Anna the Goat Joins Penny with Her Thoughts

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Penny Jo Barr shows her goat and best friend Anna to Linda Myers, Program Technician, Pueblo County Colorado FSA.

Pueblo County Colorado FSA Office Greets Precocious Guests

By Brenda Carlson, Public Affairs Specialist, FSA Office of External Affairs

Penny Barr recently brought Anna to the FSA County Office.  Anna (pronounced ah-nuh after Penny’s favorite character from the movie Frozen) is a goat.  Penny Barr is three and a half and her other “buddies” are the employees at the local FSA office.

“Penny got her goat as a Christmas gift and it was just recently broke to lead and she wanted in the worst way to bring it to town and show the gals at FSA,” said Justin Barr, Penny’s father. “I asked her if she wanted to come with me to FSA and she said yes, ‘can we take Anna?’” Continue reading

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Farm Service Agency Impacts on Rural America

Val DolciniFSA Issues Fiscal Year 2015 Impacts Report

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of USDA’s Farm Service Agency, but FSA’s roots date back nearly 80 years, to the days of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, when the rural economy was in crisis and America’s farmers and ranchers needed assistance. At that time, Congress empowered USDA to provide a strong safety-net for farm families, helping them navigate the unpredictability of natural disasters and volatile market conditions.

Today, technological advancements in equipment, crop and veterinary sciences, soil and water conservation, and pest and nutrient management, all have resulted in agriculture becoming stronger than we’ve ever known – – certainly far stronger than the days of our grandparents and great- grandparents. But the unpredictability of weather and markets remain. That means the FSA mission is as important as it’s ever been to ensure the domestic agriculture sector continues to deliver an abundant, safe, and affordable food and fiber supply for the American people. Continue reading

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Farm Service Agency GIS Specialist Appointed to Minnesota Geospatial Advisory Council

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Jeff Bloomquist, Minnesota Farm Service Agency (FSA) Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) and Emergency Management Coordinator, is serving his second-consecutive federal appointment on the Minnesota Statewide Geospatial Advisory Council.

Jeff Bloomquist, Minnesota Farm Service Agency (FSA) Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) and Emergency Management Coordinator, was recently appointed to serve on the Minnesota Statewide Geospatial Advisory Council.

The council is a state government initiative made up of a cross-section of stakeholder groups that advise the Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (MnGeo) on ways geospatial technology can improve state government services. The council also highlights individuals who are making great contributions to GIS across the state. They provide a platform for individuals to present their work and receive achievement awards.

Appointment to the council is a competitive process; candidates must compete with other federal candidates across the state to be appointed by the governor to serve a two-year term. Bloomquist is serving his second-consecutive federal appointment.

As a whole, the council focuses on promoting investments in geospatial information, making the information a shared public resource, establishing GIS standards and guidelines and educating policy makers on the value of the technology. The council also stays in communication with geospatial sectors and stakeholders in order to provide an educational component.

During 2015, the council officially launched the Minnesota Geospatial Commons website, a project the council spearheaded that consolidated state GIS information to one website intended for public use.

The goal of the website is to provide a centralized resource for the wide variety of geospatial data, services, information and news in Minnesota. On the website, users can find, view and download data, publish metadata and data, and use web services and applications. As of December 2015, more than 500 geospatial resources are available using GIS technology.

“My goal is to get better coordination and communication between all the federal GIS representatives over the next two years of my appointment so that the federal side is more involved with the State Geospatial Advisory Council,” said Bloomquist. “I want to help better leverage geospatial investments across all sectors of government and share applicable knowledge and processes. It is great to have the opportunity to discuss and share ideas on a professional level about how to use GIS and any data that comes along with it to make mapping easier and more accessible.”

During Bloomquist’s initial appointment on the council, he watched the state and county government come together to share data and make better decisions. Through advocating for both parcel standardization and publically available data, the Minnesota geospatial community is working towards a very progressive and responsive process for providing geospatial data to the state. The parcels offer a key component in allowing the public to work with and develop other geospatial information based on the parcel layers each county is maintaining.

The advisory capacity and collaborative work on the council provides members an opportunity to help guide and develop standards and data that support the Minnesota geospatial community. Through the process, members can improve their organization, shape policy and make recommendations that improve the overall use and implementation of GIS data and technology by advocating best practices.

Stayed tuned to Fence Post for more stories on how GIS is shaping FSA.

Questions? Contact Shirley Hall, FSA GIS Program Manager

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Administrator Dolcini Visits Chilly Syracuse

Val speaking whole crowd

Administrator Dolcini spoke to more than 500 attendees at the 184th Annual New York Agriculture Society Forum that centered around “Climate Smart Farming.”

By Lynnette Wright, New York FSA Public Affairs Specialist

U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini visited Syracuse, New York, last week, January 7th for the 184th Annual New York Agriculture Society Forum. Dolcini was in town to present the inaugural Next Generation Farmer Awards at the awards luncheon. Awarded to two deserving New York farmers, this award celebrates producers who have either successfully transitioned farm ownership to the next generation, or who have started a new farm operation. Continue reading

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Conservation Practice Helps South Dakota Family Minimize Impact of Record Snow Storm

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South Dakota ranchers credit sound conservation practices with reducing their livestock mortality rate following Winter Storm Atlas in 2013. Pictured from left to right: Jason Reed, Isaac Dahlman, Jerylin Dahlman and Susie Reed.

Like many ranchers in the northern Plains, Jason and Susie Reed will never forget the first week in October 2013. Up to 60 inches of snow fell in parts of eastern Wyoming and western South Dakota, surprising everyone and putting every rancher’s grazing livestock at risk. The unexpected early-season snowfall became known as Winter Storm Atlas.

According to the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, approximately 45,000 head of livestock perished in the storm. Among the losses were cattle from Reed Ranch, operated by Jason and Susie along with their daughter and son-in-law, Jerylin and Isaac Dahlman. But things could have turned out worse. Continue reading

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Disabled Americans Assist FSA to Feed Starving Children Overseas

by Scott Whittington, FSA Public Affairs Specialist

It’s no secret there are starving children around the world. Millions of people do their part to eliminate the extensive problem. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency is also doing its part.  Although perhaps best known for providing farmers with a financial safety-net, FSA also purchases food products made from American farm commodities for delivery around the world, helping to address starvation and malnutrition in foreign countries, while helping and employing disabled Americans at the same time.

The Farm Service Agency (FSA) recently contracted with Transylvania Vocational Services (TVS) to produce a cereal for starving infants and children overseas. The corn-soy blend is known as Super Cereal Plus.

TVS is staffed with 140 people with disabilities. It operates from a 60,000 square-foot processing facility and a 40,000 square-foot warehouse. The Super Cereal Plus (SCP) project employs 35 disabled individuals who since July 2014 produced more than 5,200 metric tons of SCP.

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Left:  Jacob Norman, TVS Blending Tech, mixes a batch of the Super Cereal.

Right:  Jamie Slayton, TVS line packer, shows the finished Super Cereal packaging.

“It’s humbling sitting here in Brevard, North Carolina, reaching young kids in far off places,” said Becky Alderman, TVS chief operating officer.

The cereal ships to multiple countries in Africa and Central America, but this isn’t the only food TVS produces for USDA. Since 2001, the organization has supplied 147 million pounds of Instant Nonfat Dry Milk for domestic use, and produced 16 million pounds of Bakery Mix for domestic programs since 2008.

This partnership was made possible by the non-profit organization SourceAmerica and the AbilityOne Program, a federal purchasing program established in 1938 designed to create job opportunities for people with disabilities. It is the largest single provider of jobs for people with disabilities in the United States, employing more than 50,000 people.

The USDA has recognized TVS by awarding them the “AbilityOne Contractor of the Year Award” in 2005, 2007 and 2010. One reason would be TVS has maintained a 99.5 percent on-time delivery rate, according to their web site.

“It is a great thing that we can find a match and benefit countries in need but also Americans with disabilities,” said Carlos Valdivia, export program manager for the deputy administrator for FSA Commodity Operations in an email.

Americans with disabilities face many challenges in the workforce and especially finding employment.  The Farm Service Agency, and partner programs like AbilityOne, will continue to do their part to identify work opportunities. It’s a double bonus when that work is humanitarian in nature and helps feed millions of starving children who don’t have the comfort some people take for granted.

Here is a look at the distribution of Super Cereal Plus:

Country Metric Tons
CHAD 1000
BURKINA FASO 850
NIGER 490
SOMALIA 445
BURKINA FASO 419
EL SALVADOR 365
NIGER 300
NIGER 200
HONDURAS 170
MAURITANIA 160
COTE D’IVOIRE 150
MALI 130
GAMBIA 120
BURKINA FASO 59
TANZANIA 50
GUATEMALA 40
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Ohio Farmer Continues Life-Long Drive to Improve Environment

6.6 acres of restored wetland

Gail Dunlap used the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to implement many conservation practices on her land, including restoring nearly seven acres of wetlands on one of her Ohio farms.

Since she was a teenager some 60 years ago, Gail Dunlap has played an active role in her family’s seventh generation farming operation by focusing on ways to continually improve conservation practices and establish a natural and sustainable way of life.

“Back then, we were not that many years past the Dust Bowl times and farmers in the area were doing a wonderful job of resting the soil with long rotations,” said Dunlap. “I remember even the weeds seemed to be as beautiful as wildflowers.” Continue reading

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Join the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Celebration

USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with a video demonstrating the success of the program. Over the last three decades, CRP has provided benefits to farmers, ranchers and landowners who voluntarily agreed to conserve and protect resources on their land. In turn, these efforts also benefit urban dwellers, sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts.

Please join the celebration by watching the “30 Years of Benefits” video:  www.fsa.usda.gov/CRPis30

If you’re among the social media users, Tweet to your friends with the hash tag #CRPis30 and direct them to the site. FSA is in the process of posting 30 success stories about CRP from now until the Dec. 23 anniversary.

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Texas FSA Celebrates 30 Years of Conservation Success

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The Texas Farm Service Agency celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program with partners and landowners on Nov. 30 in Amarillo.

Conservation enthusiasts across Texas joined USDA to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) on Monday, Nov. 30. The event was held in Amarillo, which is centrally located in the Texas panhandle, just north of the south plains; regions that boast heavy CRP enrollment from county to county.

The celebration kicked off the Amarillo Farm and Ranch Show produced by IDEAg Group. With the help of IDEAg Group and the National Wild Turkey Federation, USDA hosted a reception that was attended by approximately 100 landowners, conservation partners and USDA employees. Continue reading

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CRP Enrollment Period Begins with a Celebration: CRP is 30!

Photos by Lance Cheung

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) began December by accepting applications for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) 49th Enrollment Period. While a relatively quiet launch, it was significant because on Dec. 23, CRP turns 30 years old.

To draw attention to the milestone, FSA joined forces with 24 agriculture business organizations on Wednesday, Dec. 2, to celebrate the anniversary. Some of the organizations also honored farmers from around the nation who have been active CRP participants by bringing them to Washington, D.C., for the day of activities. Continue reading

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