WASHINGTON, August 15, 2012 - TOMORROW, August 16, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will join RURAL TV and RFD-TV live at the Iowa State Fair to discuss the U.S. Department of Agriculture's continuing efforts to assist farmers and ranchers impacted by drought.

As part of continuing steps by the Obama Administration to assist livestock producers in response to the historic drought, USDA will utilize nearly $16 million in financial and technical assistance to immediately help crop and livestock producers in 19 states cope with the adverse impacts of the historic drought. In addition, USDA will initiate a transfer of $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program. These funds can be used to assist in moving water to livestock in need, providing emergency forage for livestock, and rehabilitating lands severely impacted by the drought. Together these efforts should provide nearly $30 million to producers struggling with drought conditions.

Most recently, Secretary Vilsack signed disaster designations for an additional 44 counties in 12 states as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat. Counties designated today are in the states of Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota. During the 2012 crop year, USDA has designated 1,628 unduplicated counties across 33 states as disaster areas-1,496 due to drought-making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans.

Secretary Vilsack will be taking questions from Twitter on USDA drought assistance efforts. Questions may be submitted in advance by using the hashtags #askUSDA and #Iowastatefair.

 

Thursday, August 16, 2012
7 p.m. CDT

WHAT: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will be LIVE on RURAL TV and RFD-TV to discuss the U.S. Department of Agriculture's continuing efforts to assist farmers and ranchers impacted by drought.

WHERE: Penningroth Media Center*
Iowa State Fairgrounds
East 30th Street and East University Avenue
Des Moines, IA

* Please enter the Penningroth Media Center from the west side of the Cattle Barn.

All media should arrive by 6:30 p.m. CDT.  A member of RURAL TV and RFD-TV or USDA staff will be there to assist.

Please note, the fair charges a $7 fee to enter the fairgrounds.

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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