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President Obama Renews Charge to Help Rural Companies and Communities Compete Globally

Cross-posted from the Department of Commerce blog:

Yesterday, President Obama announced new commitments in the “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, which is charged with bringing together federal trade-related resources for rural communities and businesses. This announcement reflects the Administration’s strategy for ensuring workers and businesses of all sizes, from communities large and small, benefit from the nation’s economic resurgence.

The Department of Commerce also released data yesterday that show 26 states set new export records in 2014, and many of those states are in the nation’s heartland.

Celebrating Farmers and Communities during National Farmers Market Week

We just wrapped up the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week here at USDA. It has been an AMAZING week filled with celebrations at farmers markets across the country.  Last Friday, at our own USDA Farmers Market, we hosted hundreds of youths to introduce them to healthy back-to-school snacks; and we even had a special guest appearance from our old friend Smokey Bear (who turned 70 years old on Saturday).

Every year, the first full week of August is our opportunity to highlight the country’s thousands of farmers markets, the farmers and ranchers who make them possible, and the communities that host them.  Farmers markets and, more broadly, local and regional food systems, are one of the four key pillars that USDA is focusing on in order to encourage rural economic development and improve the quality of life for rural Americans.

Letters to Smokey Bear Reveal Promise of Hope for the Future

Smokey Bear, the iconic symbol of wildfire prevention for 70 years, is for many people a comforting symbol of a promise that everything will be okay. As long as we all work together, as one of Smokey’s young pen pals wrote recently.

“Dear Smokey: I would like to be a Junior Forest Ranger and help the big rangers. I promise to look after the forest and watch out for baddies making fires and damaging trees. Love Adam”

The letters come one-by-one or in neatly piled stacks, with carefully drawn portraits and hastily scrawled letters. They want to know if Smokey Bear is okay. They ask if he can write to them. They show compassion, knowing Smokey’s mother did not make it out of the fire.

Enviando Regalos de Alimentos a Miembros de Las Fuerzas Armadas

Pasar los días navideños en el hogar no será posible para muchos miembros de las fuerzas armadas. Así que la segunda mejor opción es recibir saludos y regalos comestibles de parte de familiares. Varios alimentos son inocuos para mandar por el correo en tanto se tenga el nombre y dirección del militar estacionado en el extranjero. Por riesgos de seguridad, el Servicio Postal no enviará correo dirigido a “cualquier miembro de las fuerzas armadas”.

Es importante mandar alimentos no perecederos, que pueden tolerar un rango de temperaturas variadas y que no se romperá con manipulación brusca. Regalos de alimentos que se pueden enviar de forma segura incluyen: ‘jerky’ o cecina de res, frutas secas, alimentos enlatados y condimentos regionales como la salsa picante. Galletas hechas en casa, dulces, panes de baja humedad también duran lo suficiente como para ser enviados por  correo.

Tips on Sending Food Gifts to U.S. Military

Being home for the holidays will not be possible this year for many American armed forces. The next best thing may be receiving greetings and gifts of food items. Many foods are safe to mail. However, you must have the name and address of a military person stationed overseas. Because of security risks, the U.S. Postal Service will not deliver mail addressed to “Any Serviceman.”

It’s important to mail food gifts that are not perishable, can tolerate a range of temperatures, and won’t break with rough handling. Food gifts that can be safely mailed include dried products such as jerky and fruits, shelf stable canned specialties, and regional condiments such as hot sauces. Homemade cookies, candy, and low-moisture breads and bar cookies are also good candidates for mailing.

Forest Service Innovation is Helping Make the Forever Stamp Stick, Well, Forever

Twenty years have passed since the U.S. Postal Service first started transitioning from lickable stamps to the peel-and-stick squares used today, thanks to the research by the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis.

The two agencies first research collaboration focused on developing the peel-and-stick – or pressure-sensitive adhesives – that didn’t gum up the equipment used to recycle paper. By using this adhesive an additional 20 million tons of waste paper can be recycled annually.