USDA Programs Help Promote a Healthful Life

Healthful food starts with healthful soil, healthful water and healthful air. The United States Department of Agriculture is more than the “USDA Choice” label you see on the meat you purchase. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) is a technical agency of the USDA that promotes conservation and sustainability of the resources our lives depend on: land, water and air.  The agency provides technical and financial assistance at the county level, so they are close to you. Look for their number under U.S. government offices in the phone book or go to their webpage (pa.nrcs.usda.gov), click on the “contact us” tab and select Local Service Centers. They can assist you in improving the health of your soil with irrigation systems, fences and watering systems for livestock, conversion to organic and much more.

According to Noel Soto, NRCS conservationist, “The USDA has programs that can help people that are starting to farm or that have been farming for a while. The production site could be of any size and the value of the farming goods as low as $1,000 per year. You could have a small plot of jalapeños or cilantro, some mushrooms or even a few goats. We also have programs for wildlife and woodlands for individuals that have land but don’t farm it. Typically Hispanic farmers and other minorities don’t participate in the financial and technical assistance programs the USDA offers because they don’t know the programs are there. Examples of the assistance that we provide are: microloans (small loans) for farming, grants for energy efficiency and marketing value added agricultural products, incentives for the installation of high tunnels to extend the growing season and programs that help families purchase their own homes.”

Rent land, own or manage a farm or own land with trees?

If you farm on rented land, are the owner or manager of a farm or own land that has grass or trees and want to learn more about the USDA programs, contact Noel Soto by email at noel.soto@pa.usda.gov, o

For high tunnels and general information, contact numbers above. r by phone at (717) 237-2173 or (866) 232-0690.  Soto works at the USDA-NRCS in Pa. All information provided is confidential, and the programs are voluntary and free of charge.

For microloans and other agricultural loans, contact Ray Sheaffer at (717) 237-2136.

For low-interest housing loans, energy efficiency and value added marketing grants, Alexandra Batista at (610) 791-9810, ext. 109.

The National Institute of Rural and Minority Health (NIRMH) is a non-government organization created to promote the well-being of individuals and their families. Since conservation of the natural resources promotes a healthful lifestyle, NIRMH is working in partnership with the USDA to increase awareness and knowledge about these farming-related programs. For more information about NIRHM, please contact Mauricio Conde at (717) 608-9585. Mauricio habla Español.

Please buy locally grown products, and protect our resources for a healthful life. Contact Noel and Mauricio for more information about these highlighted programs. Take good care of yourself. Send your health questions to ¡Hola, Oralia! at dr.oralia@gmail.com. Together we can help keep Pennsylvania residents healthy. ¡Salud!

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