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Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth School Pilot Program

It may look like just another lunch at Hiawatha Elementary School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but these children are part of The People’s Garden School Pilot Project. The students at Hiawatha Elementary are among 4,000 youth in 57 schools in Iowa, Arkansas, New York, and Washington participating in Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth (HGHY), a project that will assess how school gardens influence students’ fruit and vegetable consumption.

The visit to Hiawatha was preceded by my participation in the Iowa Hunger Summit where we discussed steps to eliminate food insecurity in Iowa communities. What many people may not know is that hunger is fueled by poor nutrition. That’s why it’s so important that we focus both on promoting access to nutrition programs and greater access to a variety of fruits and vegetables. The school pilot projects are just one way we are accomplishing the latter.

South Dakota Regionalism Road Trip

It could be that the holiday season is approaching or winter weather in South Dakota, but three different regional meetings were held this last week highlighting differently funded projects.  The common theme to these projects is that South Dakota organizations and agencies have heard the call towards regional work to support rural economic development.

If you were in Bismarck, ND, on December 12th you could have attended the Upper Missouri Tribal Environmental Risk Mitigation (UM TERM) project kick off meeting.  This project was recently awarded $1.7 million as part of Obama Administration’s “Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge.”  This multi-agency collaboration supports the advancement of 20 high-growth, regional industry clusters in the upper Missouri River region of South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana.  Funding was provided by the agencies; US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, Economic Development Administration and Small Business Administration.  USDA Rural Development staff from both South Dakota and North Dakota was at the table to offer their assistance.

Closing Thoughts on World Veterinary Year

World Veterinary Year, celebrating the 250th anniversary of the veterinary profession, culminated in the 30th World Veterinary Congress Closing Ceremony in Cape Town, South Africa in October. This year of recognition provided the opportunity to share the many contributions veterinarians have made in communities around the globe. There is much to celebrate. Over the last century, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and our animal health partners have made great strides in the control and eradication of animal diseases in the United States, diseases like brucellosis and tuberculosis. Worldwide, we applaud the milestone reached with the stamping out of the deadly cattle disease, rinderpest, also known as cattle plague.

APHIS employs more than 700 veterinarians, many engaged in such disease eradication work. Over the past months, we have featured 25 APHIS veterinarians in this blog space. To share more of the vital work our veterinarians do, we’ve also created a video, soon to be available on our YouTube channel.

St. Regis Mowhak Tribe and Rural Development: A Historic Partnership

As we look back at successes of 2011, this MOU signing is one that I will remember. This summer, USDA Rural Development New York State Director Jill Harvey and St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Chiefs, Ronald Lafrance Jr, Randy Hart, and Mark Garrow came together to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU marked the first time Rural Development’s New York state office has been able to offer secured loans on Tribal Lands in New York.  This is truly a historic partnership between a federal agency and the St. Regis Mohawk tribe.

This MOU will enable USDA to offer all SFH Programs on St. Regis Mohawk lands to include:  Section 502 Direct, Section 502 Guaranteed Rural Housing, Section 504 Home Repair Loans and Grants and Self Help Housing.  Rural Development will now be able to finance the construction of new homes, as well as the acquisition and rehabilitation of existing homes for low and moderate income families on the Akwesasne tribal lands.

Hawaii’s Big Island Flavor Steams into the Canadian Market

Hawaii Exports International (HEI) of Honolulu has successfully introduced its award-winning Kona and Ka’u coffees to the Canadian market with the support of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) office in Canada, the FAS-funded Western U.S. Agricultural Trade Association (WUSATA), and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA).

The 2011 Capitol Christmas Tree Checks-In at Number 6

Every year, the Christmas tree that graces the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol originates from one of our country’s National Forests. It may not be widely known that the USDA’s Forest Service is instrumental in facilitating the Capitol Christmas Tree’s transport from the forest to the Washington, DC, yet it’s a proud tradition that has steadily gained attention each year with the growing popularity of social media tools. The 2011 annual trek is our number 6 favorite social media moment.

Faces of the Forest celebrates Lindsay Campbell

Some people may not guess that Lindsay Campbell works for the U.S. Forest Service. After all, she does not work on a national forest. Rather, she loves her job in New York City and frequently travels the globe as a member of the U.S. National Team for fencing.

USDA 2012 Agricultural Outlook Forum: Sessions Focusing on Disease Prevention and Response

USDA’s 2012 Agricultural Outlook Forum, Feb. 23-24, will present 25 breakout sessions, including “Preventing Disease From Crossing the Border: SPS Initiatives for Global Food Security” and “Fighting Foodborne Illness.”  While the first session will focus on the contribution of animal health to global food security, I’ll be moderating the second session that looks at Salmonella and the most recent progress made in fighting its threat to public health.

Since a coordinated response to outbreaks is a vital component of protecting American animal agriculture, the “Preventing Disease From Crossing the Border” session includes cooperative perspectives.  Dr. Jose Diez, Associate Deputy Administrator of USDA’s Veterinary Services Emergency Management and Diagnostics Service will address “Global Emergency Response.”  Dr. Mo Salman, Colorado State University, will discuss “Enhancing International Capacity to Meet SPS Standards;” and Former Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Agriculture, Jason Hafemeister, addresses “SPS Issues and Free Trade Agreements.”