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2011

Challenge Builds Positive Relationship between Louisiana Black Farming Community and FSA

When Mike Sullivan met a 30-year-old beginning farmer, he never thought it would launch a relationship that would influence an entire African-American farming community in the Cane River region of Louisiana.

“Sometimes good things can come out of a not-so-good situation,” said Sullivan, farm loan manager in the Natchitoches Farm Service Agency (FSA).

That’s what happened the day Thomas Roque, Jr., walked into the Natchitoches FSA County Office. Roque was hoping to get a loan to purchase calves to raise and sell for profit on his family’s 800-acre farm, purchased by his great-great grandparents in 1916. But things didn’t work out as easily as he hoped.

Wildlife Services’ Program Feeds the Hungry

USDA sponsors many great programs like the “Feds Feed Families” employee food drive, gleaning fruit from research farms, and harvesting vegetables from the People’s Gardens to provide food for the hungry.  The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services (WS) program has taken a unique approach to feeding the hungry.  Last year in the Eastern Region, WS donated more than 74 tons of venison to food banks and charitable organizations.  WS employees are proud to be able to provide for those in need by utilizing these animals, which are lethally removed at the request of local individuals and agencies.

WS provides assistance when wildlife causes problems.  In this case, the venison was collected from white-tailed deer that were taken for safety and protection purposes.  The population of deer has grown from one-quarter million nationally in 1900 to more than 17 million today.  Some locations request WS to remove deer to prevent wildlife strikes at airports and vehicle-deer collisions.  When herds become locally over-abundant, populations also can mean damage to threatened and endangered plant species and to public and private property.

Hunger: A Broken Street Light

Like a broken street light, childhood hunger impacts the well-being of the community and will only be fixed when the local community recognizes it, takes an interest, and decides to address it. When those who care come together, pool their talents, and take advantage of available resources, things start to happen. Things get fixed.

The city of Dallas is getting serious about ending childhood hunger. Just a month after the October kick-off of the No Kid Hungry Texas campaign, local leaders came together for a hunger summit in Dallas in November. The diverse line-up of speakers was inspiring! There were leaders from Congress, all levels of government, faith-based organizations, food banks, non-profit organizations and schools. Every speaker was passionate and convincing about the need and ability to end childhood hunger.

New Center Provides Animal Health Assistance in Armenia

In November, I joined other representatives from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) for a dedication ceremony for the Farm and Veterinary Service Center (FVSC) in Armenia. The opening ceremony was attended by more than 70 community members, farmers, veterinarians and government officials from throughout the Syunik Marz region. Prior to the ceremony, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan visited the center to tour the facility and witness firsthand the products and services that will be readily available to local farmers.

Secretary's Column: Enhancing American Agriculture

This week reminded us that American agriculture continues to be a bright spot in our nation's economy.  Following strong numbers last year, we learned that farm income is up again in 2011 – with a 28 percent increase in net income.  Our farm exports this year hit a new record high of $137 billion.

This is making a real difference for America's farm families, whose household income was up 3 percent in 2010 and is forecast to grow again this year.

USDA a Leader in Aerial Photography, Mapping for U.S. Agriculture

Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees from communities across Montana met in the state capitol this month to participate in the first annual Geographic Information System (GIS) Day in Helena. More than 20 FSA employees joined dozens of other GIS professionals from private, state and federal government to learn more about GIS technology and real-world mapping applications that are making a difference in our society.

Where Should Local Foods be Served? At a Local Foods Conference of Course!

South Dakota held its first state-wide Local Foods Conference on November 11-12th in Huron, S.D.  In conjunction with the South Dakota Department of Agriculture (SDDA), South Dakota USDA Rural Development sponsored the two day event meant to continue the dialogue on local foods among producers, consumers, school nutrition programs, grocers, restaurants and resource providers.

Topics covered at the Local Foods Conference on the first day included high tunnels, community gardening, food safety, Farm-to-School, community-supported agriculture, value-added agriculture products, organics and farmers’ markets.  The South Dakota State University Extension Service hosted a Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) training on the second day. Other sponsors included the South Dakota Value Added Ag Development Center, Buy Fresh Buy Local and Dakota Rural Action.