FSA Loan Helps a New Generation of Dairy Farmers Say ‘Cheese’ in Southern Illinois

The Marcoots educate consumers about the dairy industry and the importance of agriculture. Not only do they provide tours of their milking parlor, calf barn and creamery, but also host demonstrations and other educational events at the farm.

By Lauren Moore, FSA Public Affairs Specialist

Generations of the Marcoot family have raised and milked Jersey dairy cows in southern Illinois since the mid-1800s. John Marcoot took over the operations at Marcoot Jersey Farm in 1979, starting the sixth generation of dairy farming for the family.

In 2009, John and his wife, Linda, told their four daughters that they wished to retire from the farm. They gave their daughters the option to either take over the dairy or pursue careers off the farm. Continue reading

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Farm Service Agency Deputy Administrator Launches Farm Bill Effort to Improve Forest Health, Enhance Wildlife Habitat

Brad Pfaff, FSA Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs explains to a TV crew the importance of forest health to wildlife conservation.

Submitted by Brad Pfaff, FSA Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs

The rural area around Jackson, Mississippi offers spectacular scenery.  Heavily wooded, it is a sportsman’s paradise, but like all beautiful places on Earth, some stewardship may be required at times.

Recently, I traveled there to help launch a new forest health conservation effort.  Continue reading

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USDA Support Gives Badger State Motorists more Clean Fuel Options

State, Federal and Business Officials hail the introduction of new fuel choices in the Wisconsin market.

Submitted by Brad Pfaff, Farm Service Agency Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs

It was a pleasure to join officials in my home state of Wisconsin last month to expand upon the new era of more fuel choices for motorists. Accompanied by Farm Service Agency State Executive Director Patty Edelburg, I cut a ribbon at a Milwaukee Jetz convenience store, debuting the availability of new pumps that dispense higher ethanol fuel blends to serve motorists in this area. With financial assistance from the USDA Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP), service stations in Wisconsin and 20 other states are installing these pumps that provide up to 85 percent ethanol (E-85). Continue reading

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Northern Cheyenne Woman Carries on Family Ranching Tradition

By Jennifer Perez Cole, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Farm Service Agency in Montana

Fourth-generation cattle rancher Ryhal Rowland used the FSA microloan program to expand her cow-calf operation on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana.

Fourth-generation cattle rancher Ryhal Rowland used the FSA microloan program to expand her cow-calf operation on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana.

Working cows in Muddy Creek on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana keeps Ryhal Rowland connected to the land and to her love of agriculture.

Rowland, 30, is a fourth generation cattle rancher and member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe. She was born and raised on the 444,000-acre southeastern Montana reservation that is home to the Northern Cheyenne people. Her paternal grandfather gave Rowland her first two bred cows in the fall of 2015. In the spring of 2016, Rowland received a microloan through her local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) service center to purchase a herd of Black Angus cow-calf pairs and a bull.

Her late maternal grandfather taught Rowland everything she knows about cattle production. She was the oldest granddaughter and was fortunate to work alongside her grandpa while growing up on the rural reservation. Her grandfather died two years ago.

While she’s carrying on a long family tradition in the cattle industry, Rowland brings her own style and flare to her operation. With a Bar MC brand, her cows stand out with pretty pink ear-tag identifiers. She says she appreciates the opportunity to purchase her first herd through FSA’s microloan program.

Since 2013, the microloan program, a relatively new program to FSA, has been hugely successful, providing simplified low-interest loans to agricultural producers across the United States. Microloans have helped farmers and ranchers like Rowland with operating costs, such as feed, fertilizer, tools and fencing and with capital purchases such as livestock, machinery and equipment. Earlier this year, the microloan program expanded to include farm land and building purchases, and soil and water conservation improvements.

For the past five years, Rowland has served as the Northern Cheyenne Reservation Extension Agent through the Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program. Her efforts focus on community-based youth and agricultural education and development on the reservation, which encompasses two Montana counties neighboring the Crow Reservation on the west and the Tongue River to the east. According to tribal enrollment figures, there are more than 11,200 enrolled Northern Cheyenne tribal members, of which about 5,000 reside on the reservation.

As tribal extension agent, Rowland is instrumental in assisting USDA with ongoing outreach efforts on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. This year, Rowland participated in and helped recruit producers to attend the USDA Tribal Outreach Forum in Bozeman, Montana, in March 2016 and provided key feedback to USDA at the agency’s StrikeForce Listening Session held on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in October 2016.

The StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity expanded to the state of Montana in 2016. It is a multi-agency initiative that works to better connect USDA programs and services to high poverty communities.

Community education is a line of work that Rowland says she has long admired. One of her neighbors had served as tribal extension agent, and Rowland saw firsthand how important extension and 4-H and FFA advisors are to rural communities like her own. Rowland, who graduated from Colstrip High School in 2004, attended the local tribal college, Chief Dull Knife College, after high school. She attended Montana State University (MSU) in Bozeman on a full-ride scholarship from Western Energy and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Education Relations in December 2008. After graduating, she returned to her reservation, completed an internship and worked at the tribal college before she started the position as the Reservation Extension Agent in 2011. Rowland also represents the Northern Cheyenne Tribe as the tribal delegate to the Intertribal Agriculture Council Rocky Mountain Region.

Despite low cattle prices, Rowland remains optimistic. Carrying on the family ranching tradition that her grandfather worked so hard for is in her blood and her heart.

To learn more about how USDA assists new farmers, visit www.usda.gov/newfarmers.  For more information on the FSA microloan program, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/microloans or contact your local FSA county office. To find your local FSA office, visit http://offices.usda.gov.

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CRP Offers New Opportunity for Small Livestock Operations


USDA Deputy Under Secretary Alexis Taylor (center) announced the expanded CRP Grasslands program with Maggie and Clifford Hawbaker during a tour of their Newville dairy operation.

By Lauren Moore, FSA Public Affairs Specialist

During a tour of Emerald Valley Farm in Newville, Pennsylvania, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Alexis Taylor announced that the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) has expanded the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Grasslands program to focus on small-scale livestock operations. Continue reading

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Mapping the Ag-Nation: USDA Farm Service Agency Gets Weather-Ready

wrngroupshotGIS Specialist Recognized for Serving as Weather-Ready Ambassador

Jeffrey Bloomquist is an ambassador. He’s not stationed overseas, but does his important work from his Minnesota Farm Service Agency (FSA) state office in St. Paul.  And while he helps farmers and ranchers in many ways, he is recognized particularly for aiding them in preparation against weather risks that could affect their livelihoods. Continue reading

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In Michigan, From Small Farm to Urban Table


Jim Koan of Almar Orchard in Flushing has FSA Administrator Val Dolcini pick (and sample) their Pinata variety apple.

By Savannah Halleaux, Public Affairs Specialist, Michigan Farm Service Agency

“Michigan is a real microcosm for what I see when I travel around the nation,” USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini said about the Mitten State, which boasts the second most diverse agriculture economy in the United States. Continue reading

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USDA Under Secretary Introduces E-15 Biofuel Pumps to Nebraska Motorists

Under Secretary Michael Scuse praises Nebraska business leaders for introducing E-15 biofuel pumps

Under Secretary Michael Scuse praises Nebraska business leaders for introducing E-15 biofuel pumps

(OMAHA, Neb.) – USDA Under Secretary Michael Scuse and Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts recently visited one of the first fuel pump investments made possible through the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP). Thanks to the investment, Nebraska motorists can now fill their tanks with E15, a cleaner burning fuel blend of 15 percent American Ethanol.

“The Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership is increasing access to lower cost, renewable, American-made fuels that will help reduce our country’s environmental impact and support our rural economy,” said Scuse. “The new availability of E15 gives consumers in Nebraska a cleaner option to fuel their vehicle at an affordable price.”

Last year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA would partner with 21 states through BIP to nearly double the number of fueling pumps nationwide that supply renewable fuels to American motorists. With matching commitments by state and private entities, BIP is investing a total of $210 million to strengthen the rural economy. Nebraska received nearly $2.3 million in federal funds for BIP.

In Nebraska, the Nebraska Corn Board, Nebraska Environmental Trust, individual ethanol plants and the “Prime the Pump” nonprofit organization all contributed matching funds to support the effort. Through Nebraska’s grant, 80 fuel pumps are proposed for installation across the state, with emphasis in high traffic areas, such as Lincoln, Omaha and along the Interstate 80 corridor. Kum-and-Go convenience store locations in and around the Omaha area are the first Nebraska sites to open E15 pumps as part of the program.

A typical gas pump delivers fuel with 10 percent ethanol, which limits the amount of renewable energy that consumers can purchase. BIP aims to increase the number of pumps, storage and related infrastructure that offer higher blends of ethanol, such as E15, E85, and even intermediate combination blends.

BIP is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency. USDA continues to aggressively pursue investments in renewable energy to create jobs in rural communities, drive economic growth, and help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil. To learn more about USDA investments in energy, visit www.usda.gov/energy.

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Beginning Farmer Evolves into Successful Vegetable Grower



Beginning farmer, Ivan Tellez, worked with FSA staff to overcome a language barrier and secure a direct operating loan and farm ownership loan to expand his fruit and vegetable operation. (Photo credit – Kaylyn Franks)

Young Producer Overcomes Limited English Proficiency

By Kaylyn Franks, Idaho Farm Service Agency

When some farmers talk about challenges experienced during their journey to success, they mention financial hardship or weather disasters. Once in a while, a farmer has a challenge that includes starting with a single acre of cropland and building it into a successful farm.

Ivan Tellez began working on a ranch in early 2000. After five years and as a Spanish speaker with only limited English, he moved to Nampa, Idaho, and began farming with his father. Tellez also worked for a local, fresh produce farmer with 25 years of experience. Continue reading

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With Farm Service Agency Help, Alaska Producers are Working to Meet the Demand for Local Food


FSA Administrator Val Dolcini recently traveled to Alaska where he met Ron and Marjorie Illingworth, peony growers in North Pole. Ron used a Farm Storage Facility Loan (FSFL) to purchase and install a walk-in cooler for their fresh flower operation.

Submitted by Val Dolcini, Administrator, USDA Farm Service Agency

As anyone who has visited the 49th State knows, Alaska is huge. It’s bigger than the next three largest states, Texas, California and Montana….combined! A land of extremes, Alaska’s rural communities face unique challenges: massive stretches of land that are permanently frozen (permafrost), long, dark winters, summer days where the sun never sets, 6,640 miles of coastline, majestic mountains, glaciers and rivers.  Producers are challenged by vast distances and limited transportation networks, while also threatened by coastal erosion and the effects of climate change. In this environment, a small but increasing number of producers are working to make big changes in the way local food and plant materials are grown and supplied within the state.  Continue reading

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