Biden-Harris Administration Launches New Efforts to Address the Wildfire Crisis

By USDA

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced expanded efforts to reduce wildfire risk across the western U.S. These investments, made possible through President Biden’s landmark Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), will directly protect at-risk communities and critical infrastructure across 11 additional landscapes in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

“It is no longer a matter of if a wildfire will threaten many western communities in these landscapes, it is a matter of when,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The need to invest more and to move quickly is apparent. This is a crisis and President Biden is treating it as one. Today’s announcement will bring more than $490 million to 11 key landscapes across the western United States, and will be used to restore our national forests, including the restoration of resilient old-growth forest conditions.”

The Forest Service announced their original 10 landscape project areas last year as part of the agency’s broader strategy to protect communities, critical infrastructure and forest resources from catastrophic wildfire. Combined with these initial landscape investments, the additional efforts being announced today represent a total USDA investment of $930 million across 45 million acres.

This work spans 134 of the 250 high-risk “firesheds” identified in the Wildfire Crisis Strategy and will mitigate wildfire risk to around 200 communities in the western U.S. Firesheds are areas where wildfire is likely to pose the greatest risk to communities and resources.

The landscapes for these additional investments were selected based on the potential for wildfire to affect nearby communities and buildings, with a focus on protecting underserved communities, critical infrastructure, public water sources and Tribal lands. USDA also considered more than 3,000 comments from 11 roundtable meetings held in the first half of 2022, which included partners, industry, Tribes and other stakeholders.

“We are building on the investments announced last year and by expanding the Forest Service effort to cover 21 landscapes where communities, critical infrastructure and our natural resources are most in need of protection from the growing threat of wildfires,” said USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE), Dr. Homer Wilkes. “This is part of our agency wide focus to reduce wildfire risk across the country. We will use every tool we have to address this crisis and make your communities safer.”

Secretary Vilsack is also directing the Forest Service to use and prioritize a suite of provisions authorized in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to more quickly apply targeted treatments to the high-risk firesheds identified in the Wildfire Crisis Strategy, while opening up additional opportunities to pursue science-based reforestation, restoration of old growth forests and recovery of other areas impacted by wildfire.

These treatments are required to be ecologically appropriate, maximize the retention of large trees, protect old growth, and to consider possible effects on historically underserved communities and Tribes. Treatments are also to be carried out collaboratively alongside participating communities and partners.

“Doing this work in the right place, at the right time, and at the right scale, combined with the use of emergency authorities, will accelerate our planning, consultation, contracting, hiring and project work to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest health and resilience,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “Collaboration with Tribes, communities and partners will remain a priority, and we will continue to use the best available science when carrying out this important work.”

Background: The Forest Service Wildfire Crisis Strategy

This announcement comes on the anniversary of the launch of the Forest Service’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy, which debuted Jan. 18, 2022. A few months later, the agency introduced the initial 10 fire-prone landscapes that are now funded for the next five years through Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funds. In addition, President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act will commit $1.8 billion to hazardous fuels reduction projects on national forests and grasslands.

Since releasing its Wildfire Crisis Strategy one year ago, the Forest Service and its partners have used the best available science and data to identify the highest risk landscapes for treatment projects. The Forest Service found that around 80% of the wildfire risk to communities is concentrated in less than 10% of firesheds. These targeted investments focus on firesheds of the highest risk, where projects are ready to begin or to expand.

The 10-year strategy calls for treating up to 20 million acres on national forests and grasslands and up to 30 million acres on other federal, state, Tribal, private and family lands to assure our forests are more resilient to wildfire and other effects of climate change, safer for communities, and remain key refuges for plants, fish and wildlife.

Over the past 20 years, many states have had record catastrophic wildfires, devastating communities, lives and livelihoods, and causing billions of dollars in damage. More than 10 million acres – more than twice the size of New Jersey – burned each year across the U.S. in 2020, 2017 and 2015.

The Wildfire Crisis Strategy builds on current work by leveraging congressional authorities and partnerships to support the department’s work to mitigate wildfire risk, and restores forest health over the next decade. In addition to State Forest Action Plans, the strategy also aligns with the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration ProgramTribal Forest Protection ActGood Neighbor AuthorityJoint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership and Shared Stewardship agreements.

In June 2022, USDA released the Secretary’s Memorandum on Climate Resilience and Carbon Stewardship of America’s National Forests and Grasslands. The Secretary’s memo builds on previous actions on climate change, equity, and forest resilience, and provides more specific and time-bound actions to integrate into agency programs. The Forest Service used the guidance in the Secretary’s memo to better inform the selection criteria for projects under the Wildfire Crisis Strategy, including equity, source water protection, community infrastructure and wildlife corridors. Recognizing that insects, disease, and wildfire are among the most significant threats to mature and old growth forests, in alignment with the Biden-Harris Administration, the Forest Service will be targeting hazardous fuels reduction projects to address these threats to promote the protection and restoration of mature or old-growth forests.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, promoting competition and fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

2023-01-26T08:10:26-08:00January 26th, 2023|

USDA Climate-Smart Agriculture Projects Now top $3 Billion

By Scott McFetridge, Associated Press

The federal government on Monday announced another $325 million for agricultural projects that are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The latest list of 71 recipients for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Climate-Smart Commodities program primarily involve small and underserved farmers and ranchers. The payments follow $2.8 billion awarded in September to 70 projects, mostly larger-scale efforts backed by universities, businesses and agricultural groups.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the latest round of funding at Tuskegee University, a historically Black college in Alabama, saying it’s vital that small operations benefit from the program.

“It’s important that we send a message that it’s not about the size of your operation, that you don’t only benefit from the programs like this if you’re a large-scale producer,” Vilsack told The Associated Press. “If you’re a producer that historically has not been able to participate fully and completely in programs at USDA, that this program is going to be different.”

The goal of the program is to use financial incentives to expand markets for producers who implement practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. More than 1,000 proposals have been submitted to the USDA to participate in the program.

The underserved farmers and ranchers who would benefit from the latest funding are those who are beginners, from socially disadvantaged communities, veterans and those with limited financial resources.

The projects announced Monday, with funding ranging from $250,000 to $4.9 million, include:

— $4.9 million to promote urban, mainly Black, farmers who grow and market crops in Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi and South Carolina.

— $4.9 million to help small and socially disadvantaged farmers in San Diego County, California, by improving soil health through applying compost, reducing tillage of the land and growing trees and shrubs.

— $3 million to help farmers in over 60 Texas counties adopt practices such as regenerative agriculture, which builds healthy soil that is more resistant to drought and heat.

— $4.9 million to help farmers in 10 states and on tribal land grow barley on land using regenerative practices and to pay a premium for crops from those farms.

Agriculture causes an estimated 11% of the nation’s climate-warming emissions, and President Joe Biden has set a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by half in the U.S. by 2030.

Timothy Searchinger, a senor research scholar at Princeton University’s Center for Policy Research on Energy and the Environment, said he welcomes the surge in federal spending to learn how to reduce agricultural emissions and implement practices. However, even as those ideas are tried out in dozens of spots around the country, it still will take years to study the results and replicate what works.

“There are lots of promising ideas, but they are generally not in broad use,” Searchinger said. “There are lots of good ideas about what you can do but they haven’t been proven out.”

After the climate-smart money is awarded, Vilsack said there would be a concerted effort to monitor what programs succeeded and those that struggled so the efforts could be replicated elsewhere in the U.S. and other parts of the world.

“We think this is an effort to really unify this effort on climate, not make it a divisive approach but one that unifies American agriculture and forest landowners and a concerted effort to improve income opportunities, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to store carbon, to create healthier soils and clean water,” Vilsack said.

2022-12-13T16:12:49-08:00December 13th, 2022|

USDA Farm-to-School Grant Open

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will award up to $12 million in competitive grants to eligible entities through the Farm to School Grant Program in fiscal year 2023. Each grant helps implement farm-to-school programs that increase access to local food in eligible schools, connect children with agriculture for better health, and inspire youth to consider careers in agriculture.

Grant application deadline is January 6, 2023.

Click here to learn more about how to apply.

2022-12-02T16:20:43-08:00December 2nd, 2022|

USDA Invites Ag Producers to Respond Online to the 2022 Census of Agriculture

By Jodi Halvorson, USDA

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) mailed survey codes to all known agriculture producers across the 50 states with an invitation to respond online to the 2022 Census of Agriculture at agcounts.usda.gov. The ag census is the nation’s only comprehensive and impartial agriculture data for every state, county, and territory. By completing the survey, producers across the nation can tell their story and help generate impactful opportunities that better serve them and future generations of producers.

The 2022 Census of Agriculture will be mailed in phases, with paper questionnaires following in December. Producers need only respond once, whether securely online or by mail. The online option offers timesaving features ideal for busy producers. All responses are due Feb. 6, 2023. Farm operations of all sizes, urban and rural, which produced and sold, or normally would have sold, $1,000 or more of agricultural products in 2022, are included in the ag census.

“The 2022 Census of Agriculture is a powerful voice for American agriculture. The information gathered through the ag census influences policy decisions that will have a tremendous impact on ag producers and their communities for years to come,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “I strongly encourage all farmers, no matter how large or small their operation, to promptly complete and return their ag census. This is your opportunity to share your voice, uplift the value and showcase the uniqueness of American agriculture.”

Collected in service to American agriculture since 1840 and now conducted every five years by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), the Census of Agriculture is a complete picture of American agriculture today. It highlights land use and ownership, producer characteristics, production practices, income and expenditures, among other topics.

“Our farmers and ranchers have an incredible impact on our nation and the world. I want to thank them in advance for responding to the ag census,” said NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer. “We recognize how valuable their time is, so we have made responding more convenient and modern than ever before.”

Between ag census years, NASS considers revisions to the questionnaire to document changes and emerging trends in the industry. Changes to the 2022 questionnaire include new questions about the use of precision agriculture, hemp production, hair sheep and updates to internet access questions.

Responding to the Census of Agriculture is required by law under Title 7 USC 2204(g) Public Law 105-113. The same law requires NASS to keep all information confidential, to use the data only for statistical purposes, and only publish in aggregate form to prevent disclosing the identity of any individual producer or farm operation. NASS will release the results of the ag census in early 2024.

To learn more about the Census of Agriculture, visit nass.usda.gov/AgCensus. On the website, producers and other data users can access frequently asked questions, past ag census data, special study information, and more. For highlights of these and the latest information, follow USDA NASS on twitter @usda_nass.

2022-11-23T08:55:01-08:00November 23rd, 2022|

Fresno-Area Women in Agriculture to Receive Support for Water Resilience and Farm Viability

By Teresa O’Connor, American Farmland Trust

American Farmland Trust, Sierra Resource Conservation District and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services to provide local women in agriculture with technical support

Fresno-area farmers face water management and business viability challenges like never before, but financial and technical resources are available to help growers and landowners navigate these challenges. American Farmland Trust is partnering with the Sierra Resource Conservation District and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to gather women in agriculture around these issues and feature services they can lean on at a Women for the Land Learning Circle and Resource Fair on Nov. 2 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m in Fresno.

At this womxn*-centered gathering, growers, landowners and others involved in agriculture will be able to share experiences, while agricultural resource providers will describe local services that support the viability of agriculture and agricultural communities. The event has been co-designed with input from a broad range of partners in the region to reach a diversity of communities engaged in Fresno agriculture, according to Caitlin Joseph, AFT’s Women for the Land Program and Policy Manager. As such, multilingual resources will be provided in English, Spanish, Hmong and Punjabi, as needed.

“AFT is excited to bolster the work of local RCDs, NRCS staff and others, by partnering on this free event for women producers and landowners, applying a peer-to-peer learning model we have utilized nationally to great effect,” says Joseph. “In addition to a farm tour led by Lilian Yang, one of the region’s innovative Hmong women farmers, there will be discussions on how the drought is impacting water and land use in the San Joaquin Valley, and what is still needed to support farm viability throughout these changes. Through our Women for the Land Initiative, we have found that learning in this type of environment can really drive women farmers to take action to support their operations.”

“Sierra RCD is thrilled to offer this space for women farmers to build relationships with service providers who can help them access financial and technical resources,” says Karin Roux, District Development Manager at Sierra Resource Conservation District. “We are particularly interested in the powerful ways that AFT’s peer-to-peer learning will help women hear directly from each other on the unique challenges and successes they are experiencing farming here in the Central Valley, and receive first-hand accounts of technical and financial assistance opportunities available to improve their farms’ water efficiency and resilience.”

Where:
Start at Sierra RCD Office (10637 N. Lanes Road, Fresno, CA 93730), take bus to farm visit and return to office where lunch will be provided

When: Nov. 2, 2022; 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Organizers
Caitlin Joseph, Women for the Land Program and Policy Manager, AFT
Anel Trujillo, California Outreach Specialist, AFT
Vicky Espinoza, AFT and The Nature Conservancy (discussion leader)
Alyssa Flores, Water Use, Soil Health, and Conservation Planning Support Assistant, SRCD
Karin Roux, District Development, SRCD
Veronica Martinez, Community Engagement Youth and Education Program Manager, SRCD

Register at: https://tinyurl.com/2jrdtesd.

For multilingual assistance, contact:
Karin Roux (English) – (845) 527-6590
Anel Trujillo (Español) (559) 385-1517
Deep Singh (Pajābī) (559) 909-9962
Vila Xiong (Hmong) (559) 402-0067 ext 108

*Womxn includes women, transfeminine, and non-binary people, and anyone marginalized by misogyny or impacted by women-related issues.

2022-10-21T08:21:34-07:00October 21st, 2022|

New UC Study Helps Growers Estimate Cover Crop Costs and Potential Benefits

By Pam Kan-Rice, UCANR

Cover crops offer many potential benefits – including improving soil health – but not knowing the costs can be a barrier for growers who want to try this practice. To help growers calculate costs per acre, a new study on the costs and potential benefits of adding a winter cover crop in an annual rotation has been released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC Cooperative Extension and the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Led by UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors Sarah Light and Margaret Lloyd, the cost study is modeled for a vegetable-field crop rotation planted on 60-inch beds in the lower Sacramento Valley of California. Depending on the operation, this rotation may include processing tomatoes, corn, sunflower, cotton, sorghum and dry beans, as well as other summer annual crops.

“This cost study can be used by growers who want to begin cover cropping to determine the potential costs per acre associated with this soil-health practice,” said Light, a study co-author and UC Cooperative Extension agronomy advisor for Sutter, Yuba and Colusa counties.

“Based on interviews with growers who currently cover crop on their farms, this cost study models a management scenario that is common for the Sacramento Valley. In addition, growers who want to use cover crops can gain insight as to what standard field management practices will be from planting to termination.”

At the hypothetical farm, the cover crop is seeded into dry soil using a grain drill, then dependent on rainfall for germination and growth.
“Given the frequency of drier winters, we included the cost to irrigate one out of three years,” said Lloyd.

A mix of 30% bell bean, 30% field pea, 20% vetch and 20% oats is sown in the fall. Depending on winter rainfall, soil moisture and the following cash crop, the cover crop is terminated in mid to late spring. The cover crop is flail mowed and disced to incorporate the residue into the soil.

The study includes detailed information on the potential benefits and the drawbacks of cover cropping.

Another consideration for growers is that multiple programs such as CDFA’s Healthy Soils Program, various USDA-funded programs (EQUIP, the Climate-Smart Commodities, etc.), and Seeds for Bees by Project Apis m. offer financial incentives for growers to implement conservation practices, such as cover crops.

“This study can provide growers with a baseline to estimate their own costs of using winter cover crops as a practice. This can be useful to calculate more precise estimates when applying for some of these programs and/or weigh the costs per acre with expected benefits in terms of soil health, crop insurance premium discounts or other benefits provided by the cover crops,” said Brittney Goodrich, UC Cooperative Extension agricultural and resource economics specialist and study co-author.

“Last year, the USDA’s Pandemic Cover Crop Program gave up to a $5/acre discount on crop insurance premiums for growers who planted a cover crop, and there is potential this will get extended going forward,” Goodrich said.

A list of links to resources that focus specifically on cover crops is included in the study. Five tables show the individual costs of each cultural operation from ground preparation through planting and residue incorporation.

The new study, “2022 – Estimated Costs and Potential Benefits for a Winter Cover Crop in an Annual Crop Rotation – Lower Sacramento Valley,” can be downloaded from the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at coststudies.ucdavis.edu. Sample cost of production studies for many other commodities are also available on the website.
This cost and returns study is funded by the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

For an explanation of calculations used in the study, refer to the section titled “Assumptions.” For more information, contact Don Stewart in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at destewart@ucdavis.edu, Light at selight@ucanr.edu, or Lloyd at mglloyd@ucanr.edu.

2022-10-06T08:30:49-07:00October 6th, 2022|

Mexican Fruit Fly Quarantine in Portion of San Diego County

By CDFA

A portion of San Diego County has been placed under quarantine for the Mexican fruit fly following the detection of six flies and one larva in and around the unincorporated area of Valley Center.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) are working collaboratively on this project.

The quarantine area in San Diego County measures 77 square miles, bordered on the north by Wilderness Gardens Preserve; on the south by the Lake Wohlford Park; on the west by Moosa Canyon; and on the east by Hellhole Canyon Preserve.  A link to the quarantine map may be found here: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/mexfly/regulation.html.

As part of the eradication effort, approximately 250,000 sterile males will be released per square mile per week in an area of 43 square miles around the infestation.  Sterile male flies mate with fertile wild female flies but produce no offspring.  This reduces the Mexican fruit fly population as wild flies reach the end of their natural life span with no offspring to replace them, ultimately resulting in the eradication of the pest.  In addition, properties within 200 meters of detections are being treated with an organic formulation of Spinosad, which originates from naturally-occurring bacteria, in order to remove any live fruit flies and reduce the density of the population.  Fruit will also be removed within 100 meters of properties with larval detections and/or female fly detections.

The quarantine will affect any growers, wholesalers, and retailers of host fruit in the area as well as nurseries with Mexican fruit fly host plants. Local residents and home gardeners affected by the quarantine should consume homegrown produce on-site, to include canning, freezing or juicing and should not move host items from their property.  These actions protect against the spread of the infestation to nearby regions which may affect California’s food supply and our backyard gardens and landscapes.

The Mexican fruit fly can lay its eggs in and infest more than 50 types of fruits and vegetables, severely impacting California agricultural exports and backyard gardens alike.  For more information on the pest, please see the pest profile at: www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/go/MexFly.  Residents who believe their fruits and vegetables may be infested with fruit fly larvae are encouraged to call the state’s toll-free Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.

The eradication approach used in the Valley Center area of San Diego County is the standard program used by CDFA and it is the safest and most effective and efficient response program available.

While fruit flies and other invasive species that threaten California’s crops and natural environment are sometimes detected in agricultural areas, the vast majority are found in urban and suburban communities.  The most common pathway for these invasive species to enter our state is by “hitchhiking” in fruits and vegetables brought back illegally by travelers as they return from infested regions of the world.  To help protect California’s agriculture and natural resources, CDFA urges travelers to follow the Don’t Pack a Pest program guidelines (www.dontpackapest.com).

Federal, state, and county agricultural officials work year-round, 365 days a year, to prevent, deter, detect, and eliminate the threat of invasive species and diseases that can damage or destroy our agricultural products and natural environment.  These efforts are aimed at keeping California’s natural environment and food supply plentiful, safe, and pest-free.

2022-08-24T11:30:52-07:00August 24th, 2022|

USDA Announces Plenary Speakers for 2022 Agricultural Outlook Forum

Glenda Humiston to speak on market opportunities for climate smart agriculture

By Pamela Kan-Rice, UCANR

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plenary speakers for the 2022 Agricultural Outlook Forum, themed “New Paths to Sustainability and Productivity Growth” to be held virtually Feb. 24–25, 2022.

The opening plenary session will feature a fireside chat between Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Elizabeth Economy, senior advisor to the Secretary of Commerce. Secretary Vilsack and Economy will discuss U.S.-China agricultural trade relations and prospects for the Chinese agriculture market.

The Secretary’s discussion will be followed by a panel titled “Growing Market Opportunities for Climate Smart, Sustainable Agriculture Systems,” which will bring together sector leaders to discuss how climate smart, sustainable production practices can generate both environmental and economic returns, while still meeting the needs of consumers.

Speakers at the plenary panel include:

  • David Allen, VP of Sustainability at PepsiCo Foods;
  • Glenda Humiston, Vice President, Agriculture & Natural Resources at University of California;
  • Mike McCloskey, Co-Founder and CEO of Select Milk Producers;
  • Elena Rice, Chief Scientific Officer of Genus, PLC; and
  • Emily Skor, CEO, Growth Energy

“The Outlook Forum is USDA’s largest event of the year. Being asked by Secretary Vilsack to serve on the opening plenary panel is a significant honor,” said Humiston.

Also, during the Thursday morning session, USDA Chief Economist Seth Meyer will unveil the Department’s 2022 outlook for U.S. commodity markets and trade and discuss the U.S. farm income situation.

Along with the plenary session, Forum attendees can choose from 30 sessions with more than 90 speakers. The concurrent track sessions and topics supporting this year’s theme are: climate mitigation and adaptation, supply chain resilience, commodity outlooks, frontiers in agricultural production and technology and U.S. trade and global markets.

Visit the Agricultural Outlook Forum website to register and read the program at a glance. Follow the conversation at #AgOutlook on USDA’s TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Registration to the 2022 Outlook Forum is free but required. Register at https://www.labroots.com/ms/virtual-event/usda-aof-2022.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

2022-01-27T10:59:05-08:00January 27th, 2022|

USDA Announces Additional Farm Service Agency and Rural Development State Directors

Today, President Joe Biden announced his intent to appoint eight U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regional positions, including five Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Directors and three Rural Development (RD) State Directors.

“As we work to build a better America, we need talented and experienced staff working in our state offices,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We are thrilled to welcome these dedicated individuals to USDA at such an important time in the Biden-Harris administration.”

FSA State Executive Directors oversee Farm Service Agency operations and agricultural policy implementation in the state. Each State Executive Director works with the State Committee to administer FSA programs and County office operations, develops and maintains stakeholder relationships with customers and other agencies and governments.

RD State Directors serve as the chief executive officer of Rural Development in the states and territories and are tasked with carrying out the mission of Rural Development to the benefit of everyone in rural America. In conjunction with the guidance and support of the National Office, State Directors are responsible for promoting the mission and strategic goals of Rural Development and provide key leadership to develop and support a productive, diverse, and inclusive state workforce.

Farm Service Agency: 

Blong Xiong, FSA State Executive Director for California

Most recently, Blong Xiong served as the Executive Director for the Asian Business Institute & Resource Center. Elected in 2006, he served two terms as a Council Member for the City of Fresno, where he was the first elected Hmong Council Member in the State of California and the first Asian Council Member in the City of Fresno. Xiong has also served as the Deputy Director for The Fresno Center, formerly known as the Fresno Center for New Americans. Additionally, he sat on several commissions and boards: the Asian Pacific Islander Commission, the California Volunteer Commission, the Insurance Diversity Board and the Valley Small Business Development Corp. Xiong holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Marian College of Fond du Lac, and a master’s degree in Business Administration from National University.

Matt Gellings, FSA State Executive Director for Idaho

Matt Gellings has served on Idaho’s FSA State Committee for twelve years. He has served as chairman of the Leadership Idaho Agriculture Board of Trustees, the president of the Eastern Idaho Ag Hall of Fame, and the president of the Bonneville County Grain Producers Association. A fourth-generation farmer, Gellings produces alfalfa, wheat, malt barley and potatoes at his farm in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He has also maintained a cattle operation for 26 years.

Whitney Place, FSA State Executive Director for Minnesota

Whitney Place most recently served as the Assistant Commissioner at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). She had worked for MDA since 2012 in the roles of Director of Legislative Affairs, Assistant to the Commissioner, and Project Coordinator for the Minnesota Agricultural Water Quality Certification Program. Place earned a B.S. in Applied Plant Science and an M.S. in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy from the University of Minnesota.

Heidi Secord, FSA State Executive Director for Pennsylvania

Heidi Secord has over 26 years of farming and regenerative agriculture experience as the owner of the Josie Porter Farm in northeastern Pennsylvania. She currently serves as a farmer member on the Pennsylvania State Conservation Commission, which she was appointed to by Governor Tom Wolf. Secord previously served as the State President for the Pennsylvania Farmers Union and sat on the National Farmers Union Board of Directors. She has engaged in agricultural policy committee work with multiple organizations, including PASA Sustainable Agriculture Board, Pennsylvania State Council of Farm Organizations (PSCFO), All Together Now Pennsylvania, and the Monroe County Conservation District. Earlier in her career, Secord served as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years in Mali and Lesotho. She graduated with a degree in Business Management from the University of Rhode Island.

Dr. Ronald Howell, Jr., FSA State Executive Director for Virginia

Most recently, Dr. Ronald Howell, Jr. served as the Director of Operations and Management in the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University. He previously served as the Special Assistant and Advisor for Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives to the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry in the Offices of Governors Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam. Howell received his B.S. in Agriculture Business and Economics from Virginia State University in 2009 and earned a master’s degree from Virginia Tech in Agricultural and Life Sciences in 2012. In 2021, he received his doctorate degree in P-20 Education and Community Leadership with a focus in Agriculture Education from Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky. Howell resides in Spring Grove, Virginia.

Rural Development:

Lakeisha Hood, RD State Director for Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Most recently, Lakeisha Hood served as the Director of the Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Prior to joining FDACS, she served as a legislative assistant in the Florida State Senate. A graduate of Alabama State University, Lakeisha obtained her Master of Education degree from Auburn University at Montgomery and has earned law degrees from North Carolina Central University School of Law and the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law. Lakeisha currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida and is a licensed member of the State Bar of Georgia.

Rudy Soto, RD State Director for Idaho

Born and raised in Nampa, Idaho, Rudy Soto is a member of the Shoshone Bannock Tribes of the Fort Hall Reservation and the son of a farmworker. Most recently, he worked for Western Leaders Network, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization of local and tribal elected officials across the Interior West focused on protecting public lands, water and air. Soto previously served as a legislative staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives and covered energy, environment, agriculture, education, transportation, and tribal issues as part of his portfolio. He is a proud veteran of the United States Army National Guard and received his bachelor’s degree from Portland State University.

Helen Price Johnson, RD State Director for Washington

A third-generation small business owner, Helen Price Johnson concluded three terms on the Island County Commission in 2021. She is a past president of the Washington State Association of Counties, a two-term member of the South Whidbey School Board and a former member of the Board of Directors of the Whidbey Community Foundation. In these roles, she worked statewide advocating for small towns, small businesses and rural lands

Source: USDA

2022-01-14T09:49:25-08:00January 13th, 2022|

Almond Board Schedules Market Facilitation Program Workshops

2019 Market Facilitation Program Workshops October 7 | October 11 | October 15 | October 16

USDA’s Market Facilitation Program (MFP) is continuing for the second year, providing almond growers with an opportunity to apply for direct payments to help alleviate the damage resulting from the global trade situation.

Unlike the 2018 program when payments were based on delivered pounds, the 2019 MFP program is based on bearing acreage. To learn more about the changes to the 2019 program, and how you can also apply for 2018 payments, the Almond Alliance of California and Almond Board of California are co-hosting workshops with local USDA Farm Service Agency offices.

Come learn about the program and how you can apply!

Chico, October 7, 2019 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Manzanita Place at Chico Elks Lodge #423 1705 Manzanita Avenue Chico, CA 95926 RSVP: MFP-Chico@almondboard.com 209-343-3220 Seating is limited.

Fresno, October 11, 2019 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Fresno County Farm Bureau 1274 W. Hedges Avenue, Fresno, CA 93728 RSVP: MFP-Fresno@almondboard.com 209-343-3220 Seating is limited.

Bakersfield October 15, 2019 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. UC Cooperative Extension Kern County 1031 S. Mt. Vernon Avenue, Bakersfield, CA 93307 RSVP: MFP-Bakersfield@almondboard.com 209-343-3220 Seating is limited.

Modesto, October 16, 2019 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Almond Board Of California  1150 9th Street, Modesto CA 95354 (15th floor of Double Tree Hotel) RSVP MFP-Modesto@almondboard.com  209-343-3220 Seating is limited.

For more information contact Toni Arellano at 209.343.3220; tarellano@almondboard.com

2019-09-30T21:19:46-07:00October 2nd, 2019|
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