He decided to inquire about the housing programs and found a fit with the USDA Single Family Home Loan program.  The Thiberts were able to purchase a four bedroom, bi-level home with a low interest rate and an extended term loan.

Working In the Field and Lab, APHIS Veterinarian Dr. Amy Winter Shares Her Career Experiences for World Veterinary Year 2011

Since childhood I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian, which makes my position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the perfect job for me.  I’m Dr. Amy Winter, a Veterinary Medical Officer with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).  I’m stationed at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.  I joined the staff in Ames in October 2002 – only five months after I graduated from veterinary school.

US Forest Service Research of Black Fingers of Death Fungus May Lessen the Intensity of Wildland Fires

The long battle to mitigate and potentially eliminate cheatgrass, one of the American West’s most menacing invasive weeds, has just taken a positive step forward. U.S. Forest Service research, conducted by ecologist Susan Meyer, has demonstrated in field trials that the fungal pathogen known commonly has Black Fingers of Death is very effective in eliminating the cheatgrass carryover seed bank that can come back to haunt a restoration seeding after apparently successful control.

Utah Business Leaders Discuss Job Creation and the Economy at White House Business Council Event

Last week Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager met with Twenty-two Utah business leaders for a White House Business Council roundtable.  The meeting was hosted by Zions Bank Corporation and USDA Rural Development.  Salt Lake City was one of the 100 communities across the nation to hold a White House Business Council event.  The Salt Lake meeting gave businesses the opportunity to share their ideas for job creation with the White House and USDA.

Tonsager, a key Obama Administration official for rural economic development efforts, sought advice from the business community on ways to improve the economic climate.  The exchange also educated business and community leaders in attendance about resources available through USDA Rural Development. 

Oglala Sioux Tribe Celebrates Homeownership Month

John Yellow Bird Steele, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) signed a proclamation declaring June 2011 National Homeownership Month.  The signing event took place in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, earlier this month with Partnership for Housing and USDA Rural Development on site for the ceremony.

“USDA Rural Development is actively engaged with assisting the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in increasing homeownership opportunities in coordination with our public, private, and non-profit partners,” said Rural Development State Director Elsie M. Meeks.  “Homeownership often leads to economic improvements, a better sense of pride in yourself and of the community.”

FSA Employee Joyce Bowie Recognized for Maximizing Opportunities for Small Businesses

Farm Service Agency (FSA) acting Administrator Bruce Nelson praised Director of Contracting Activity Designee Joyce Bowie recently for her career work that earned her the distinguished USDA Champion Award at the Small Business and AbilityOne Award ceremony held at USDA.  A member of the FSA Acquisition Management Division, Bowie was honored for effectively educating her internal customers about small business contractors and promoting the use of their services.

Each year, USDA agencies nominate and award small, small disadvantaged, women-owned, HUBZone, service disabled veteran-owned and AbilityOne businesses for their exemplary contract performance.  This year marked USDA 18th year in recognizing USDA employees and businesses.  In addition to honoring small businesses, USDA employees were also acknowledged and awarded for their accomplishments in fostering the use of such businesses as federal contractors, which provide maximum opportunities for small businesses to participate in USDA contracting activities.

Pushing Brush to Create Quail Habitat

Tommy Berend, ranch operator at the 9,000-acre Circle A Ranch in Archer County, Texas, wanted to eliminate mesquite, restore open spaces and plant native grasses on the ranch.

The mesquite consumed large amounts of water in areas where Berend wanted to create habitat for quail and other wildlife. Quail is an important, yet dwindling species in Texas.

USDA’s Biotechnology Deregulation Process

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) works diligently to ensure that genetically engineered (GE) organisms such as Pioneer’s hybrid corn seed is just as safe for agriculture and the environment as traditionally bred crop varieties.

Our biotechnology deregulation process is a complex method of evaluation that we take very seriously. Our involvement begins when an organization wishes to import, move interstate, or field-test a GE plant, which is done under our permitting and notification system.