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At the Intersection of Agriculture and the U.S. Military

Red, white, and blue balloons soared high above the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and vendors at the opening of the 19th season of the USDA Farmers Market.  With echoes of the Star Spangled Banner played by the “President’s Own” Marine Band, we celebrated the service of our men and women in uniform, reaffirming USDA’s commitment to supporting veterans and active-duty service members.  We also celebrated several points of intersection between American agriculture and the military community.

From our partners and stakeholders who joined us for the event, we saw amazing generosity and dedication to improving the lives of military families.  Burpee Seed Company handed out thousands of Welcome Home Garden Project seed packets, bringing the healing gift of gardening to thousands of heroes.  With over 165,000 families participating and over 1.8 million seed packets distributed over the last two years, their efforts to provide healing, comfort and homegrown foods are truly inspiring.

USDA Farmers Market Opens with a Recipe to Honor Our Veterans

I love farmers markets. The vibrant colors, enticing smells, and vivacious people make me feel so very alive and happy. Local markets also work to bring communities together.  I have been to a number of farmers markets across the U.S., but my favorite one is located right here in Washington, DC—in fact, it’s right here at USDA.

My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, is proud to host the USDA Farmers Market each week, building connections to the vendors, customers, and surrounding community.  Tomorrow, June 6, the USDA Farmers Market opens a new season with a salute to our military, veterans and American agriculture.   We will not only celebrate the bounty of the market, but will also thank our military for serving with valor, courage, and distinction.

On Independence Day, Acknowledging Those Who Serve

Editors note:

As we mark the Independence Day holiday, it’s an important time to remember the honorable service of our nation’s active duty and reserve service members, and our veterans. More than 10,000 veterans are on our team at USDA – and still more are currently serving in National Guard and Reserve units around the country. The Ohio Rural Development office recently shared stories of two employees currently serving.

For many USDA employees, “moonlighting” means late nights on the tractor or in the barn. It’s hard work that offers great personal reward.  Likewise, two Ohio Rural Development team members recently undertook a special kind of second job: one that, a little like farming, entails great discipline and family sacrifice.

Military Veterans Trained in Firefighting Techniques through Forest Service and California Conservation Corps

The U.S. Forest Service has partnered with the California Conservation Corps to provide firefighter training for military veterans.

“Fire and Aviation Management is particularly appealing because of the significance of our mission and our well-defined organization,” said Robert Baird, deputy director of Fire and Aviation Management for the Forest Service.

USDA Boosts Innovation as a Pathway to Jobs and a Rural Biobased Economy

If you want proof that rural America is a land of limitless opportunity, go to King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Last week I accompanied Secretary Vilsack as he toured a state-of-the-art bioindustrial facility in Pennsylvania that converts multiple feedstocks into cellulosic sugars.  The plant, operated by Renmatix, will test and convert a range of non-food plant materials through a proprietary process.  The goal is to move forward in development of next-generation renewable energy and high value bio-based alternatives to petroleum-based products.  It is a goal that bears enormous promise for rural America, potentially creating many thousands of jobs, untold economic activity and new markets.

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.

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.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Highlights USDA’s Efforts to Expand Aviation Biofuels at the Paris Air Show


On Wednesday in Paris, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack earned the distinction as the first U.S. Agriculture Secretary to attend a Paris Air Show, the largest gathering of the world aerospace industry. The Secretary spoke at the Alternative Aviation Fuels Showcase to a crowd of about 75 aviation business leaders about how USDA is among the forefront of U.S. federal efforts to support the development of bio-based fuels. USDA has established memoranda of understanding with several government and aviation-related agencies, including the Department of Energy, the Air Transport Association, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the U.S. Navy, on efforts to research and develop renewable energy and the infrastructure to support it.

Biomass and Biofuel – What’s in it for Hawaii’s Agriculture?

Hawaii and the Pacific Basin

The dwindling global supply of fossil fuels and the resulting escalation in prices has set the stage for entry of commercial biofuel produced from biomass, including co-products and bi-products.  This transition in the energy sector’s feed stocks offers Hawaii a unique opportunity to locally produce biofuel from locally produced biomass feed stocks, and ultimately support the stabilization of the state’s energy resources; increase the local circulation of energy dollars; and further under gird Hawaii’s agricultural industry.