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hurricane irene

Healthy Culverts Make for Healthy Drinking Water

Culverts provide an abundance of benefits to us every day. They allow us to pass over water, and for fish and wildlife to pass beneath us. And they allow us to go about our daily lives and ideally, for fish and wildlife to do the same. But when they’re badly designed, the results can be disastrous for people, communities, and the environment.

Farmers Help Fight Food Waste by Donating Wholesome Food

Sometimes Mother Nature and hard work come together to produce a bountiful harvest on the farm.  But what if the grocery store, distributor, or processor that the farmer sells to can’t handle any excess?  Or, what if a percentage of the crop turns out too big, too small, or oddly shaped and no one will buy it?  Organizations across the country are working with farmers to get this wholesome produce to people who need it.

Many farms may want to donate directly to a food bank, but are discouraged because they currently can’t claim a tax deduction for the donations. To help farms offset the costs of the labor required to harvest the crop and the packaging to transport it, many food banks and food recovery groups are able to assist the farmer with the “pick and pack out” (PPO) cost.  The PPO cost can be very beneficial to a farmer.  Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation onion farmer at Pawelski farms in Goshen, New York, donates his nutritious-but-undersized onions to City Harvest.  City Harvest is a food rescue organization in New York City that has been connecting good, surplus food with hungry New Yorkers since 1982.  The PPO cost that is paid to Pawelski by City Harvest in some years was the determining factor in keeping his farm from losing money.

Windham County, Vermont Tropical Storm Irene Farm Recovery Tour with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan

Last week, we welcomed Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan to Vermont as she toured farms to see recovery efforts after Tropical Storm Irene.

Our first stop was the Wheeler Farm, a 100 acre 50-cow grass based farm just north of Wilmington, one of the hardest hit communities in the state.  Visible water marks were higher than the historic flood of 1927 and hurricane of 1938.  The group welcomed Deputy Secretary Merrigan on the porch of the historic farmhouse, which had just escaped the flood waters by a few inches.  As we pulled onto the farm’s access road, a large grader and dump truck continued work to repair washed away segments.

Secretary's Column: Agriculture Is Resilient Through Disaster

This week I traveled to North Carolina and Virginia to view the damage from Hurricane Irene, survey the response efforts, and meet with local residents.  This trip was my fourth in as many months to make sure that the USDA is helping families rebuild and recover from natural disasters including tornados, wild fires, floods and drought.

So I’ve seen how tough times are affecting folks across the nation, and particularly our farmers and ranchers.  Unusual weather patterns have driven thousands of Americans from their homes, and threatened their livelihoods.  And my heart goes out to all of those who have been touched by these disasters.

In the Wake of Irene; A Firsthand Look at our Hurricane Response

This week I joined Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on a tour of North Carolina and Virginia to assess areas damaged by Hurricane Irene and to discuss ways USDA can help residents recover.

Secretary Napolitano and I had the opportunity to see farmland devastated by the hurricane as well as speak with first responders, local officials, and residents about recovery efforts. It was encouraging to see communities pulling together to recover from these devastating circumstances.