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December 2012

Apalachicola National Forest Hosts International Fire Professionals to Share Ideas on Wildfires, Healthy Forests

More than 8,000 miles from home, fire management officers from Australia and New Zealand recently visited the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida to share techniques and strategies in the use of prescribed fire.

“We see how the use of frequent fire intervals helps manage the different fuel types,” said Andrew Greystone, fire and emergency service manager from Victoria, Australia. The Apalachicola appears to be a more diverse forest - including species, flora, fauna, habitat for birds and other animals – than what we’re used to seeing.”

Secretary's Column: USDA’s Accomplishments in 2012

Over the course of 2012, farm families and rural communities faced a number of challenges. A record drought impacted much of the country and many were impacted by a major hurricane, flooding and severe storms. However, thanks to the resilience of rural Americans, our communities are still going strong.

Over the course of this year, USDA continued our record efforts to help folks across our nation, and I am proud of the work we carried out.

We supported agriculture. This summer, USDA convened the White House Rural Council to help America’s farmers and ranchers overcome drought. We provided unique flexibility for crop insurance that saved producers more than $20 million, expanded emergency lending for producers, opened more than 2.8 million acres of conservation land for emergency forage and more.

Value-Added Grants Help Minnesota Pork Farm Meet Growing Demand

“We think that fresh air and sunshine are the best health guarantee.” That’s the quote you’ll see after opening a brochure from Pastures A Plenty Farm. Spend an hour with the VanDerPol family and you quickly understand that those words are much more than just a marketing slogan. It’s the family’s philosophy.

Pastures A Plenty’s pork products can be found in many co-ops, retail outlets, restaurants and local stores throughout Minnesota. The VanDerPols feed their hogs on grass and straw and use a wholistic veterinary approach featuring probiotics and spices instead of drugs.

No Más Hambre: Un llamado a la acción comunitaria

La cumbre NO MAS HAMBRE celebrada recientemente en Washington DC para crear conciencia sobre el hambre en la comunidad latina reunió a líderes gubernamentales, grupos sin fines de lucro, empresas y miembros de la comunidad para hablar sobre soluciones a un problema endémico que a menudo pasa desapercibido – el que casi uno de cada tres hogares latinos con niños se enfrenta al hambre en este país.

Al mismo tiempo, los latinos están desproporcionadamente afectados por el aumento de las tasas de obesidad infantil, con casi el 40 por ciento de los niños latinos con sobrepeso u obesidad. Esta paradoja de la desnutrición y la obesidad es a menudo mal entendida, así que me dio gusto facilitar una plática durante la cumbre sobre cómo las organizaciones religiosas se han unido con la iniciativa del Departamento de Agricultura de EE.UU. (USDA) conocida como La Mesa Completa y como parte de la iniciativa A Moverse Iglesias y Comunidades (Let’s Move Faith and Communities) para combatir el hambre y promover comunidades más sanas.

No Más Hambre: A Community Call to Action

The NO MAS HAMBRE Summit recently held in Washington DC to raise awareness of hunger in the Latino community brought together government, nonprofit, corporate and community leaders to talk about solutions to an endemic problem that often goes unnoticed -- nearly one in three Latino households with children faces hunger in this country.

At the same time, Latinos are disproportionately impacted by higher rates of childhood obesity, with almost 40 percent of Latino children overweight or obese.  This paradox of malnutrition and obesity is often misunderstood, so I was glad to moderate a panel at the conference on how faith-based organizations are partnering with USDA’s initiative La Mesa Completa and as part of Let’s Move Faith and Communities to address hunger and promote healthier communities.

Secretary's Column: Over the Holidays, Honoring Those Who Strengthen America

As Americans celebrate the holiday season, we have a chance to catch up with family and friends, count our blessings and reflect on the year behind us.

Looking back on 2012, I am proud of those across rural America who stayed resilient in the face of disaster. They managed farms, ranches and Main Street businesses through a record drought, an historic hurricane, and more. Ultimately, their hard work kept the momentum of rural America going strong.

I’m thankful for the thousands of men and women who, year in and year out, step up to serve our nation. I know that many of these military service members come from our small towns and rural communities – and that no matter where they’re from, each is a hero to our nation.  They’re stationed around the world today and many will spend their holidays away from family and friends, so that we can be safely at home with ours.

USDA Announces Effort to Enhance Department Efficiency, Improve Access to Programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking the public for comment as it continues to review existing program rules to determine whether any should be modified, streamlined, clarified, or repealed.  The Department is particularly interested in hearing from the public concerning areas where USDA can simplify and reduce the reporting burden for entry and access to USDA programs, while reducing its administrative and operating costs by sharing data across participating agencies.

In response to Executive Order 13610 (Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens), USDA has incorporated various initiatives into its review to reduce burden on the public, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS), Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative, which has the potential to reduce administrative time for clients participating in NRCS’ conservation programs, and FSA’s streamlined version of a current form for use by repeat customers whose information has not changed.