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Kids' State Dinner Celebrates Good Nutrition with MyPlate

On July 9th, budding young chefs gathered at the White House for the Let's Move! Kids’ State Dinner, hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama, to celebrate their culinary accomplishments in the Epicurious “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge”Let’s Move!, Epicurious, the U.S. Department of Education, and USDA collaborated on the challenge and honored the 54 finalists who created the winning recipes at last week’s celebration. Contestants were challenged to come up with healthy recipes using USDA’s MyPlate food icon for inspiration.  The winning recipes reflected the appealing symbol, with healthy amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy.

I was honored to be USDA’s advisor and a judge for this year’s competition, and attend the Kids’ State Dinner with the winners. Here, at the USDA, we are proud to see this national example of how MyPlate is helping children make healthy choices when preparing and consuming food.  Events such as this encourage other children to adopt good eating patterns and pursue healthy lifestyles.

Acting Under Secretary Discusses USDA's Role in Building Support for Aviation Biofuels

Last week, in Chicago, I had the honor to hear from and meet some of the leaders in the nation’s aviation industry as they assembled to issue a new report showing a clear path toward cleaner, more economical and more secure energy alternatives through the increased use of advanced aviation biofuels developed in the Midwest.

Representatives in aviation, academia, policy organizations, city, state and federal government and National governmental organizations met to release recommendations and findings from MASBI - the Midwest Aviation Sustainable Biofuels Initiative.

USDA Announcing Action Plan on Interagency Coordination and Collaboration for the Protection of Indian Sacred Sites

As part of President Obama’s commitment to honoring Government-to-Government relationships with Tribal Nations, the federal government is continuing to strengthen its relationships in Indian Country. The Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Defense, Interior, and Energy joined the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation and released an action plan to implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding interagency coordination and collaboration for the protection of Indian Sacred Sites.

Last week during the National Congress of American Indian’s (NCAI) Executive Council Winter Session, USDA Deputy Undersecretary, Arthur “Butch” Blazer, announced that he will help  lead USDA’s efforts for the implementation of the MOU.  Due to his expertise Blazer is the ideal choice to lead the USDA component of the Action Plan.  Prior to his position at USDA, Blazer served as the New Mexico State Forester where he was the first Native American to hold that position. During his tenure as State Forester, he was also named as Chair of the Council of Western State Foresters and Co-Chair for the Western Forestry Leadership Coalition. A member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe, he was also his tribe’s lead forestry official and has been intimately involved in Tribal issues throughout his life. 

Secretary's Column: Biofuels Hold Unlimited Opportunity to Grow the Rural Economy

At USDA, we’ve made record efforts in the past four years to support homegrown energy.  This year, we’re looking ahead to a promising future for biofuels.

Biofuels have already contributed a great deal to our economy, to our energy security and to the bottom line on our farms and ranches.  Today we’re taking steps to strengthen the biofuels industry and helping innovate the next generation of advanced biofuels.

For example, we’ve invested more than $320 million into biofuels research to help accelerate the development of technology needed to take the next big steps.

Secretary's Column: Strengthening Homegrown Energy

As the drought continues today, USDA and other Federal agencies are doing all we can to help farmers, ranchers and communities who have been impacted.

Unfortunately, our tools are limited. Due to inaction by Congress, many parts of the 2008 Farm Bill expired October 1, and other aspects of the law will expire in the coming months.

This brings tremendous uncertainty for rural families – particularly livestock producers who have lost access to disaster programs, and dairy producers who no longer have access to dairy support programs.

The lack of a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill also limits USDA from continuing our record investments in homegrown American energy.  Since 2009 USDA has worked hard to ensure that rural America plays a key role in our nation’s energy strategy.

Undersecretary Promotes “All of the Above” Renewable Energy Strategy

Rural America has great potential in helping the U.S. meet the future energy demand by deploying alternative energy and energy efficiency sources and practices, so says U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary for Rural Development, Dallas Tonsager, who visited the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland Wash., with other members of a technical advisory committee exploring ways to further the use and development of advanced bio-fuels.

Tonsager co-chairs the Biomass Research and Development Board, which was created by the Biomass Research and Development Act of 2000.  USDA and the Department of Energy implement the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, which consists of grants made available through the 2008 Energy Act and other programs.

USDA Praises Industry, Midwest Stakeholders, as they Sign an Agreement To Develop Commercial Biofuels

Great things continue to happen as America moves forward in developing an “all of the above” strategy to become more energy independent.  For example, an agreement was signed between aviation industry leaders and Midwest stakeholders to develop and commercialize sustainable biofuels.  USDA will act as an advisor to this effort.

USDA Works to Reduce Its Environmental Footprint - Here's How

Did you know that USDA manages 193 million acres of land; occupies approximately 89 million square feet of office and laboratory space and operates over 23,000 buildings?  And if this isn’t enough, USDA also operates a fleet of over 40,000 motor vehicles and equipment.

With statistics like these, it is no wonder that USDA remains focused on reducing its rather significant environmental footprint by using clean energy while working towards improving the environment.   To accomplish this, USDA conducts its operations in a sustainable manner, complies with environmental laws and regulations and walks its talk.

You're Invited! "Match Making" in the Biofuels Value Chain at USDA

On March 30th, the Department of Agriculture, is hosting a “match making day” at USDA, to promote connections between agricultural producers of energy feedstocks (and their related businesses) with biorefiners seeking to produce biofuels for commercial sale and consumption. Officials from the U.S. Department of Navy, U.S. Department of Energy, and the Federal Aviation Administration will attend, make presentations and answer questions.

As we move forward as a nation, identifying and implementing an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, there are key relationships that will determine our success in the effort to develop and deploy aviation biofuels.  The objectives of this match making session will be to improve awareness and increase understanding of the biofuels supply-chain links between those involved in feedstock production and the processors of that feedstock into biofuels.  This includes logistical challenges, potential roles of service providers, and potential pitfalls.