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Secretary's Column: Helping Communities Impacted by Disaster

This year, many Americans have been impacted by a wide range of natural disasters. Many have seen their homes perish or their livelihoods turned upside down – sometimes overnight. Tragically, some have lost their lives.

Many Americans don’t know it, but USDA often plays a key role in disaster assistance and recovery. We take this responsibility seriously.  Today, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we’re working to help.

More than 250 U.S. Forest Service personnel have been sent to affected states, to assist in disaster response.  USDA staff members are helping rural electric and water utility companies assess outages and damage.  We are working with impacted States to assess the need for emergency food assistance.  And we are in constant contact with FEMA, additional Federal agencies, and State and local governments to ensure a coordinated response.

Ute Tribe in Rocky Mountain Region Honors 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree

This year’s Capitol Christmas Tree is coming from the White River National Forest in the Rocky Mountain Region and will be harvested at a private ceremony today, Nov. 2.  Forest Service employees and the non-profit partner Choose Outdoors are hard at work planning the public tree celebration taking place on Nov. 3.

Colonias Receive Support from USDA Rural Development

For thousands of families and communities along the US/Mexico border, USDA Rural Development (RD) has provided help…and hope.

Over the past four years we have invested more than $1.2 billion dollars in Colonias in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas—financing a range of projects from clinics and hospitals to water and waste water systems, from state-of-the-art energy-saving photovoltaic solar energy systems to child care centers, from local rural businesses to food banks.

Colonias are neighborhoods or communities within 150 miles of the U.S./Mexico border that are economically distressed. For many the basic infrastructure that most Americans take for granted is non-existent. Such was the case on the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona. Most of the homesites on this sprawling reservation are miles from the nearest water/waste water infrastructure. Homes were built years ago without indoor plumbing…and the hope of adding sanitary facilities was stymied by the lack of access to treatment facilities.

U.S. Agriculture to Benefit from Panama Trade Agreement

The U.S.-Panama Trade Promotion Agreement (Panama TPA) entered into force Oct. 31, expanding market access for U.S. agricultural exporters in one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. The Panama TPA is the last in a trio of trade agreements (South Korea and Colombia are the others) that altogether are expected to boost U.S. agricultural exports by $2.2 billion when fully implemented.

White Mountain National Forest Named a “Treasured Landscape”

One of the best destinations to visit in New England is the White Mountain National Forest, with its campgrounds, hiking trails, scenic drives, beautiful landscapes and world renowned fall foliage.

The forest has recently been adopted by the National Forest Foundation as one of its “Treasured Landscapes,” for its on-the-ground restoration needs due to damage from flooding, woody debris, sediment and erosion caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Feds and Farmers Feed Families in Pennsylvania

During this year’s Feds Feed Families food drive, the Schuylkill County USDA Service Center in Pennsylvania beat its last year’s total of 11,084 pounds of donated food with a new total of 19,092 pounds.

Feds Feed Families is a nationwide federal employee effort to re-stock the shelves of food banks and pantries over the summer months when need is high but supplies are generally lower.

Women in Agriculture Teach Others about Value-added Goat Milk Products

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA's rich science and research portfolio.

Farmers across the nation are searching for ways to increase farm income.  In Alabama, small and limited-resource dairy goat farmers are boosting the bottom line by adopting “value-added” production techniques to their products.

With the help of researchers and Extension educators from Alabama A&M University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides funding to support this work through an Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant for Agricultural Economics and Rural Communities.  And this program is now seeking applications for FY 2013 funding.

Secretary Vilsack Helps Celebrate Dedication of NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

In an historic Cedar Rapids, Iowa, neighborhood devastated by floods in 2008, Secretary Tom Vilsack joined local leaders Saturday, October 27 for the dedication of a year-round local foods market.  He called it a testament to neighbors and visionary leaders who saw a need for locally-produced foods, opportunities for entrepreneurs and a chance to rebuild local pride after the floods.

The NewBo City Market is located in Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemia district, home to generations of Czech and Slovak immigrants. Not far away is the Czech Village and the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library.

Up and down the Cedar Rapids neighborhood brick buildings from the late 19th century are being restored.  A new coffee shop and bookstore are housed across from the market in the national register-listed Czech-Slovak Protective Society (CSPS) building.  A mile to the north, a new library and a convention center complex will open next year. Four years removed from the floods, there is no doubt about it, Cedar Rapids is back.

Food Safety Is Crucial For East Coast Residents As Hurricane Sandy Approaches

Hurricane Sandy could bring wind, flooding, heavy rain and possibly snow to the East Coast, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service urges people to take steps now to ensure they have access to safe food. Power outages and flooding that often result from weather emergencies compromise the safety of stored food, and planning ahead can minimize the risk of foodborne illness.

The publication “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes” can be downloaded and printed for reference during a power outage. FSIS’ YouTube video “Food Safety During Power Outages” also has instructions for keeping frozen and refrigerated food safe.