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The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Automation Explored

U.S. specialty crop producers face a variety of challenges that require a diverse set of solutions. From labor shortages and rising production costs that threatened the health of Florida’s strawberry industry to water supply challenges that stymied North Dakota’s vegetable yields, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) has helped producers bring to life innovative ideas in automation.

Shared Stewardship Project Protects Mountaintop Village

Just outside of Coronado National Forest in southeastern Arizona, the mountaintop village of Summerhaven can breathe a sigh of relief. Thanks to the cooperation of the Forest Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the State of Arizona through shared stewardship, Summerhaven was able to avoid the devastation of the Bighorn Fire, which burned nearly 120,000 acres.

A Rural School Adjusts to Serve Its Students During COVID-19

USDA Rural Development provides opportunities to enhance education in rural communities. We can see these investments throughout the state and I’m proud of the contributions that team South Dakota is making to support education initiatives and so much more.

Good Samaritan Act Provides Liability Protection For Food Donations

Food donations to help those in need have been an important part of America’s safety net during the challenges posed by COVID-19. Did you know that the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996 (PDF, 207 KB) (42 U.S. Code § 1791) provides limited liability protection for people who make good faith donations of food and grocery products to nonprofits that feed the hungry? The act also provides limited liability protection, both civil and criminal, for those who distribute food and groceries, such as food banks[i].

Enjoy Those Strawberries Longer: PhylloLux Innovation Leads the Way

We’ve all enjoyed some delicious strawberries this summer, but a short-shelf life can limit that enjoyment. One of the biggest challenges in U.S. strawberry production is managing diseases and pests. The fungal pathogen Botrytis cinerea results in gray mold, or the unappetizing gray fuzz that can quickly appear on strawberries all too soon after we get them home. Growers typically apply fungicides on a weekly basis to control gray mold as well as other fungal diseases.

RD Customer’s Cloud-Based Ecommerce Product Helps Farmers Reach New Markets During COVID-19

As the new Acting Administrator for USDA Rural Development’s Rural Housing Service, I know that one of the best parts of working in rural America is the relationships we build with our customers, relationships that often span many years. I was fortunate to see these relationships in action in my most recent role as State Director for Virginia. It’s rewarding to watch a customer’s efforts make an impact on the community they serve. And it’s especially gratifying to see a customer experience dramatic growth and begin serving communities beyond their geographical area. That is the case for the Virginia Foundation for Agriculture, Innovation and Rural Sustainability (VAFAIRS), specifically, their ecommerce program, Lulus Local Food.

From Vet to Fed: U.S. Coast Guard Veteran Now Helps to Protect America’s Agricultural Resources

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency I work with, will host virtual hiring events focused on military veterans this Summer and Fall as the agency looks to fill positions to help carry out our Agency mission to safeguard American agriculture. The first veterans virtual hiring event (PDF, 2.6 MB) APHIS will offer is on August 11, 2020 in partnership with the Department of Veteran Affairs Veterans Readiness and Employment Program (VR&E), with another to follow in the Fall. Veterans, transitioning from military life, make excellent recruits for the APHIS team—as a veteran, I know.