Making USDA Work Better for You
#USDAResults Chapter 12
“When I launched Blueprint, I asked the workforce of USDA to step up as they always have, and as they always will. True to form, their endless creativity, innovation and dedication to the American people has not only allowed us to cut costs and save taxpayer dollars, but also to strengthen our service and modernize our operations for the people we serve.
It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve the good people of the United States as Agriculture Secretary and to have been entrusted with the incredible privilege of leading the best federal workforce there is. Thank you.”
In 2012, USDA launched a modernization effort modeled on the driving ability of farmers to enhance their capacity through modernization and build their resilience with limited means. USDA’s Blueprint for Stronger Service mirrored the incredible ingenuity of the American farmer by challenging our team to use creativity and innovation to find ways to do a better job with the resources we had available. This effort brought us to look for ways to proactively improve and modernize the way we do business while avoiding unnecessary layoffs and disruption in the services that millions of Americans rely on.
Trough these efforts combined, we are proud to have saved taxpayers $1.6 billion in recent years. And despite these streamlined services, USDA has remained steadfast to both our customers and our employees. In fact, last week, USDA broke into the top 10 best places to work.Blueprint’s strategy puts trust where it belongs, in the hardworking knowledgeable employees of USDA, unlocking creativity of the federal work force to bring forward stronger and more comprehensive solutions to the challenges facing our department. We invite you to catch up on the final Chapter of our USDA Results project on our Medium site and follow along on the USDA blog and by using #USDAResults.
Throughout the month we’ll show that by putting trust in the hardworking knowledgeable employees of USDA, we have unlocked creativity of the federal work force to bring forward stronger and more comprehensive solutions to the challenges facing our department, and saved taxpayers $1.6 billion.
Over the past eight years, USDA has worked to become a model employer by making it a priority to improve in areas such as communication, teamwork, diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, and employee training and development.
The American public doesn’t have to sneak a peek at the Christmas present the U.S. Forest Service has given them this year because it’s on full display just below the U.S. Capitol dome on the building’s West Lawn.
Last year during the International Year of Soils (IYS), Amy Overstreet, had the incredible opportunity to help the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) spread the word about the many life-giving functions of soil.
American agriculture today is a complex web of producers, processors, and marketers all working to produce a safe and nutritious food supply and serve the needs and wants of consumers here in the U.S. and all across the world.
The retirement of the baby boom generation of business proprietors is predicted to result in a major turnover in ownership. Rural Development’s Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program now has new capabilities as of this August that specifically accommodate the needs of financing ownership succession.
Watch a special tribute to Secretary Vilsack from President Obama.
USDA Breaks into the Top 10 Best Places to Work
I would like to congratulate all who work at USDA for the incredible improvement in our ranking in the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government. In 2016, for the first time, we have moved into the Top 10 Best Places to Work among large Federal agencies.
Common Past, Common Future: USDA & Gallaudet Create Opportunities for Students
I often wonder if the leaders who came before us recognized the pivotal things they set in motion, the far-reaching impact their actions would have, and how they helped shape America into a land of opportunity. President Lincoln’s legacy and impact is well-known and obvious, but he did so much more than lead this country during its most trying time.
USDA Child Nutrition Program to Dietetics Interns: We Need to Talk!
USDA and the Academy are making it easier than ever to find the Child Nutrition Program rotation that’s right for you. We’ve created a toolkit of resources to help state agencies get ready to host and to help you get ready for your rotation.
Philly Market Rises Up to Meet Hunger Challenge
Did you know that nearly one-third of the food available to U.S. retailers and consumers never makes it to the dining room table? That’s 133 billion pounds of food going to waste–all of which has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation, and climate change. Experts have projected that reducing food waste by just 15 percent would provide the equivalent of enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year.
Agriculture Gets an Aerodynamic Boost
Hitting your target—and only your target—is a top priority when spraying pesticides from an airplane. And the use of a small object could be a big help in making sure that happens. That’s the focus of the research being conducted by Daniel Martin, an engineer with Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Aerial Application Technology Research Unit in College Station, Texas. Martin has shown that attaching dime-sized metal clips to airplane wings—a technology known as “vortex generators”—can reduce pesticide drift.
A Tale of a Fish from Two Countries
How can fish in a grocery store be labeled as both “Alaskan” and “Product of China” on the same package? The answer is that although much of the seafood sold in the United States is labeled with a foreign country of origin, some of that same seafood was actually caught in U.S. waters.
Actuality: Vilsack Lists Administration Opioid Addiction Focus Points
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack telling a Washington, D.C. meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures about the three main things the Administration has been doing in the battle against opioid misuse and addiction.
States To Get More Resources to Prevent and Treat Drug Addiction
Next year states across the country will get more resources to prevent and treat drug addiction. (Gary Crawford and Secretary Tom Vilsack)
Actuality: The Borlaug Medallion
World Food Prize Ambassador Kenneth Quinn explains the purpose of the Normal Borlaug Medallion, awarded Wednesday to both USDA and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
USDA, Vilsack, Receive Norman Borlaug Medallion
The Agriculture Department, and its Secretary, was awarded one of the World Food Prize’s highest honors in ceremonies Wednesday. (Rod Bain. World Food Prize Ambassador Kenneth Quinn. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack)
Secretary Of Ag Vilsack Shares His Top Five Accomplishments (Agriculture.com)
I’ve had the privilege of serving as secretary of agriculture for nearly eight years. Since arriving in January 2009, our team at USDA has overseen the greatest eight-year period for farm incomes, exports, and overall agricultural productivity in our nation’s history. Much of this success is due to the hard work and innovation of those working, living, and raising their families in rural America.
Vilsack Reflects on 8-Year Highs, Lows, Moving Forward (Ag Web)
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has less than 7 weeks in office until his successor takes his place, but that doesn’t mean he’s kicked up his feet and put the rest of his work on hold. He’s taking his final days to talk with state legislators about issues like the farm economy, dairy challenges, and GMO labeling. Sec. Vilsack has also taken the time to write his replacement a 24-page note and is reflecting on his last 8-years holding the highest position in agriculture. “It’s been a tremendous experience,” said Vilsack Tuesday on AgriTalk. “[You’re] going to have periods of times when things are good and when things are tougher.
USDA Issues New Rules Aimed at Protecting Farmers (Wall Street Journal)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture set new rules to protect farmers from anticompetitive business practices, ending a six-year battle between livestock and poultry producers and meatpacking companies that buy their products. Under one rule issued Wednesday, farmers can ask the USDA to intervene when they believe meatpackers have underpaid or treated them unfairly. Previously, farmers had to prove a meatpacker’s tactics hurt the entire market. Two more rules the USDA proposed would protect farmers from retaliation for speaking out against deceptive terms or inadequate pay and would define such unfair practices more clearly.
New Opioid Treatment Bill Would Help Rural Communities (WNIJ Public Radio)
Tom Vilsack knows the life-altering effects of addiction. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary watched his mother battle drugs and alcohol and nearly die. “She got introduced into this as a result of a surgery she had when I was a young boy,” Vilsack says, “and that turned her on to pain medications.” Vilsack’s mom spent the next five years in and out of hospitals, attempting suicide, quitting and using again.
World Food Prize Recognizes USDA, Vilsack (Iowa Public Radio)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is being recognized for encouraging young people to choose careers that will help farmers combat climate change and feed more people. Since 2011, USDA has partnered with the Des Moines-based World Food Prize to offer fellowships in Washington, D.C. for agriculture students. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former Iowa Democratic governor, returned to Des Moines to accept the World Food Prize Medallion on behalf of his department. He spoke directly to students in the audience about the legacy of Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Peace Prize-winner who founded the World Food Prize.
Vilsack: Outlook of overall farm economy strong (Wisconsin State Farmer)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that despite challenging markets, the recently released Farm Income and Financial Forecasts for 2016 continues to show that the health of the overall farm economy is strong. After reaching record highs in 2012-2014, net farm income declined in 2015 and is forecast to decline in 2016, but the bigger picture shows that farm income over the last five-year period reflects the highest average five-year period on record.
USDA grants $20.2 million for food and forestry research and development projects (High Plains Journal)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that USDA will grant $20.2 million to help 34 small businesses move forward with innovative research and development projects to benefit food security, natural resources conservation and other agricultural issues. These competitive grants are made through the Small Business Innovation Research program, which is coordinated by the Small Business Administration and administered by 11 federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
USDA Invests $33 Million to Improve Water Quality in High-Priority Watersheds (Hoosier Ag Today)
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an investment of more than $33 million in 197 high-priority watersheds across the country. The funding is aimed at helping landowners improve water quality through the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s National Water Quality Initiative. USDA says the program helps farmers and ranchers implement voluntary conservation practices to protect and improve water quality. Conservation practices enhance agricultural productivity and profitability, while also improving water quality by enhancing soil health and optimizing the use of agricultural inputs, according to USDA.
USDA announces new conservation opportunities (AgriPulse)
USDA is offering farmers and ranchers new opportunities to participate in the Conservation Reserve Program, including new techniques to protect water quality and adding 1.1 million acres to a number of key CRP practices. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the new initiatives today in an address to the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation at the group’s annual meeting in Des Moines. Later he accepted an honor on behalf of USDA from the World Food Prize.
USDA Announces New Conservation Opportunities to Improve Water Quality and Restore Wildlife Habitat (Silver City Sun News)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will offer farmers and ranchers more opportunities to participate in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The announcement includes new CRP practices to protect water quality and adds an additional 1.1 million acres targeted to benefit wildlife, pollinators and wetlands. “The Conservation Reserve Program is an extremely popular voluntary program that offers producers and landowners a wide variety of opportunities to prevent erosion, protect wildlife habitat and reduce nutrient runoff,” said Vilsack.
Senate Passes Sweeping 21st Century Cures Act Funding Medicine (NBC News)
It includes $500 million a year to help states prevent opioid misuse and get better treatment for addicts. “These additional resources are particularly critical in rural areas, where rates of opioid misuse and overdose are high, access to treatment is limited, and patients who seek treatment are often met with waitlists that can mean the difference between life and death,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.Sec. Vilsack: Continue to promote US products to China (CNBC – VIDEO)
Tom Vilsack, Agriculture secretary, offers his thoughts to Iowa Gov. Terry Brandstad about trade relations with China.
USDA changes SNAP retailer rule (Feed Stuffs)
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced final changes to increase access to healthy food choices for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (cSNAP). The provisions in this rule require SNAP authorized retail establishments to offer a larger inventory and variety of healthy food options. “This final rule balances the need to improve the healthy staple foods available for purchase at participating stores while maintaining food access for SNAP recipients in underserved rural and urban areas,” Vilsack said. “We received many helpful comments on the proposed rule and have modified the final rule in important ways to ensure that these dual goals are met. I am confident that this rule will ensure the retailers that participate in SNAP offer a variety of healthy foods for purchase and that SNAP recipients will continue to have access to the stores they need to be able to purchase food.”