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Pioneer African-American Smokejumper Laid to Rest at Arlington National Cemetery

During World War II, a time when segregation was still a part of everyday life, a group of 17 brave men took the plunge to serve their country and become the first all African-American paratrooper unit known as the Triple Nickles.

The battalion’s original goal – to join the fight in Europe – was thwarted when military leaders in Europe feared racial tensions would disrupt operations. At about the same time, the U.S. Forest Service asked the military for help to minimize damage caused by balloon bombs launched by the Japanese across the Pacific Ocean with the intent to start forest fires in the western U.S. during World War II.

In the end, few of the incendiary devices reached U.S. soil, but the Triple Nickles were instrumental in helping the Forest Service fight naturally-caused fires. They became history’s first military smokejumpers who answered 36 fire calls and made more than 1,200 jumps that summer of 1945.

Farmers Help WIC Participants Get Fresh Produce Down in Texas

Young toddlers and children crowded the tents, shuffling and giggling, as they waited for their parents to purchase produce for the family. The Arlington Farmers’ Market was filled with customers who participate in the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) and farmers who were excited to cater to the enormous turn out. Well over 200 families came out in the mid-morning heat of Texas to receive their Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) vouchers.

Through the FMNP, WIC participants are able to access locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs that promote the well being and health of themselves and/or their children. Just last year in 2011, 1.9 million WIC participants received FMNP benefits, which, when redeemed, surpassed 16.4 million dollars in total revenue for participating farmers and farmer’s markets.

On hand this day were Ann Salyer-Caldwell, Tarrant County WIC Director, Sam Varela, the FMNP State Director of Texas Department of Agriculture, Kay Dillard, the Director of the Tarrant Area Food Bank, Dorothy “Toni” Savage-Oakford, a community health worker with the Tarrant County Health Department, and Samantha Swain, the local FMNP Coordinator.

Secretary Vilsack Highlights Summer Food Service Program Week at No Kid Hungry Launch in Virginia

Cross posted from the Let's Move! blog:

Today marks day two in the first ever National Summer Food Service Program Week, a weeklong awareness campaign to promote USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and other programs nationwide to feed low income kids.

Lots of things are happening around the country this week to help feed more hungry children this summer.  For example today is National Hunger Awareness Day – as designated by the U.S. Senate in a bipartisan resolution. This is very fitting, given that at least 17 million children in the United States face a higher risk of hunger in the summer. Also today Agriculture Secretary Vilsack joined Jeff Bridges, Share Our Strength founder Bill Shore, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and others to launch Virginia’s No Kid Hungry Campaign at Barcroft Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia.

USDA 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum: Export Sessions

Exports will be the focus of two highly anticipated sessions on Thursday, Feb. 24 during this year’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va. USDA’s latest quarterly export forecast will be released that same day and will surely serve as a springboard for a lively discussion on the benefits of exporting as well as the role of agriculture in President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI).

ERS 50th Anniversary Session at 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum

USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) will kick off its 50th anniversary celebration with a special session at the Agricultural Outlook Forum this month.  The session will highlight ERS’ role as a resource for policymakers and for those advancing debates in the areas of food economics, rural development and natural resources, and markets and trade. In addition, the expert panel will share their thoughts on what questions will shape ERS research in the years to come. 

USDA Helps Renovate a South Dakota Rural Housing Complex to Improve the Quality of Rural Life

Parkview Apartments, Inc. in Arlington, South Dakota, is a nonprofit organization that consists of nine buildings. The first building on this project was built in 1964 and the other buildings were later added in the 1970s.  The project had seen an increase in vacancy rates prior to the renovation.  Today, with USDA funded upgrades, they hope to increase the occupancy rate.

USDA Rural Development has partnered with South Dakota Housing Development Authority to fund rehab including reducing the number of units from 42 to 35, resulting in 14-one bedroom, 20-two bedroom, and one-three bedroom to better serve the needs of families in the area, along with roofing, siding, plumbing, electrical, flooring, windows, appliances, and handicap accessibility.

Recovery Act Funds Help a South Dakota Region Improve Water Service

Kingbrook Rural Water System, Inc. in Arlington, South Dakota, (KBRW) is spread over a service area of nearly 3,000 square miles, larger than some states.  The distances involved create opportunity for failures of equipment or facilities due to natural or man-made causes. Any calamity can cause ripple effects on the Kingbrook system that would adversely affect water service for hours, days, or weeks.

KBRW operates an eleven-county water system which includes three water treatment plants, distribution pipeline, and pumping stations to distribute water to over 4,000 customers.  The operation requires significant capital investment as individual system components require replacement.

USDA Names Winners of 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program

Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the selection of 24 university students who will attend USDA’s 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum February 24 and 25. The Forum titled, “Today’s Strategies & Tomorrow’s Opportunities,” is USDA’s largest annual event and will be held this year in Arlington, Virginia. The finalists include students from Land-Grant, Hispanic Serving Institutions, American Association of State Colleges of Agriculture and Renewable Resources institutions who are the recipients of corporate and USDA sponsorship aimed at promoting the education of the next generation of agriculturalists.

2011 Ag Outlook Forum Renewable Energy Sessions

USDA’s 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum, Feb. 24-25, will present 25 breakout sessions, including two on energy: “Renewable Energy Policy Perspectives” and “Renewable Energy: Next Steps.”

The first session is policy oriented and will present an overview of existing policy such as implementation of the RFS2 and related issues such as the E15 and meeting future mandates.  The second speaker will focus on climate change and carbon sequestration related to the growth in renewable energy. A third speaker will discuss future directions, particularly the next farm bill and pending energy legislation. The speakers include: Paul N. Argyropoulos, Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Transportation & Air Quality, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency;   Bill Hohenstein, Director, Office of Global Climate Change, OCE, USDA; and Jerry Hagstrom of The Hagstrom Report. Harry Baumes, Director, OEPNU, OCE, USDA, will moderate the session.