The drought of 2012 is the most serious to impact U.S. agriculture since 1988. As of August 15, 2012, Secretary Vilsack has designated 1,670 U.S. counties as natural disaster areas due to severe drought.

While these severe conditions affect all farms in these counties, organic ruminant livestock operations--unless their pasture has access to irrigation--may not be able to meet the organic pasture requirements in the USDA organic regulations.

In addition to USDA's other drought relief efforts, AMS Administrator David Shipman is granting a temporary variance in affected counties to support Secretary Vilsack's efforts to provide relief to affected farmers during this challenging time.

Drought Relief: Organic Ruminant Farmers

Organic ruminant livestock--such as cattle, sheep, and goats--must consume at least 30 percent of their dry matter intake (on average) from certified organic pasture. The rest of their diet must also be certified organic, including hay, grain, and other agricultural products.

 

Due to the severe drought, USDA is granting a temporary variance from these requirements (Sections 205.237(c) and 205.240 of the USDA organic regulations) with the following restrictions:

  • This temporary variance applies only to organic ruminant livestock producers located in counties declared as primary natural disaster areas by Secretary Vilsack.
  • This temporary variance applies to non-irrigated pasture only.
  • Producers must supply at least 15 percent of their dry matter intake (on average) from certified organic pasture.
  • This temporary variance applies to the 2012 calendar year only.

List of Affected Counties

Letter Granting Temporary Variance

USDA Drought Relief Efforts

About Temporary Variances
Temporary variances from the production and handling requirements of the USDA organic regulations may be granted by the Agricultural Marketing Service Administrator for the following reasons:
  • Natural disasters declared by the Secretary
  • Damage caused by severe weather or other business interruption,
  • Practices used for the purpose of conducting research in organic production or handling.

Procedures for requesting temporary variances are described in NOP 2606: Processing Requests for Temporary Variances.  

About the National Organic Program (NOP)

The NOP facilitates trade and ensures integrity of organic agricultural products by consistently implementing organic standards and enforcing compliance with the regulations throughout the world. Learn more.

About the NOP Organic Insider

The NOP Organic Insider is intended to inform the organic community on a wide range of NOP functions, including organic standards, accreditation and international activities, compliance and enforcement, the National Organic Standards Board, training events, and the Cost Share program.

 

You are receiving this email because you elected to receive selected updates from the USDA National Organic Program. You may manage your profile to receive additional updates on other NOP functions or unsubscribe at any time by using the links below.

Obama Administration Continues to Take Swift Action to Provide Assistance to Farmers, Ranchers and Businesses

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2012–As part of continuing steps by the Obama Administration to get assistance to producers impacted by the drought, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today designated 172 additional counties in 15 states as primary natural disaster areas due to drought and heat, making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. To date, USDA has designated 1,792 counties as disaster areas–1,670 due to drought.

Earlier this week, President Obama and Secretary Vilsack traveled to Iowa to announce USDA's intent to purchase up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken, and catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks, which will help relieve pressure on American livestock producers and bring the nation's meat supply in line with demand.

"USDA is committed to using existing authorities wherever possible to help the farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and communities being impacted by the drought," said Vilsack. "In the past month, we have streamlined the disaster designation process, reduced interest rates on emergency loans, and provided flexibility within our conservation programs to support struggling producers. In the weeks ahead, the President and I will continue to take swift action to help America's farmers and ranchers through this difficult time."

Vilsack also announced today the availability of up to $5 million in grants to evaluate and demonstrate agricultural practices that help farmers and ranchers adapt to drought. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is taking applications for Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to help producers build additional resiliency into their production systems. NRCS is offering the grants to partnering entities to evaluate innovative, field-based conservation technologies and approaches. These technologies and/or approaches should lead to improvements such as enhancing the water-holding capacity in soils and installing drought-tolerant grazing systems, which will help farms and ranches become more resilient to drought. Visit www.nrcs.usda.gov for more information.

Additionally, in response to a request from five National Organic Program (NOP) certifying agents, USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) today announced that USDA will grant a temporary variance from NOP's pasture practice standards for organic ruminant livestock producers (Sections 205.237(c) and 205.240 of the USDA organic regulations) in 16 states in 2012. The following restrictions apply: this temporary variance applies to non-irrigated pasture only; producers must supply at least 15 percent of their dry matter intake (on average) from certified organic pasture; this temporary variance applies to the 2012 calendar year only; and this temporary variance covers only counties that have been declared as primary natural disaster areas by the Secretary of Agriculture in 2012. Granting a temporary variance for 2012 from the pasture practice standards is necessary in order to allow organic ruminant livestock producers to continue to be compliant with the program regulations after the severe drought ends and pasture forage becomes available. Temporary variance requests that are outside the scope of this variance will be considered on a case by case basis.

Last week, President Obama convened his White House Rural Council to review Executive Branch response actions and to develop additional policy initiatives to assist drought-stricken Americans. Following the meeting, the White House announced a number of new measures the Administration is taking. The President stressed the need for the entire Administration to continue to look at further steps it can take to ease the pain of this historic drought.

Within the last month, USDA has opened the Conservation Reserve Program to emergency haying and grazing, lowered the borrower interest rate for emergency loans, and worked with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers. USDA has also announced:

  • Authorized $16 million in existing funds from its Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to target states experiencing exceptional and extreme drought.
  • Initiated transfer of $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) to help farmers and ranchers rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters and for carrying out emergency water conservation measures in periods of severe drought.
  • Authorized haying and grazing of Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) easement areas in drought-affected areas where haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands.
  • Lowered the reduction in the annual rental payment to producers on CRP acres used for emergency haying or grazing from 25 percent to 10 percent in 2012.
  • Simplified the Secretarial disaster designation process and reduced the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters by 40 percent.

The U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that 63 percent of the nation's hay acreage is in an area experiencing drought, while approximately 73 percent of the nation's cattle acreage is in an area experiencing drought. Approximately 87 percent of the U.S. corn is within an area experiencing drought, down from a peak of 89 percent on July 24, and 85 percent of the U.S. soybeans are in a drought area, down from a high of 88 percent on July 24. On Aug. 10, USDA reduced the estimate for the 2012 U.S. corn crop to 123.4 bushels per acre, down 23.8 bushels from 2011. However, record corn plantings in 2012 have put the crop in position to be eighth largest in history. In 1988, when U.S. farmers were impacted by another serious drought, total production was 4.9 billion bushels. Today, total production is forecast at 10.8 billion bushels.

Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA's drought response and assistance.

The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership, has worked tirelessly to strengthen rural America, maintain a strong farm safety net, and create opportunities for America's farmers and ranchers. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its most productive periods in American history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers. A strong farm safety net is important to sustain the success of American agriculture. USDA's crop insurance program currently insures 264 million acres, 1.14 million policies, and $110 billion worth of liability on about 500,000 farms. In response to tighter financial markets, USDA has expanded the availability of farm credit, helping struggling farmers refinance loans. In the past 3 years, USDA provided 103,000 loans to family farmers totaling $14.6 billion. Over 50 percent of the loans went to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

Primary counties and corresponding states designated as disaster areas today for drought and other reasons:

Illinois [drought]

Bureau

Cook

De Kalb

Du Page

Grundy

Henry

Kane

Kankakee

Kendall

Knox

Mercer

Putnam

Stark

Will

Iowa [drought]

Adair

Adams

Audubon

Buena Vista

Calhoun

Carroll

Cass

Cerro

Cherokee

Clay

Crawford

Dallas

Floyd

Franklin

Fremont

Gordo

Greene

Guthrie

Hancock

Harrison

Humboldt

Ida

Louisa

Mills

Monona

Montgomery

O'Brien

Osceola

Page

Pocahontas

Pottawattamie Sac

Shelby

Washington

Webster

Wright

DES MOINES, Iowa, August 14, 2012 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that 41 community-based organizations have been selected for funding to create jobs and support rural business development.

"USDA has a strong partnership with rural citizens and communities to bring increased economic opportunity," Vilsack said. "These grants are investments that will help organizations build the capacity and expertise of local businesses, which in turn will spur economic activity and strengthen rural economies. "

For example, in Polk County, the Iowa Economic Development Authority is receiving a $200,000 grant to help revitalize the historical commercial district. The authority will work with businesses on ways to highlight local events and community attractions, take advantage of tax credits, and promote local attractions through branding and marketing campaigns.

In Longmont, Colo., the First Nations Development Institute has been selected for a $50,000 grant to provide training and technical assistance to a Native American non-profit organization and two tribes to assist with capacity building. Zender Environmental Health and Research Group is receiving a $183,862 grant to train unemployed, rural Alaskan members in of seven Federally recognized Tribes for environmental technician jobs.

The funding announced today is being provided through the Rural Community Development Initiative Program (RCDI). It helps community-based development organizations, federally recognized Indian tribes and other groups promote economic growth in low-income, rural communities. Recipients are required to obtain matching funds, which increase the value of the grants.

Funding for each project is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the grant agreement. For a complete list of projects, click here.

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way - strengthening America's economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has an active portfolio of more than $170 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

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Strengthened Measures Target Bad Actors in Nation's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

WASHINGTON, August 9, 2012– Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon today announced a broad range of additional strategies to further improve program integrity in USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and hold those misusing benefits accountable. The measures include tougher financial sanctions for the small number of retailers that defraud the program and new requirements and tools for States to ensure benefits go solely to eligible individuals.

"USDA has a zero tolerance policy for SNAP fraud," said Concannon. "These additional measures reaffirm our ongoing commitment to ensuring these dollars are spent as intended-helping millions of people in need get back on solid economic footing."

The retailer sanctions proposal allows USDA to not only permanently disqualify a retailer who traffics, but also assess a monetary penalty in addition to the disqualification. Financial penalties would be proportional to the amount of SNAP business the store is conducting, which will help ensure that the financial punishment more closely fits the crime. Currently, when a retailer is found guilty of fraud or abuse, USDA can either disqualify the retailer from participating in SNAP, or issue a financial penalty, but not both.

Today's announcement includes new requirements for States to take specific actions that would catch fraud and abuse on the front end and ensure that ineligible people do not participate in the program. The new standards strengthen integrity by giving States an additional tool to identify cases that may require further investigation and review when an applicant or recipient is found in a Federal database.

"These requirements will make us better at identifying potential fraud and abuse before it occurs, as well as help us hold bad actors even more accountable than in the past and discourage them from abusing the public's trust," said Concannon.

Concannon also today released third quarter, fiscal year 2012 results of USDA work in fighting fraudulent activity in SNAP retail stores, tallying final actions to sanction or disqualify retailers violating program rules. In that quarter, USDA staff took final actions to:

  • Impose sanctions, through fines or temporary disqualifications, on more than 574 stores found violating program rules; and
  • Permanently disqualify 1,016 stores for trafficking SNAP benefits (i.e. exchanging SNAP benefits for cash) or falsifying an application.

These announcements are part of the Obama Administration's ongoing Campaign to Cut Waste designed to fight fraud and abuse in Federal programs. For more information about USDA efforts to combat fraud, visit the Stop SNAP fraud website at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/fraud.

USDA continues to work with local, state and federal partners to root out fraud, waste and abuse in SNAP and ensure the integrity of our nation's most important food assistance program. Recent actions include :

  • Sending letters to the CEOs of Craigslist, Ebay, Facebook and Twitter to reiterate the need to help prevent the illegal sale or purchase of SNAP benefits online;
  • Proposing a rule to provide States the option to require recipients to make contact with the state when there have been an excessive number of requests for EBT card replacements;
  • Increasing documentation required for high-risk stores applying to redeem SNAP benefits;
  • Continuing to notify state social service agencies and federal agency partners about violators to better protect our public programs. This includes information on program recipients with suspicious transactions at stores that have been sanctioned for trafficking so that the recipients can be further investigated by States.

Reducing childhood obesity and improving the nutrition of all Americans are vital to achieve a healthy future for America. That's why the Obama administration and USDA are committed to promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles and to ensuring that all Americans have access to safe, nutritious, and balanced meals.

SNAP-the nation's first line of defense against hunger-helps put food on the table for millions of low income families and individuals every month. The largest of USDA's 15 nutrition assistance programs, it has never been more urgently needed than it is today. SNAP is a vital supplement to the monthly food budget of more than 46 million low-income individuals. Nearly half of SNAP participants are children and more than 40 percent of recipients live in households with earnings.

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees the administration of 15 nutrition assistance programs, including school meals programs, that touch the lives of one in four Americans over the course of a year. These programs work in concert to form a national safety net against hunger. Visit www.fns.usda.gov for information about FNS and nutrition assistance programs.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

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Almost $29 million in Smart Grid Projects Included

WASHINGTON, August 9, 2012 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that rural electric utilities in 18 states will receive loan guarantees to make improvements to electric lines, transmission facilities and to reduce peak electric loads by deploying smart grid technologies. USDA Rural Utilities Administrator Jonathan Adelstein made the announcement on Vilsack's behalf while visiting the offices of one of the recipients, Southside Electric Cooperative (SEC) in Crewe, Virginia. The cooperative is using funds to build and improve a distribution line, transmission line, and will invest almost $7.4 million for smart grid system enhancements. In all, service will be upgraded for about 1,500 SEC members.

"Maintaining and upgrading rural electric systems improves system reliability, creates jobs and supports economic development," Vilsack said. "With these loans, we are continuing to help cooperatives provide reliable service to rural residents. A significant portion of this funding will go to smart grid technologies, helping consumers lower their electric bills and reducing peak demand for producers."

With this funding, USDA Rural Development moves closer to reaching Secretary Vilsack's goal to fund more than $250 million for smart grid technologies. Today's announcement includes support for nearly $29 million in smart grid projects. In all, USDA is investing more than $420 million in rural electric infrastructure.

The following is a list of rural utilities that will receive USDA funding, which is contingent upon the recipient meeting the terms of the loan agreement.

Idaho/Oregon/Washington

  • Clearwater Power Company -- $13,524,000. Funds will vey used to serve about 500 consumers, build and improve 132 miles of distribution line and 5 miles of transmission line, and make other system improvements.

Indiana

  • Whitewater Valley Rural Electric Membership Corporation - $12,000,000. Funds will be used to serve 240 consumers, build and improve 121 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan includes $519,405 in smart grid projects.

Kansas

  • Leavenworth-Jefferson Electric Cooperative, Inc. - $7,580,000. Funds will be used to serve 375 consumers, build and improve 100 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $104,028 in smart grid projects.

Kentucky

  • Pennyrile Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation - $22,894,000. Funds will be used to serve about 2,800 customers, build and improve 248 miles of distribution and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $232,800 in smart grid projects.
  • Warren Rural Electric Cooperative Corporation - $13,000,000. Funds will be used to serve about 3,300 consumers, build and improve 216 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements.

Minnesota

  • Lake Region Electric Cooperative - $27,151,000. Funds will be used to serve about 1,300 consumers, build and improve 151 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $3,297,855 in smart grid projects.

Mississippi

  • Coast Electric Power Association - $51,766,000. Funds will be used to serve 9,240 consumers, build and improve 246 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $128,000 in smart grid projects.

North Carolina

  • Central Electric Membership Corporation - $22,000,000. Funds will be used to serve about 2,800 consumers, build and improve 102 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $278,800 in smart grid projects.

New York

  • Steuben Rural Electric Cooperative, Inc. - $9,362,000. Funds will be used to serve 318 consumers, build and improve 121 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $706,050 in smart grid projects.

Oklahoma

  • Northwestern Electric Cooperative, Inc. - $18,306,000. Funds will be used to serve 912 customers, build and improve 134 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $843,400 in smart grid projects.

South Carolina

  • Central Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. - $44,347,000. Funds will be used to build 77 miles of new transmission line.

South Dakota/Minnesota

  • East River Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. - $62,207,000. Funds will be used to build 44 miles of transmission line, three new substations, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $3,951,000 in smart grid projects.

South Dakota/Iowa/Minnesota

  • Sioux Valley - Southwestern Electric Cooperative, Inc - $39,098,000. Funds will be used to serve over 1,400 consumers, build and improve 618 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $3,585,806 in smart grid projects.

South Dakota/Montana/North Dakota

  • Grand Electric Cooperative, Inc. -$14,164,000. Funds will be used to serve 153 consumers, build and improve 185 miles of distribution line and 1 mile of transmission line and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $1,480,903 in smart grid projects.

Texas

  • Comanche County Electric Cooperative Association - $18,469,000. Funds will be used to serve 1,068 customers, build and improve 143 miles of distribution line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $6,551,790 in smart grid projects.

Virginia

  • Southside Electric Cooperative - $44,881,000. Funds will be used to serve 1,460 customers, build and improve over 700 miles of distribution line and 9 miles of transmission line, and make other system improvements. The loan amount includes $7,352,881 in smart grid projects.

Funding is provided by USDA Rural Development's Rural Utilities Service (RUS). The loans help electric utilities upgrade, expand, maintain and replace rural America's electric infrastructure. USDA Rural Development also supports energy conservation and renewable energy projects.

President Obama's plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President's leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way - strengthening America's economy and strengthening small towns and rural communities. USDA's investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of Federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has an active portfolio of more than $170 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

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National Resource Helps More Americans Connect with Local Farmers

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2012 - Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced a 9.6 percent increase in National Farmers Market Directory listings as the kickoff to National Farmer's Market Week. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's directory, a database published online at farmersmarkets.usda.gov, identifies 7,864 farmers markets operating throughout the United States. The information collected in the directory is self-reported data provided voluntarily by farmers market managers through an annual outreach effort. Last year, USDA's directory listed 7,175 markets.

"Farmers markets are a critical ingredient to our nation's food system," said Merrigan. "These outlets provide benefits not only to the farmers looking for important income opportunities, but also to the communities looking for fresh, healthy foods. The directory is an online tool that helps connect farmers and consumers, communities and businesses around the country."

The top states, in terms of the number of markets reported in the directory, include California (827 markets), New York (647 markets), Massachusetts (313 markets), Michigan (311 markets), Wisconsin (298 markets), Illinois (292 markets), Ohio (264 markets), Pennsylvania (254 markets), Virginia and Iowa (tied with 227 markets) and North Carolina (202 markets). Together they account for nearly half (49 percent) of the farmers markets listed in the 2012 directory.

Geographic regions like the mid-Atlantic (Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia), the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont), and the Southeast (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) saw large increases in their listings, reporting, 15.8, 14.4 and 13.1 percent more markets, respectively.

USDA has taken several steps to help small and mid-sized farmers as part of the department's commitment to support local and regional food systems, and increase consumer access to fresh, healthy food in communities across the country. For example,

  • USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), is outfitting more farmers markets with the ability to accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps), announcing $4 million dollars in available funding to equip farmers' markets with wireless point-of-sale equipment. Currently, over 2,500 farmers markets are using Electronic Benefit Transfer technology.
  • USDA recently released the 2.0 version of its KYF Compass, a digital guide to USDA resources related to local and regional food systems. The updated version includes new data sets to help consumers locate local food resources, such as farmers markets, and plot them on an interactive map.

Many markets will host fun activities to celebrate National Farmers Market Week including pie contests, festivals, cooking demonstrations, events for kids, raffle drawings and giveaways. USDA officials will visit markets around the country between Aug. 5 and Aug. 11, to honor growers and commemorate National Farmers Market Week.

The USDA National Farmers Market Directory is available at farmersmarkets.usda.gov. Users can search for markets based on location, available products, and types of payment accepted, including participation in federal nutrition programs. Directory features allow users to locate markets based on proximity to zip code, mapping directions and links to active farmers market websites. Customized datasets can also be created and exported for use by researchers and software application designers.

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Get the latest Agricultural Marketing Service news at www.ams.usda.gov/news or follow us on Twitter @USDA_AMS. You can also read about us on the USDA blog.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users).

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DES MOINES, IA, August 18, 2011- Tomorrow, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will hold a White House Rural Forum at the Iowa State Fair with businesses and community leaders, farmers, ranchers, and Tribal leaders to explore ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.  As chair of the White House Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack will discuss the Rural Council's new policy recommendations, which focus on key areas of need in rural America including helping rural small businesses access capital, expanding rural job search and training services, and increasing rural access to health care workers and technology.

Friday's event follows on President Obama's White House Rural Economic Forum today in Peosta, IA, and allows attendees at the Iowa State Fair to participate in a Rural Forum.  Secretary Vilsack will give a recap of what was discussed with President Obama today.

Friday, August 19, 2011
10:00 a.m. CDT

WHAT: Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will hold a Rural Forum with businesses leaders, farmers, ranchers, and Tribal leaders  to explore ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.

WHERE: Iowa State Fair
Penningroth Media Center in the Cattle Barn
Des Moines, IA

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WASHINGTON, August 18, 2011- Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will host an on-the-record media call to announce new investments in rural America and to give a recap of the White House Rural Economic Forum that was held with President Obama in Peosta, Iowa this week. The Forum brought together farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities nationwide.

The 31 state and Puerto Rico receiving support from USDA include : Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia.

Thursday, August 18
11:30 a.m. (EDT)

WHAT: Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will host a media call to announce new investments and to give recap of the White House Rural Economic Forum.

DIAL IN: 1-800-857-5233

Passcode: USDA (Given Verbally)

Troubleshooting: 202-720-8560

All callers using the above pass code will be placed in listen only mode. To join the Q&A portion of the meeting, these callers are instructed to press *1 on their touch tone phone.



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DES MOINES, IA, August 16, 2011- On Friday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will hold a White House Rural Forum at the Iowa State Fair with businesses and community leaders, farmers, ranchers, and Tribal leaders to explore ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.  As chair of the White House Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack will discuss the Rural Council's new policy recommendations, which focus on key areas of need in rural America including helping rural small businesses access capital, expanding rural job search and training services, and increasing rural access to health care workers and technology.

Friday's event follows on President Obama's White House Rural Economic Forum today in Peosta, IA, and allows attendees at the Iowa State Fair to participate in a Rural Forum.  Secretary Vilsack will give a recap of what was discussed with President Obama today.

Friday, August 19, 2011
10:00 a.m. CDT

WHAT: Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will hold a Rural Forum with businesses leaders, farmers, ranchers, and Tribal leaders  to explore ways federal, state and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.

WHERE: Iowa State Fair
Penningroth Media Center in the Cattle Barn
Des Moines, IA

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- Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America-

 

Next Week President to Host White House Rural Economic Forum

 

WASHINGTON, August 12, 2011 - Today, the White House Rural Council released a new report entitled Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America, which lays out the economic landscape rural Americans face today and highlights the Administration's key accomplishments in rural communities.  The Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America report focuses on five critical areas: creating jobs and promoting economic growth, improving access to quality health care and education, fostering innovation, expanding outdoor opportunities, and supporting veterans and military families.

 

"This report on "Jobs and Economic Security in Rural America" underscores the commitment my Administration is making to rural communities," said President Obama.  "It highlights some of the many programs and policies my Administration has implemented in rural America to support economic growth.  It also offers a look at the economic agenda we will continue to pursue during my Presidency."

 

"This report highlights the importance of understanding some of the specific needs as well as unique opportunities found within rural America," Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack said. "It also presents vital strategies that can and will be used to seize those opportunities and tackle some of the toughest challenges facing our rural communities." 

On June 9, President Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the first White House Rural Council to accelerate the ongoing work of promoting economic growth in rural America.  The Council is focused on increasing rural access to capital, spurring agricultural innovation, expanding digital and physical infrastructure in rural areas, and creating economic opportunities through conservation and outdoor recreation.

 

On August 16, the President and members of the White House Rural Council will host the White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, as part of the President's three-day economic bus tour in the Midwest. The Forum will bring together farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities and small towns across the nation.  The President will engage directly with a variety of rural leaders from across the nation to discuss the importance of growing small businesses and strengthening the middle class in rural America.

 

Link to full report here. Highlights from the report include :

 

  • The Administration has made significant investments in supporting job creation in rural America, including providing more than $6.2 billion in financing to help nearly 10,000 rural businesses expand, grow, and innovate, creating or saving over 250,000 jobs; providing more than $5 billion in farm operating and ownership loans to help over 35,000 small and medium sized operations; and expanding U.S. agricultural exports, supporting over 800,000 American jobs and generating a 35-to-1 return on investment.
  • The Administration has made significant investments in improving access to quality health care and education in rural America, including providing assistance to over 400,000 rural homeowners to purchase, build, or repair their homes; financing nearly 6,000 Community Facilities, including over 2,500 public safety facilities, 1,500 public buildings, 1,000 educational facilities, and 750 health care facilities; and providing nearly 9 million rural residents access to a safe water supply and sanitary sewer system and over 3.7 million rural residents access to new or improved systems that will deliver safe, clean drinking water.
  • The Administration has made significant investments in promoting innovation and investment in rural America, including expanding broadband access to over 7 million rural Americans, including more than 350,000 rural businesses; committing nearly $21 billion in loan guarantees to 32 clean energy projects that will create or save nearly 21,000 jobs; creating the TIGER Discretionary Grant Program which has invested more than $220 million in infrastructure vital to rural areas; and installing energy efficiency solutions for more than 5,000 rural small businesses, farmers, and ranchers to help save energy and improve their bottom line through the Department of Agriculture.
  • The Administration has made significant investments in expanding outdoor opportunities to create sustained economic growth in rural America, including enrolling 7.1 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program, which retires environmentally sensitive farm lands and has set aside 300,000 acres in the program specifically to benefit game species; partnering military with state and local governments, land trusts, and landowners to secure conservation easements through the Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) which protects more than 170,000 acres; removing 86,927 tons of biomass from our National Forests to produce energy; and working with farmers to restore wetlands habitat on 470,000 acres in the Gulf coastal plain following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in order to conserve migratory waterfowl.
  • The Administration has made significant investments toward supporting our veterans and military families in rural America, including providing education benefits to over 215,000 veteran students in rural areas and 3,600 veteran students in highly rural areas under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill; investing in more than 500 projects across the VA health care system in support of rural health care, including 404 Community-Based Outpatient Clinics and 48 outreach clinics in rural areas, to provide primary health care access to nearly 3.3 million veterans; helping over 300,000 rural veterans and service members purchase a home or refinance an existing mortgage through the veterans' home loan guaranty program; and challenging private companies to hire or train 100,000 veterans by 2013, and announcing commitments from numerous companies and organizations who have already stepped up to meet that goal.

 

The White House Rural Economic Forum is just one part of a series of more than 100 events held across the country this summer with senior Administration officials to advance the Council's objectives.  Here are just some of the past and upcoming travel and events related to the White House Rural Council:

 

ALASKA

HHS:  On August 29, Secretary Sebelius will travel to Alaska, where she will visit several remote towns and villages to highlight the rural health and human services needs of tribal populations. The Secretary's Alaska visit includes stops in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Anaktuvuk Pass, Barrow, and Tanana.

 

DOI: From August 6-13, Secretary Salazar traveled to Alaska for a series of meetings, roundtables with business and Native leaders, and tours of key sites pertaining to energy, conservation, and Native Alaskan issues. In Anchorage, Secretary Salazar met with business leaders in Anchorage to discuss the need for safe and responsible development of Alaska's energy resources. In Fairbanks, Secretary Salazar toured the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service firefighting facilities with Sens. Murkowski and Reed.  In Alaska's North Slope region, Secretary Salazar visited an Indian Health Services funded hospital currently under construction in Barrow - the northernmost community in the United States - as well as the Denali National Park, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

CALIFORNIA:

 

USTR: On August 18, Ambassador Kirk will tour the processing facilities of Blue Diamond Growers, located in downtown Sacramento.  There he will observe each step of almond processing from delivery to shipping.  Now 101 years old, Blue Diamond is the world's largest and most respected almond processing and marketing cooperative.  Blue Diamond's membership includes approximately 3,000 California almond producers, who grow 1.5 billion pounds of almonds, valued at $2 billion, every year.   California growers produce more than 80% of the total world almond supply, and nearly 70% of the almonds processed by Blue Diamond are marketed and sold to customers in over 90 countries.  Following the tour, Ambassador Kirk will participate in a roundtable discussion with California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross and California agriculture industry leaders.

 

FLORIDA:

 

USDAOn August 11, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will tour the INEOS New Planet BioEnergy facility in Vero Beach, FL.  The facility is receiving a loan guarantee from USDA Rural Development to help build and operate a biorefinery capable of producing 8 million gallons per year of cellulosic ethanol and 6 megawatts of electricity.  While at INEOS, the Secretary will announce a series of joint USDA and Department of Energy grants to spur research into improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of growing biofuel and bioenergy crops. 


ILLINOIS:

DOT: On August 19, Secretary LaHood will visit the Illinois State Fair, where he will hold a roundtable meeting with rural farm and business leaders from central Illinois.  While there, he will highlight the agency's commitment to no new transportation regulations for farmers, and to continuing common sense agricultural exemptions to trucking and heavy equipment rules.  Secretary LaHood will also discuss the importance of road, bridge, rail and port investments to growing our agricultural economy and expanding exports.


IOWA

USDA: On August 19, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack will hold a Rural Forum at the Iowa State Fair with businesses and community leaders, farmers, ranchers, and Tribal leaders to explore ways federal, state, and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.   As chair of the White House Rural Council, Secretary Vilsack is exploring ways to strengthen economic conditions, create jobs, promote innovation and improve access to essential community services in rural America.

 

VA: On September 1, Secretary Shinseki will host a rural roundtable in Des Moines. The event will include a roundtable discussion to listen to local concerns and highlight the Department of Veterans Affairs' efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America.  VA has placed 12 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans.

 

MARYLAND:

USDA: On July 21, Secretary Vilsack and Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance held a rural roundtable during Maryland Ag Day in Annapolis.  The Secretary met with Maryland businesses leaders, farmers and ranchers to explore ways federal, state, and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs in Annapolis, MD.

MINNESOTA

 

VA: On August 31, Secretary Shinseki will go to St. Paul to attend the State Fair. The event will include a roundtable discussion to listen to local concerns and highlight the Department of Veterans Affairs' efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America. VA has placed 10 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans.

MISSOURI:


USDA:
On July 27, Secretary Vilsack gave the keynote at the Council on Foundations 2011 Rural Philanthropy Conference in Kansas City.  The Secretary called on representatives of philanthropic organizations from across America to "step up, take risks and work creatively to create jobs, improve quality of life and make an impact on rural America." During his keynote address, the Secretary urged philanthropists to partner with the Obama Administration, through the White House Rural Council to drive smart investment strategies in rural America.

 

HHS:  On August 1, Secretary Sebelius visited the Learning Junction Childcare Center in Joplin, where she toured the St. John's Mobile Medical Unit, met with Joplin officials, and hosted a discussion on mental health, child trauma, and school planning.  Later in the day, the Secretary visited a Critical Access Hospital in Aurora, MO, where she met with hospital leadership and took part in a roundtable discussion on rural health issues.

 

MONTANA

 

DOI: On July 15, Secretary Salazar hosted a rural water infrastructure event on Crow Reservation in Montana to celebrate the recently approved Crow Tribe Water Rights Settlement, which will ensure safe drinking water for the reservation as well as provide for the rehabilitation of the Crow Irrigation Project. The Secretary also delivered keynote remarks at the Land Consolidation Consultation in Billings, where he discussed the importance of creating economic opportunities in rural communities through conservation and outdoor recreation.  On July 16, Secretary Salazar hosted rural lands conservation and outdoor recreation events in Ovando and the Blackfoot River Valley to highlight community-based partnerships. Secretary Salazar also hosted a youth focused outdoor recreation and jobs event in Kalispell that focused on the economic impact of Glacier Park to northwest Montana.

 

VA: On July 7-8, Secretary Shinseki held three rural events in Montana.  The events were held in Helena at the Montana National Guard Armory, in Bozeman at Montana State University, and in Billings at the Billings VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic. Each event included a roundtable discussion where the Secretary listened to local veterans and highlighted the Department of Veterans Affairs' efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America. Secretary Shinseki has made increased access to VA care in rural areas a top priority, and the department continues to develop new ways to reach veterans in rural parts of America. VA has placed several community-based outpatient clinics and established tele-health services throughout Montana.

 

NEBRASKA

 

VA: On August 19, Secretary Shinseki will join Sen. Ben Nelson to host a rural roundtable near Lincoln.  VA has made increased access to VA care in rural areas a top priority, and the department continues to develop new ways to reach veterans in rural parts of America.  VA has placed 11 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans. Plans are underway for a new $560 million Omaha VAMC to replace the 60-year-old hospital.  The facility provides a full range of patient care services, education, and research for veterans in a 104-county area of Nebraska, western Iowa, and portions of Kansas and Missouri.

NEVADA

VA: On August 17, Secretary Shinseki will host a rural roundtable near Las Vegas.  VA has made increased access to VA care in rural areas a top priority and the department continues to develop new ways to reach Veterans in rural parts of America.  VA has placed 10 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the state and established tele-health services aimed at meeting the needs of rural veterans. VA is expanding services in the Las Vegas Area with a new comprehensive VA medical center complex nearing completion in North Las Vegas that will have a $1.2 billion economic impact to the area and create 1,850 permanent medical jobs.

NEW MEXICO

HUD:  On August 22, Secretary Donovan will visit a hospital under construction in Rio Rancho. A $143.4 million Section 242 mortgage insurance commitment was issued to finance the construction of the hospital in Rio Rancho, a suburb 20 miles northwest of Albuquerque. The new facility is affiliated with the University of New Mexico (UNM), UNM Hospital, the UNM Medical Group, and the UNM School of Medicine. The loan will finance a new 200,000-square foot, 68-bed state-of-the-art community teaching hospital with a high surgical case load on 20 acres of land.  At an interest rate of 6.0 percent, in comparison to an unenhanced bond interest rate of 7.7 percent, FHA insurance will save the hospital $64.7 million in interest expense over the life of the loan.  The construction project will support 1,877 FTEs in its community and provide an economic stimulus of $386.4 million during the construction period.  Following construction, the completed project will directly support 445 FTEs and provide a direct annual economic benefit of $85.8 million.

 

 

NORTH CAROLINA

 

DOE: On July 25, Secretary Chu visited Celgard, an innovative and high-tech battery manufacturing company, in Concord.  Celgard recently expanded their existing manufacturing facility with support from the Recovery Act to create more than 200 jobs in rural North Carolina.  Celgard is one of the largest suppliers to the lithium battery industry, which are instrumental in increasing the capacity of electric drive vehicles and helping reduce our dependence on foreign oil.  Afterwards, the Secretary was joined by local business leaders at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte for a roundtable discussion on the growing clean energy industry in rural communities.  Like Celgard, the companies that Secretary met with are critical to our future: to pioneering and commercializing technologies that reduce our consumption of foreign oil and creating jobs and supporting economic growth. 

NORTH DAKOTA:

 

VA: On July 5, Secretary Shinseki held a rural event in Bismarck at the VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic where he held a roundtable discussion to listen to local veterans and highlight the Department of Veterans Affairs' efforts to expand access to VA care, benefits, and services in rural America.

OREGON:

CEQ:  On August 9, White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley toured a Federal-County-State funded partnership with local business and conservation groups that is creating local jobs and building a renewable energy market in John day, Oregon.  Byproducts from the U.S. Forest Service's Malheur National Forest restoration project are used by Malheur Lumber Company and Pellet Plant to create wood pellets which are in turn used to provide energy to local schools, the local hospital and John Day Airport.  Malheur Lumber Company's recent expansion, financed in part by a Recovery Act grant, has allowed Grant County, Oregon to retain 6% of its private non-farm workforce. The wood pellets and bricks manufactured at Malheur Lumber will reduce energy costs by $4.4 million across the regional economy and represent the economic opportunities presented through conservation and collaboration between governments and local communities and businesses.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

 

EPA: On August 3, Administrator Jackson traveled to Lancaster County and visited Jeff Balmer, owner of a 60-head dairy farm that is using a variety of best management practices to protect water quality in the community and further downstream in the Chesapeake Bay. The Administrator toured Jeff's farm and he explained how these practices allowed him to prevent runoff and retain soil, making his operation more efficient and sustainable. The Administrator also participated in a roundtable discussion with around 50 area farmers and leaders about ways to protect rural air and water quality and strengthen rural economies.  The Administrator pledged to continue communicating directly with farmers and other stakeholders in rural communities about the shared goals of clean air, clean water and increased economic opportunities rural America.

 

TENNESSEE

 

ED:  On August 10, Secretary Duncan traveled to Nashville to host a WH Rural Council roundtable discussion with several rural superintendents, school principals and business leaders, as well as Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman, at Vanderbilt University. The conversation focused on challenges and solutions in rural schools and how the federal government could best support districts, communities and local partners to strengthen schools and increase student success. Duncan highlighted the ways education can transform rural economies and the opportunities that technology offers all students to receive a world-class education no matter where they live.

TEXAS:

 

USTR:  This fall, Ambassador Kirk will visit the Texas State Fair, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary from September 30 to October 23.  Held annually at Fair Park in Dallas, the fair proudly displays the unique scale and diversity of Texas' people and products.  Millions of visitors from all 50 states and many countries around the world flock to Dallas each October to sample the best the Lone Star State has to offer in terms of food, fun, and entertainment. Featured attractions include the largest new car and truck show in the Southwest, legendary livestock exhibitions, major music concerts, and classic college football.

VIRGINIA

OSTP: On August 5, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra visited Blacksburg to discuss rural job creation and to hear from local entrepreneurs and business leaders about ways we can partner to spur job growth in rural communities across the country. Chopra toured two local startups, made remarks at an event hosted by the Regional Technology Council, and hosted a roundtable discussion with local entrepreneurs, business leaders, and other key stakeholders.

WEST VIRGINIA:

SBA: On July 14, Administrator Mills visited a high tech business that was named West Virginia's small business of the year in 2010. The business, Azimuth, Inc. located in Fairmount, was started by a service disabled veteran with an SBA loan and grew through SBA's 8(a) Federal Contracting Program.  Azimuth is an impressive manufacturing company, creating rural jobs of the future focused on protecting our borders.  It is a high technology services firm that is dedicated to quality, innovation, and performance and is a strong advocate of teaming, actively seeking to establish long term strategic alliances with both large and small firms.

 

WISCONSIN:

 

USDA: On August 4, Secretary Vilsack held a forum at the Wisconsin State Fair with businesses and community leaders, farmers and ranchers to explore ways federal, state, and local officials can work together to improve economic conditions and create jobs.   The Secretary took questions from the audience and highlighted job creation and how agricultural trade is contributing to Wisconsin's economy.

 

DOI: On July 14, Secretary Salazar keynoted the National Wildlife System Conference, where he addressed the Obama Administration's commitment to working with ranchers, farmers and other private landowners to ensure protection of large, rural landscapes and the abundance of fish and wildlife - and announced a new initiative that will spur these collaborative efforts through community-based coalitions of private landowners, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies. The Landscape Stewards program, a partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, will leverage up to $200,000 to support coalition-based conservation efforts beginning next year, with each grant matched by equal contributions from the coalition partners - part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative.

 

NEW ENGLAND

DOI: From August 15-19, Secretary Salazar will travel to the Northeastern United States to highlight the importance of America's outdoor economy in creating jobs and discuss the economic value of conservation for communities across the country, placing an emphasis on rural areas where protecting vital habitats contributes greatly to strong local economies.  The four-state tour will take Secretary Salazar and key partners in the Senate to Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, and New Hampshire to meet with outdoor stakeholders; tour the parks, refuges, and public lands that serve as recreation destinations for tourists and travelers from around the country - helping to create jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry; participate in events that encourage youth to get outside and explore the great outdoors; and visit the retail shops and outfitters that help power this key section of our economy.  The Secretary's trip will focus on discussions with leaders in Northeastern rural communities about creating economic opportunities through conservation and outdoor recreation.

 

 

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