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Making a Promise in Puerto Rico

When Roosevelt Roads Naval Base ceased operations in 2004, the surrounding region suffered a significant population and financial loss. The land transfer process from the Navy to the local government created the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA), entity with the responsibility of leading the rebuilding process and revitalization of the former base and the adjacent communities of Ceiba, Fajardo and Naguabo. The collaboration between the LRA and the communities seeks to improve public infrastructure and renovate economic activity in the area, as well as improve access to health care, improve educational opportunities, reduce crime, and spur job creation.

The area served by the Roosevelt Roads LRA in eastern Puerto Rico was recently designated a Promise Zone by President Obama. This designation made the region eligible for funding that can help them develop job training for a modern workforce, improve access to education, and provide for the development of improved public safety and affordable housing.

Una Promesa para Puerto Rico

Cuando la Base Naval de Roosevelt Road cerró operaciones en el 2004, el área cercana sufrió una baja poblacional y una gran contracción. Como parte del proceso de transferencia de terrenos de la Marina de los Estados Unidos al gobierno local, se creó la Autoridad de Redesarrollo de Roosevelt Roads (LRA). Esta organización es la encargado de dirigir el proceso de planificación y revitalización de los terrenos de la antigua base junto a los municipios de Ceiba, Fajardo, y Naguabo.

El trabajo de colaboración entre estas comunidades y  la LRA busca mejorar la infraestructura pública y renovar la actividad económica del área, mejorar el ofrecimiento de servicios médicos y educativos como también crimen y la creación de empleos.

Secretary Vilsack Visits Puerto Rico to Talk Climate Change and Caribbean Agriculture

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the Caribbean Climate Hub in Puerto Rico earlier this month to lead a roundtable discussions with local agricultural officials, farmers and ranchers, USDA agency leaders, economic investors, and scientists, and to view first-hand the Hub’s pioneering work in climate change research, education and outreach.

“Adaptation to climate change is a matter of National Security.  We need to have a functional food economy to counter food insecurity,” said Secretary Vilsack during the Climate Hub Roundtable held at the El Yunque National Forest.  Local USDA agency leaders expressed concern about the increasing incidence of pests and diseases affecting agriculture and forestry in the Caribbean, mostly related to climate change, and the need for more education and support for water and soil conservation measures.

Schools across America Honored for Their "One in a Melon" Farm to School Programs

Back in March, we invited you to vote for the school district with your favorite farm to school program – one with exemplary initiatives, inspiring results; one that you think is ‘one in a melon’!

Well, the results were tabulated and one district in each state has just received the “One in a Melon” award.  These districts received the most votes from parents, teachers, community stakeholders, students, and others who recognized the incredible work they’re doing through their farm to school programs. We were so inspired by the nominations we received that we wanted to share a few quotes of them with you, but for a full list of award winners, visit https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov/find-your-school-district.

Climate Change and Agriculture in the Americas

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.

The effects of climate change are putting farmers throughout the Latin American Caribbean to the test.  From Guatemala to Puerto Rico, rising global temperatures and powerful El Niño oscillations have contributed to patterns of drought and intense rainfall, resulting in crop losses.

In response to these and future crises, the USDA Caribbean Climate Hub in Puerto Rico is helping build more resilient food systems by educating about climate change risks and adaptation and mitigation strategies.  Established in 2014, the Caribbean Hub was as a part of a nationwide U.S. network designed to help farmers and managers of working lands adapt to increasing climate risk by translating climate science into workable decision support tools and information for farmers and land managers.

ADAPTA - New Climate Adaptation Video Series for Tropical Farmers

We are living in historic moments in the world’s response to climate change. Last December in Paris, delegates from 196 countries signed an agreement to work towards curtailing greenhouse gas emissions and to keep global warming to “well below” 2 °C degrees. This is a big step, but there is still much work to be done and the agricultural sector has an important role to play. Agriculture, forestry, and land degradation contribute just under a quarter of anthropogenic GHG emissions, mainly from deforestation and agricultural emissions from livestock, soil and nutrient management.  Climate change also poses a great challenge for food security and nutrition. It can reduce yields and affect where and how food is produced. As the risks of natural disasters increase, farmers need to modify how they produce food in order to become more resilient to prolonged droughts, excessive rains, floods, and more intense storms.

USDA Conservation Program Keeping Puerto Rico Water Sources Clean

Moises Velez-Santiago understands the important role farming can play in protecting water quality for Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents.  He’s been farming on the island nearly three decades.

Through the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Velez-Santiago has strived to obtain a balance of environmental conservation and crop production.

A Community for Agricultores in Puerto Rico

In the municipality of Lares, Puerto Rico, lies Alturas de Castañer, a small, mountainous community that is home to 24 agricultores and their families. The agricultores - or farm workers - work hard year-round to produce coffee, bananas, root vegetables and citrus fruits that are then sold in local markets and to area restaurants.

Before coming to the community of Alturas de Castañer, many families lived in cramped conditions, sometimes with two or three other families.  Conditions were unsanitary and children were constantly sick.  Some homes did not even have roofs, and residents suffered dangerous exposure to the natural elements, including torrential rains during hurricane season.

Una Comunidad Para Agricultores en Puerto Rico

En el municipio de Lares, Puerto Rico, se encuentra Alturas de Castañer, una comunidad en las montañas donde viven 24 agricultores y sus familias. Los agricultores trabajan arduamente durante todo el año para producir café, plátanos, viandas y frutas cítricas que luego se venden en los mercados locales y a los restaurantes en la zona.

Antes de llegar a la comunidad de Alturas de Castañer, muchas familias vivían en espacios estrechos, a veces con dos o tres otras familias. Las condiciones eran insalubres y los niños estaban constantemente enfermos. Algunos hogares ni siquiera tenían techo y los residentes estaban peligrosamente expuestos a los elementos de la naturaleza, como las lluvias torrenciales durante la temporada de huracanes.

Puerto Rico Colabora con USDA para Fortalecer los Sistemas de Alimentos Locales

El estado libre asociado de Puerto Rico tiene solamente 100 millas de largo por 35 millas de ancho. La pequeña isla está llena de maravillas naturales, rica en cultura y abundante en agricultura. Aun así pocos se dan cuenta que gran parte de los alimentos consumidos por los residentes y visitantes provienen de otros lugares. A principios de este mes, la Dr. Myrna Comas Pagán, Secretaria de Agricultura de Puerto Rico, hizo una visita al Departamento de Agricultura de los Estados Unidos (USDA, por sus siglas en inglés). Ella llego para explorar maneras en cual mi agencia, el Servicio de Comercialización Agrícola (AMS, por sus siglas en inglés), y otras agencias en el departamento pueden ayudar a mejorar el sistema alimenticio local de la isla.

Aunque el valor de la producción agrícola de Puerto Rico ha llegado a $919 millones, un incremento de 14 por ciento en los últimos dos años, falta un sistema de distribución de productos locales en la isla. El sector local de agricultura apoya 6,500 trabajos pero aun ay mucho por hacer. Puerto Rico importa alimentos de 52 países diferentes que pueden dejar el sistema alimenticio vulnerable. Recientemente hubo un evento en cual un barco de carga con destino a Puerto Rico se extravió durante una tormenta de huracán, costándole las vidas a la tripulación, pero también dando por resultado la pérdida de 70 contenedores de alimentos.