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April 2012

Rural Roundtable at North Iowa Area Community College Highlights Job Creation Opportunities

Earlier this month (April 17th) Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA chief scientist and Under Secretary for USDA’s mission area, facilitated a White House Rural Council roundtable meeting at North Iowa Area Community College (NIACC)  in Mason City, Iowa.

One of the key topics of discussion during the roundtable, which was attended by more than 40 local business owners and students, focused on the variety of ways community colleges can help create new job opportunities, especially in rural areas.

One week before her visit to NIACC, USDA announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the American Association of Community Colleges that highlights a key goal to expand access to training and higher education for rural citizens and strengthen the rural economy.

With New Interagency Agreement US Forest Service Works on the Loss of Whitebark Pine in Yellowstone Region

Hoping to find ways to reverse a potential environmental disaster, several land managing federal agencies are working together in the Greater Yellowstone Area, which includes the Shoneshone, Gallatin and Teton National Forests, to address the wide spread loss of whitebark pine trees due to the effects of climate change.

Contracting with Federal Departments? USDA is Here to Help.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced that small business owners will have an opportunity in June to learn how to grow and support their businesses by partnering with USDA and other Federal Agencies.  The North Carolina event supports the White House Initiative on Small Business Contracting.

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan invited small businesses to participate in educational workshops and networking sessions in Durham, North Carolina on how to do business with USDA and other Federal agencies.  Topics include acquisition needs and opportunities, prime contracting and subcontracting opportunities, and business development resources.  Included in the sessions is an opportunity to meet one-on-one with USDA small business contracting specialists.

USDA Rural Development State Offices Hold Energy Stakeholder Meetings

Throughout the first quarter of 2012, the 47 Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) held energy stakeholder meetings across the country to discuss ways the (REAP) can assist agricultural producers and rural businesses with their energy needs.   Meeting participants included local lenders, grant writers, small business owners, and local, state and federal government agencies.

USDA Offers Funding to Support School Nutrition

6 cent rule is a linchpin to schools adopting new meal standards that will improve kids’ meal choices in the cafeteria.

USDA’s has issued an important piece of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 – the 6 cent interim final rule – to give schools and communities the tools to meet the challenge of providing more nutritious food. This rule is another big step to provide our children with the nutrition they need in school to be healthy, active and ready to face the future.

In January, USDA for school meals based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine and the . These updates will result in healthier meals for kids across the nation.  The 6 cent interim final rule is important because it establishes the requirements for states to certify school district compliance with the new meal standards. Once certified, school districts that meet the meal standards will be reimbursed an additional 6 cents for each lunch served.

Secretary's Column: A Farm, Food and Jobs Bill This Year

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee took a first look at a proposed version of the Farm Bill – or, as I call it – the farm, food and jobs bill. This is an important first step in the process to write the legislation and get it passed into law.

Farmers, ranchers, and the men and women who live in rural communities deserve to know what the rules will be moving forward.

With the current law expiring, we cannot wait any longer to reauthorize this essential law for rural America. It needs to happen this year.

Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest Helps Reestablish the Eastern Indigo Snake

Alabama conservationists are closer to regenerating a population of the threatened in the through the release of numerous juvenile snakes on the forest. The indigo snake is North America’s largest native snake, and plays an important ecological role in Alabama’s wildlife diversity. 

Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth School Pilot Program: Training Teachers Coast to Coast

A classroom floor becomes a garden as 2nd graders at Hiawatha Elementary in Webster, Iowa decide which of their favorite fruits and vegetables will be planted in their school garden. Gathered in anticipation around a rectangle that represents the actual size of the garden bed, their teacher skillfully guides the planning, helping them consider which plants will thrive in Iowa’s climate, which plants require more or less sun, and which plants will be compatible neighbors.

Along the way, the teacher introduces math concepts – deftly integrating her classroom lessons into a real world experience. Soon the students will be planting this garden for real - just as they have planned it - as will 4,000 other youth in 57 schools in Iowa, Arkansas, New York and Washington participating in Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth (HGHY), a project of the People’s Garden School Pilot Project.

Organic 101: The Lifecycle of Organic Food Production

This is the fifth installment of the series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Through defined farming practices, organic principles promote ecological balance, foster the cycling of resources, and conserve biodiversity. To understand what that means when it comes to the label on your food, those principles require some more explanation.

Let’s take a closer look at a snapshot of sustainable food production, using the lifecycle of organic cheddar to get a fuller picture.