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USDA Unveils Landmark New Rules to Protect Farmers

Cross-posted from the White House blog:

Today, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking some major steps forward to protect farmers – including swine, beef cattle, and especially poultry growers – from unfair treatment by the often much larger processors who purchase their fully grown hogs, cattle, and chickens. These three rules are another step forward in response to the President’s Competition Initiative announced in April, which has the goal of enhancing competition to help consumers, workers, and small businesses get a fair shake in the economy.

12 Gifts of Conservation

Holidays are a time to enjoy the warm comforts of home and family. A time to reflect and give thanks for life’s blessings. This month, we’re going to highlight important gifts given to us when we conserve natural resources: soil, food, plants, wildlife, people, health, protection, recreation, air, water, technology and future.

Unlike a single wrapped present, conservation is a gift to the whole world, and to the future. Each breath of air, sip of water and bite of food you will ever take, exists because of it. Were the world not continuously renewed, it would soon be consumed and barren. Conservation is the gift that keeps on giving.

Learning Through Listening: Convening with the Navajo Nation

“We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”—Navajo proverb

Last month, Rural Development and the Navajo Nation convened an economic development workshop involving an array of leaders and stakeholders from across the Navajo Nation and 14 Federal partners in Crownpoint, N.M. The convening gave me a chance to meet with Navajo Nation officials, university representatives, private business owners and nonprofit administrators.  All were focused on improving the economy and quality of life throughout the Navajo Nation.

Taking Action for School Nutrition Success

Developing a school menu of healthy, student-approved meals is challenging, make no mistake about it.  But it is achievable with the right support and resources.  That’s why the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN) have partnered to create the Team Up for School Nutrition Success (Team Up) initiative.

Team Up provides school nutrition professionals the opportunity to network and learn best practices from their peers.  Those who have developed tips and tricks to create delicious school menus, increase participation, practice food safety and manage financially-sound program budgets. And with the help and guidance of peer mentors, Team Up attendees can turn their ideas into goals by creating focused action plans for their district.

Taking Charge: How Rural Residents Are Switching from Employees to Business Owners

The retirement of the baby boom generation of business proprietors is predicted to result in a major turnover in ownership. Developing an ownership succession plan is especially challenging in rural areas where many small businesses are at risk of closing from the lack of locally available financing to keep them in operation. Rural Development’s Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program now has new capabilities as of this August that specifically accommodate the needs of financing ownership succession.

B&I guarantee borrowers can now apply to loans for financing the transfer of business ownership within a family, usually involving a sale from parents to children. Prior to recent changes in the rules it was assumed that within families the transfer of ownership was always a seller-financed transaction. Yet, some retiring business owners may need to immediately take the sales revenue out to finance their retirement.

Common Past, Common Future: USDA & Gallaudet Create Opportunities for Students

I often wonder if the leaders who came before us recognized the pivotal things they set in motion, the far-reaching impact their actions would have, and how they helped shape America into a land of opportunity. President Lincoln’s legacy and impact is well-known and obvious, but he did so much more than lead this country during its most trying time.  And it’s these smaller acts—those that are not typically taught in the history books—that I wonder about the most.  Did he know what he was setting in motion?

In 1862, a year after the start of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the law creating the U.S. Department of Agriculture—a place he called “The People’s Department.”  Two years later, and just five months after giving the Gettysburg Address, he signed the charter establishing Gallaudet University—an institution that has helped thousands of deaf and hard of hearing students achieve their educational goals and fulfill their dreams.

New Tools Leading to Local Coexistence

American agriculture today is a complex web of producers, processors, and marketers all working to produce a safe and nutritious food supply and serve the needs and wants of consumers here in the U.S. and all across the world. As people have become more interested in what they eat and where their food comes from, the wide range of consumer preferences has led to a highly diversified marketplace.

Some consumers shop based solely on price, and others are drawn to the latest products they find in their grocery stores. Some try to buy locally produced food, and others seek out organic products. Because our farmers grow crops to meet all preferences, they often need to take special precautions, such as keeping their crops separated from their neighbor’s production, and ensuring their harvest is diverted into the correct product stream. This can be a challenge for those that share the land, machinery, or shipping equipment with their neighbors. They need to find a way to produce crops with the specifications their markets require, while also coexisting with nearby farms growing products for other markets.

USDA Child Nutrition Program to Dietetics Interns: We Need to Talk!

The USDA and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Academy) are excited to announce a brand new effort to bring dietetic interns to child nutrition!

Dietetics students, you know who you are!  You’re studying hard to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist so you can help Americans live healthier, happier lives.  You have the most up-to-date education in nutrition science, a fresh perspective and lots of creative energy, and you’re looking to put it to work in an internship with maximum impact.  The federal Child Nutrition Programs are where you need to be.

The Brightest Gem in Washington isn't the Hope Diamond, it's the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

The American public doesn’t have to sneak a peek at the Christmas present the U.S. Forest Service has given them this year because it’s on full display just below the U.S. Capitol dome on the building’s West Lawn.

A gift from the Forest Service’s Payette National Forest, this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, aptly titled “An Idaho Mountain Gem”, was twinkling like a million facets of a bejeweled royal scepter after Isabella Gerard, a fifth grader from Boise, Idaho, who was chosen to do this honor by winning an poem contest, flipped the switch to illume the great tree.

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.