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RCPP to Help Improve Water Quality in Lake Erie, Other American Waterbodies

In the first wave of funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), 70 percent of the 100-plus projects focused on providing for clean and abundant water. Of these many projects, one in the Great Lakes region is poised to do an excellent job in engaging and empowering an army of partners.  The Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorous Reduction Initiative is a multi-state project that brings together more than 40 partnering organizations from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana to reduce the runoff of phosphorous into the waterways in the western basin of Lake Erie.

The lake has suffered from nutrient pollution for years, including last year’s water crisis that left 400,000 residents in the Toledo, Ohio area without water to drink, bathe or cook. Today, Michigan Senator and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Debbie Stabenow and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown visited with the many diverse organizations making this project possible. From providing clean drinking water to employing thousands of people in the tourism industry, the health of Lake Erie affects nearly every aspect of life in the region.

High Tunnel Initiative Brings Local Foods to Detroit

On a cold winter day last week, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Garry Lee, Michigan State Conservationist from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), visited Detroit's Eastern Market. They were joined by Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Ashley Atkinson, Co-Director of Keep Growing Detroit and Morse Brown, Board President of the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development Council. Despite the freezing temperatures that will make growing food a challenge for another few months, Garry and the Senator were there to discuss new support for the Detroit-Wayne County Seasonal High Tunnel Education Initiative (SHEI) which will bring new high tunnels - greenhouse-like structures also known as hoop houses - to Detroit's urban farmers.

Funded by USDA and managed by local organizations, SHEI will train Detroit’s urban growers to install, operate and manage seasonal high tunnels that will conserve natural resources, improve productivity and help them be profitable year round. Easy to build and use, high tunnels were first supported by USDA as a conservation practice in 2010. Since that time, USDA has funded nearly 10,000 across the country. Along with other benefits, high tunnels are providing farmers from Alaska to Baltimore with tools to extend their growing season and provide their communities with fresh, locally-grown produce later into the year.

USDA Partners with a Michigan Town to Improve Quality of Health Care

Cassopolis, located in southwest Michigan, recently celebrated the ground-breaking for the new USDA Rural Development supported Cassopolis Family Clinic.  Like many rural communities, Cassopolis has limited facilities for health care, particularly for low-income residents.  The Cassopolis Family Clinic was founded more than 50 years ago to serve the surrounding community and the facility will bring that service into the future.

USDA Rural Development was represented at the event by Paw Paw Sub-Area Office Team Leader Lisa Epple, who was joined by local leaders and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow.

USDA Funded Digester Reduces Pollution, Powers 1,500 Michigan Homes

USDA Rural Development Michigan State Director James Turner joined Senator Debbie Stabenow and local officials this summer in celebrating the opening of the largest commercial-scale anaerobic digester in the United States.

The Fremont Community Digester is an ambitious new use of a proven technology.  Once used chiefly in farms, anaerobic digesters are now coming into their own.

The facility will convert organic waste products – such as farm and food waste – and process it into biogas.  Approximately 1,500 local families will derive their power from this previously untapped energy source.

Secretary's Column: A Farm, Food and Jobs Bill This Year

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee took a first look at a proposed version of the Farm Bill – or, as I call it – the farm, food and jobs bill. This is an important first step in the process to write the legislation and get it passed into law.

Farmers, ranchers, and the men and women who live in rural communities deserve to know what the rules will be moving forward.

With the current law expiring, we cannot wait any longer to reauthorize this essential law for rural America. It needs to happen this year.

With USDA Support, a Michigan Commercial-Scale Renewable Energy Project Moves Forward

Michigan always has unpredictable weather, and Friday’s was exactly what one would expect – unexpected.  I’m sure when they scheduled the groundbreaking for the Fremont community anaerobic digester, NOVI Energy assumed that late June would see warm weather and clear skies.  Instead, the temperature was in the low 60s with scattered rain. This is no doubt why NOVI Energy also put up two large tents. Weather aside, the groundbreaking event was a huge success.

Food Hubs: Creating Opportunities for Producers Across the Nation

As I talk to farmers across the country, regardless of what they produce or where, they all share one common challenge:  how to best move product from the farm to the marketplace.  This is especially crucial for small and midsize farmers who may not have enough capital to own their own trucks, their own refrigeration units, or their own warehouse space.  They might not have the resources to develop sophisticated distribution routes, build effective marketing campaigns or network with regional buyers and customers.

Without infrastructure, logistical and marketing support, these producers might be growing the sweetest strawberries or raising the most tender beef, but they lack the infrastructure support to get their exceptional products to your table.

Secretary Vilsack says American Agriculture is a Safe Bet

“The safest bet in America is American agriculture!” That’s the way Secretary Tom Vilsack led off his remarks to the 2,000 farmers, ranchers, agriculture officials and industry leaders in attendance at today’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Former President Bill Clinton and Senator Debbie Stabenow to Speak at USDA’s 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum

We are very proud to announce former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow will be the 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum Plenary Session’s distinguished speakers.  Their dedication to public service in the fields of nutrition and agriculture make them a welcome addition to this year’s Forum. The keynote address will be delivered by Secretary Vilsack.