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partnerships

Harvest Time: Celebrating Native American Heritage and Traditional Foods in FDPIR

Autumn is a time to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for, as we enjoy the harvest of nature’s bounty during gatherings with family and friends. In Indian Country, culture and tradition are sustained through shared meals with family and the community. Traditional foods are a powerful way for each new generation to connect with and honor its history and its ancestors, and participants in USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) have access to more traditional foods than ever this year. November, Native American Heritage Month, is an especially fitting time to celebrate the addition to FDPIR of bison, blue cornmeal, wild rice, and wild salmon – foods that not only nourish a body but sustain a culture.

In collaboration with the FDPIR community, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Food and Nutrition Service have been working to identify culturally relevant foods to procure and offer through FDPIR, a program that provides healthy food and nutrition education to an average of 92,500 income-eligible individuals living on or near reservations across the United States each month. The food package offers more than 100 domestically sourced, nutritious foods, including a variety of meat, poultry, fish, dairy, grains, and fruits and vegetables. In both fiscal year 2015 and 2016, USDA received an additional allocation of $5 million dedicated to traditional and locally-grown foods. This fund, authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill and subject to the availability of appropriations, has allowed the exploration of new culinary opportunities for FDPIR.

U.S. and Mexico Collaborate on Organic Monitoring and Enforcement

As consumer demand for organic products continues to grow around the world, the USDA Organic Seal has become a leading global standard. USDA provides support for the vibrant organic sector, representing a retail market of over $43 billion in the United States alone.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is excited to announce another way we are helping organic producers reach new markets and offering consumers additional organic products.

We plan to establish a Joint Organic Compliance Committee in support of a potential organic equivalency arrangement between the United States and Mexico. There is already a robust trade in agricultural products taking place between our two countries: Last year, the United States exported over $100 million of organic food products to Mexico – our third largest agricultural export market – and Mexico supplied the United States with food certified to the U.S. organic standards, including seasonal produce.

United States Drought Monitor: Innovative Data Solutions for the Future of Water

Communities across the United States are facing water challenges, impacting millions of lives and costing billions of dollars in damages. Recent events, including record-breaking drought in the West and severe flooding in the Southeast have elevated a national dialogue on the state of our Nation’s water resources and infrastructure.

These challenges are why on March 22, the White House hosted a Water Summit to correspond with the United Nations World Water Day.  The meeting raised awareness of water issues and highlighted potential solutions to building a sustainable and secure water future. Following a slate of presentations outlining innovative solutions to water quality and quantity challenges, attendees were invited to review interactive demonstrations of projects including technologies that help communities and businesses manage the challenges of long term drought.

USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub Form Partnership with Natural Resources Canada

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science  and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA's Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

There are many reasons landowners value forests - their iconic beauty, cultural connections, wildlife, recreation, and economic opportunities.  More reasons and in-depth information can be found in the USDA Forest Service National Woodland Owner Survey. The bottom line is forests help to sustain our local communities: ecologically, economically, and culturally, and many forests are vulnerable to climate change. These ecosystems are already responding to changing conditions, and climate change is anticipated to have a pervasive influence on forests over the coming decades.

Careful forest stewardship involves long-term planning, which naturally includes the consideration of these changing climate influences. This is especially true in northern forests that formed in cold climates, but are now beginning to experience rapid change. Our northern neighbors in Canada manage 397 million hectares of forests and woodlands (approximately 10% of the worlds forest cover), which face many of the same climate change impacts and challenges that we are grappling with in the United States.

Of Bison and Blue Cornmeal: USDA Supports Access to Traditional Foods in Native American Communities

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

In Indian Country, culture and tradition are sustained through shared meals with family and the community. Traditional foods are a powerful way for each new generation to connect with and honor its history and its ancestors.

Bison and blue cornmeal have recently graced the tables of participants in USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) thanks to the joint commitment of the Agricultural Marketing Service and Food and Nutrition Service, working with the FDPIR community to identify and procure foods traditional to many tribes. Last year, AMS awarded two contracts to Native American-owned small businesses to deliver frozen, lean ground bison meat to FDPIR. From November 2015 to the end of June 2016, these companies are on schedule to deliver a total of 520,000 pounds of bison meat. A third contract was awarded for whole-grain blue cornmeal. This product was received by tribes during the 2015 holiday season for use in a wide variety of recipes and cultural dishes.

Tribal Conservation Partnership Provides Aquaculture Ponds for Walleye

“The Tribe wants to provide a sustainable supply of walleye for tribal and non-tribal fishing in reservation waters,” said Lac du Flambeau Tribe Natural Resources Director Larry Wawronowicz. “Raising the fish larger is necessary now due to shoreline development, increased competition from in aquatic invasives like zebra mussels, and climate change.”

Sustainable conservation and protection of natural resources has always been a goal of the Lac du Flambeau Tribe since inhabiting parts of Wisconsin in 1745. The Tribe acquired the name from its gathering practices of harvesting fish by torchlight at night. Their focus is to protect pristine areas, restore degraded natural and wildlife resources, and help build strong communities.

Public-Private Partnerships: A Forum Focus

Teamwork can improve virtually any endeavor, from partnering with a neighbor by exchanging butchered meat for hay to feed the rest of the herd or simply sharing a ride to save on gas.  The result is usually savings and efficiency.

At USDA, that notion is taken to another level with public-private partnerships that improve economic stability for producers, the financial sector, and a nation that leans heavily on the shoulders of its farmers and ranchers.

Economic Development in Montana: Founded on Partnerships

One of the foundations of our work here in Rural Development is the close partnership we've developed with private sector entities like community and economic development organizations. A recent trip to Montana underscored that point as I visited several communities across the north central portion of the state.

Big Sandy, Montana is a salt-of-the-earth ag community, and also happens to be the home town of U.S. Senator Jon Tester. Senator Tester and I visited a newly completed wastewater project, as well as Big Sandy Activities - a center that helps developmentally disabled people build skills to allow them to live and work in the community. Both received funding support from USDA Rural Development, and have an enormous impact in this tiny rural town.

USDA Unites with Partners to Improve Water Quality in Lake Champlain

In recent years, blue-green algae blooms have frequented Lake Champlain, impairing the lake’s water quality. Through a new partnership with USDA, nearly 20 organizations in the area will work together with farmers and ranchers to help improve water quality of the lake and reduce algae blooms.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources are uniting partners to engage and support farmers and forest landowners who use voluntary conservation practices that lead to cleaner water. Called the “Accelerated Implementation of Agricultural and Forestry Conservation Practices in the Lake Champlain Watershed of Vermont and New York,” this project will provide outreach to farmers throughout the watershed and help connect them with innovative conservation solutions for their land.

Secretary's Column: New Approach to Conservation Creates New Partnerships, New Jobs

When USDA unveiled the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program last year, I said that this effort would pioneer a new era of conservation. As of today, the program is doing just that—leveraging an unprecedented three-quarters-of-a-billion dollar investment in projects to preserve clean land and water and create new jobs across the country.

One of the innovative programs in the 2014 Farm Bill, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program brings a wide variety of new partners together—from private businesses, to universities, to local and Tribal governments, to non-profit organizations and more—to develop their own action plans and to pledge their own resources to the project. Local organizations are in the driver’s seat, setting priorities and developing conservation projects that make sense for their communities.