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2014: A Year of Action, Partnership, and Innovation at USDA

Summary: 
2014 has been a tremendous year for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the rural families and communities we serve.

Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's blog. See the original post here.

This has been a tremendous year for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the rural families and communities we serve.

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden recently shared a reflection on her most inspirational moments this year. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished at USDA over the course of this year, and I thought I’d take a moment to share just a few of our top accomplishments.


1. We led what was widely called "the most successful Farm Bill implementation."

Farm bill graphic

Farm bill graphic. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

After the passage of the Farm Bill early this year, USDA pressed ahead at full speed to implement its programs and provisions, which have benefited America's farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. You can track our progress at www.usda.gov/farmbill.

2. We helped 146,000 rural Americans become first-time home buyers.

Family stands in front of their new home due to USDA's Rural Development (RD) home ownership program

A family stands in front of their new home due to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Rural Development (RD) home ownership program. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

USDA has helped thousands of rural Americans achieve the dream of home ownership, and helped countless more make critical repairs and upgrades to their homes. Learn more at www.rurdev.usda.gov.

3. We achieved a record $152.5 billion in farm and ranch exports that supported 1 million jobs here at home.

A ship is unloaded at a U.S. port

A ship is unloaded at a U.S. port. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

America’s farmers and ranchers achieved record exports yet again this year, supported by Administration programs focused on opening markets abroad and connecting potential exporters here at home with the resources they need to get into the business of exporting. This year, we also launched the Made in Rural America initiative, an effort to help rural businesses export non-farm products made in rural communities.

4. We launched new initiatives that take public-private partnership to the next level in rural America.

A farmer shakes hands with a USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employee

A farmer shakes hands with a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employee. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Over the course of 2014, USDA launched several new initiatives, including the $10 billion Rural Infrastructure Opportunity fund, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and the $150 million Rural Business Investment Company, that leverage funding from private sector investors to build on USDA’s own investments in conservation, infrastructure, and small businesses, and expand opportunity in rural communities. Learn more at www.usda.gov/opportunity.

5. We served more than 187 million summer meals to low-income kids, an increase of more than 14 percent since 2009.

A girl at lunch provided through assistance from the USDA Food Nutrition Service (FNS)

A smiling girl with orange glasses at lunch provided through assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Nutrition Service (FNS). (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

During the summer months, USDA’s summer meals help make sure that kids get the nutrition they need even when school is not in session. With strong support from local partners, we’ve reached a record number of kids and ensured that they begin the next school year healthy and ready to learn. Learn more at www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp.

6. We filed 109 patent applications for innovative products and techniques developed by USDA researchers.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack looks into a microscope

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack looks into a microscope. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Groundbreaking research conducted by USDA scientists ends up on your plate, in your home, and as the clothes on your back. Their discoveries in the lab translate into science you can see. And thanks to the new Farm Bill, USDA was able to establish the new Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research, which will leverage public and private resources to further boost agricultural research. For more stories on how USDA research impacts your everyday life, visit blogs.usda.gov/category/science.


The list above is just a small snapshot -- after all, it’s hard to choose just a few success stories from a year where we moved more than $4.3 billion in critical disaster assistance to thousands of producers; answered nearly 1.3 million questions to help consumers stay food safe; made 340 investments in local food infrastructure and launched a series of new web directories designed to connect consumers with farmers markets, on-farm markets, CSAs and food hubs; provided more than 3,500 microloans to help beginning and veteran farmers grow their businesses; and lessened the threat of wildfires to communities by treating 1.7 million acres of forest land. This has truly been a year of action, partnership, and innovation at USDA, and I know that, as we look ahead to 2015, USDA will continue to focus on making a positive impact in rural communities.


See more from 2014: