Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America

Photo of the Day: April 26, 2017

President Trump signs the Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America Executive Order

President Donald J. Trump signs the Executive Order Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America with Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, April 25th, 2017. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead).


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By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to ensure the informed exercise of regulatory authority that affects agriculture and rural communities, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  A reliable, safe, and affordable food, fiber, and forestry supply is critical to America’s national security, stability, and prosperity.  It is in the national interest to promote American agriculture and protect the rural communities where food, fiber, forestry, and many of our renewable fuels are cultivated.  It is further in the national interest to ensure that regulatory burdens do not unnecessarily encumber agricultural production, harm rural communities, constrain economic growth, hamper job creation, or increase the cost of food for Americans and our customers around the world.

Sec. 2.  Establishment of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity.  There is hereby established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (Task Force).  The Department of Agriculture shall provide administrative support and funding for the Task Force to the extent permitted by law and within existing appropriations.

Sec. 3.  Membership.  (a)  The Secretary of Agriculture shall serve as Chair of the Task Force, which shall also include:

(i)      the Secretary of the Treasury;

(ii)     the Secretary of Defense;

(iii)    the Attorney General;

(iv)     the Secretary of the Interior;

(v)      the Secretary of Commerce;

(vi)     the Secretary of Labor;

(vii)    the Secretary of Health and Human Services;

(viii)   the Secretary of Transportation;

(ix)     the Secretary of Energy;

(x)      the Secretary of Education;

(xi)     the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency;

(xii)    the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission;

(xiii)   the Director of the Office of Management and Budget;

(xiv)    the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy;

(xv)     the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy;

(xvi)    the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers;

(xvii)   the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy;

(xviii)  the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy;

(xix)    the Administrator of the Small Business Administration;

(xx)     the United States Trade Representative;

(xxi)    the Director of the National Science Foundation; and

(xxii)   the heads of such other executive departments, agencies, and offices as the President or the Secretary of Agriculture may, from time to time, designate.

(b)  A member of the Task Force may designate a senior level official who is a full-time officer or employee of the member’s department, agency, or office to perform the member’s functions on the Task Force.

Sec. 4.  Purpose and Functions of the Task Force.  (a)  The Task Force shall identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote in rural America agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life, including changes that:

(i)     remove barriers to economic prosperity and quality of life in rural America;

(ii)    advance the adoption of innovations and technology for agricultural production and long-term, sustainable rural development;

(iii)   strengthen and expand educational opportunities for students in rural communities, particularly in agricultural education, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics;

(iv)    empower the State, local, and tribal agencies that implement rural economic development, agricultural, and environmental programs to tailor those programs to relevant regional circumstances;

(v)     respect the unique circumstances of small businesses that serve rural communities and the unique business structures and regional diversity of farms and ranches;

(vi)    require executive departments and agencies to rely upon the best available science when reviewing or approving crop protection tools;

(vii)   ensure access to a reliable workforce and increase employment opportunities in agriculture-related and rural-focused businesses;

(viii)  promote the preservation of family farms and other agribusiness operations as they are passed from one generation to the next, including changes to the estate tax and the tax valuation of family or cooperatively held businesses;

(ix)    ensure that water users’ private property rights are not encumbered when they attempt to secure permits to operate on public lands;

(x)     improve food safety and ensure that regulations and policies implementing Federal food safety laws are based on science and account for the unique circumstances of farms and ranches;

(xi)    encourage the production, export, and use of domestically produced agricultural products;

(xii)   further the Nation’s energy security by advancing traditional and renewable energy production in the rural landscape; and

(xiii)  address hurdles associated with access to resources on public lands for the rural communities that rely on cattle grazing, timber harvests, mining, recreation, and other multiple uses.

(b)  The Task Force shall, in coordination with the Deputy Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs, provide State, local, and tribal officials — and farmers, ranchers, foresters, and other rural stakeholders — with an opportunity to suggest to the Task Force legislative, regulatory, and policy changes.

(c)  The Task Force shall coordinate its efforts with other reviews of regulations or policy, including those conducted pursuant to Executive Order 13771 of January 30, 2017 (Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs), Executive Order 13778 of February 28, 2017 (Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the “Waters of the United States” Rule), and Executive Order 13783 of March 28, 2017 (Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth).

Sec. 5.  Report.  Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Agriculture, in coordination with the other members of the Task Force, shall submit a report to the President, through the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and the Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, recommending the legislative, regulatory, or policy changes identified pursuant to section 4 of this order that the Task Force considers appropriate.  The Secretary of Agriculture shall provide a copy of the final report to each member of the Task Force.

Sec. 6.  Revocation.  Executive Order 13575 of June 9, 2011 (Establishment of the White House Rural Council), is hereby revoked.

Sec. 7.  General Provisions.  (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.


April 25, 2017.

White House Mrs. Karen Pence on Art Therapy!

Mrs. Karen Pence

As Second Lady of the United States, Karen Pence works to bring attention to issues facing children and families by shining the spotlight on the mental health profession of art therapy. Art therapy is facilitated by art therapists who use art media as a method of treatment for people experiencing developmental, medical, educational, and social or psychological impairment. Those who benefit from art therapy include individuals who have survived trauma resulting from combat, abuse, and natural disaster; people with adverse physical health conditions such as cancer, traumatic brain injury, and other health disability; and individuals with autism, dementia, depression, and other disorders.

Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, devoted 25 years in the classroom as an elementary school teacher before becoming the First Lady of Indiana on January 14, 2013 when her husband was sworn in as the 50th Governor.  As Second Lady, Mrs. Pence will continue to bring attention to children and art therapy programs.

Mrs. Pence is an artist and her specialty is watercolors of homes and historical buildings.

She was the honorary chair of the Art Therapy Initiative at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis and is a member of Riley Children’s Foundation.  She also serves as a board member for Tracy’s Kids, an art therapy program for several children’s hospitals in the Washington, D.C. area.  She has observed art therapy programs in Israel, Canada, Japan, and Germany.

Mrs. Pence also traveled throughout Indiana as the state’s official Bicentennial Ambassador. In this position, she played a key role in celebrating Indiana’s 200th birthday in 2016.

In her role as First Lady of Indiana, Mrs. Pence created the Indiana First Lady’s Charitable Foundation.  The Foundation was a 501 (c) 3, established with the purpose to encourage and support youth and families of Indiana.  The beneficiaries include individuals, schools, communities, and families, along with arts organizations.  The Foundation’s board awarded over $600,000 in grants to charities serving Hoosiers in all 92 counties.

Mrs. Pence brought awareness to many causes by supporting and participating in over 40 initiatives as First Lady of Indiana.

Mrs. Pence earned a B.S. and M.S. in Elementary Education from Butler University in Indianapolis. She is a Blue Star mom with a son in the United States Marine Corps.  Mrs. Pence and Vice President Mike Pence have been married since 1985 and are proud parents of their adult children, Michael and his wife Sarah, and daughters Charlotte and Audrey.

Growing Giant Tomatoes

Growing Giant Tomatoes

April 20, 2017
by Jerry

Meet the growers of super tomatoes: Their tomatoes are as big as cauliflowers, and their plants are stupendously tall and luxuriantly healthy. Year after year, they win contests, give away hundreds of pounds of fruit, and put the growers of ordinary tomatoes to shame. Who are these super-growers, and what miraculous methods, special seeds, and fantastic fertilizers do they use?

Although this country boasts many great tomato growers, we’ve found four whose huge plants and giant tomatoes are worthy of special note. They have some growing techniques in common, but also have discovered special techniques that gives them a certain edge in growing “the big one.” We’ve included a 10-step checklist for growing prizewinning tomatoes to help you grow your own.

Grower Know-How
In 1987, Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma, grew the world’s largest tomato ever–a whopping 7-pound, 12-ounce ‘Delicious’, listed in The Guinness Book of Records. In 1986, he grew a cherry-tomato plant that was 28 feet tall and 53 1/2 feet wide. Each year, he grows 25 to 50 plants of many varieties, selecting the best potential winners for extra attention as they grow.

He starts with his soil. “When I moved here,” he says, “the front yard was pure sand, and the back was solid clay, and gradually I’ve mixed them.” He actually rotates soil instead of crops, annually trading the topsoil layer (about 6 inches) of his tomato beds with soil from other beds one wheelbarrow’s worth at a time. If that’s not enough, he gathers leaves from the many large oak trees on his property, chops the leaves with a chipper-shredder, mixes them with horse or other manure, lets them compost for a year, and then spreads the compost on his raised beds, tilling it occasionally all winter long to bring insect pests up to the surface just before a hard freeze.

Another key to success is starting early. Although gardeners in his area near Oklahoma City (USDA Hardiness Zone 7) generally set out tomatoes around April 20th, he sets out his first transplants as early as February and is practically ready to harvest by April. Between early February and April 20, he insulates his plants in an ingenious way. Gordon rigs up a protective structure by placing a water-filled frost protector jacket inside a tomato cage, staking it to the ground with 1/2-inch dowels. Then he strings soft wire through five holes punched through the plastic walls to create a radial cradle, and on that he sets a second water jackets inside the cage. He further protects plants by wrapping them in row-cover fabric. With such dedication and ingenuity, it’s no surprise that he’s a regular winner for first ripe tomato in his region.

Once these beauties are growing, he directs his efforts to producing contest-sized fruits. He pinches off all blossoms until the stem of the plant is 1/4-inch in diameter at the base, and then prunes the flower clusters to produce only one or two fruits per cluster. Like many gardeners, Gordon grows his tomatoes in 5-foot cages of concrete-reinforcing wire, but he piles the cages three high, supports them with recycled stakes, and anchors the whole tower to a permanent trellis. Harvesting requires a 24-foot ladder!

Minnie Zaccaria, of Long Branch, New Jersey (zone 6), is one of the few women at the top of the male-dominated big-tomato-contest world. “When a woman wins,” she laughs, “people really notice!” The competitive bug bit her about 14 years ago when she entered New Jersey’s Tomato Weigh-In contest and came in sixth. The next year she was second, and for the last three years, she has grown grand-champion winners weighing close to 4 1/2 pounds each. Her winners come from a variety she developed herself, a hybrid of two ‘Beefsteak’-type heirlooms. Its name? “Big Zac,” of course.

Her growing techniques include giving special attention to each plant. Although she once grew as many as 100 tomato plants, she has cut back to 30 so she can lavish more care on each one, starti with planting in clear plastic cups to monitor root growth. She waters plants individually with a watering can and brushes off aphids with a paintbrush. She notes wryly: “A lot of people just don’t work as hard at it as I do.”

Like Gordon Graham, she believes big tomatoes start with great soil. “People call me The Bag Lady,” she says, “because I drive around until I find places where people have put out piles of chopped leaves and grass clippings, and I take them away to make leaf compost to add to my garden.” Every fall she triple-digs her 5-foot-wide raised beds as deep as 24 inches. She opens a trench, puts in a 6-inch layer of leaf compost, eggshells, manure, and other organic matter, covers it with soil, then turns the mixture with a spading fork. Next, she puts a layer of leaves on top and covers the whole bed with black plastic until spring. And she does this all herself.

To protect the fruits once they’re set, Minnie carefully ties each plant to a scrounged 7- to 8-foot metal pipe, removing all suckers below the first flower cluster. If a fruit shows promise of developing to competitive size, she gently supports its branch with an extra strip of cloth.

Ken Harper of Columbus, Ohio (zone 5), backed into tomatomania when his son decided to enter a few tomatoes in a county fair-and won a blue ribbon. “The whole family got real excited,” Ken recalls. “I’d always grown a few dozen plants, but the next year, we put out 100 plants. We got up to 500 in 1994.” He and his wife give away bushels to friends, neighbors, and co-workers and supply several local nursing homes. He has won prizes at the Ohio State Fair with flawless, 3-pound tomatoes. ‘Big Beef’ and ‘Celebrity’ have been two of his championship varieties.

For each of his plants, Ken digs a foot-deep hole and fills it halfway with compost, lots of manure, and a little 10-10-10 granular fertilizer. Each year, he digs the holes in a slightly different spot so the tomatoes are seldom planted where a previous hole was to ensure that new plants grow in nutrient-rich soil.

Romaine Breault lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota (zone 4), but that hasn’t prevented him from growing big tomatoes. His claim to fame is his success with growing them in containers. “When we moved here,” he explains, “my yard was heavily wooded, and there was almost nowhere to garden. Even when I cut down a few trees, their roots were impossible to deal with.” So when he came across a few big whiskey barrels cut in half, he bought them for planters. His container-gardening techniques yield prizewinning tomatoes weighing as much as 4 pounds. Each year, he raises only about 14 plants, experimenting with various heirloom varieties. His favorites include ‘Cherokee Purple’ and ‘Radiator Charlie’s Mortgage Lifter’.

Breault also pays fanatical attention to the soil. He fills the bottom two-thirds of his barrels with equal parts of peat, perlite, and compost. For the top third, he uses good garden soil mixed with composted manure and, unless there has been no hint of disease, each year he removes and replaces that top layer with new soil and manure. Blossom-end rot often plagues container-grown tomatoes, but Romaine has found that adding 1/4 cup of gypsum to the topsoil has eliminated the problem.

To train and support his plants, he fashions metal cages, sized to fit perfectly inside his barrels. He lets the first main side branch grow but otherwise removes every sucker (the new shoot that grows where side branches fork from the stem). He even protects the stems where they protrude from the cages by cushioning the wire with foam pipe insulation.

Lots of Loving Care
Although our tomato growers extraordinaire each have special techniques for growing large fruits, they also have many techniques in common. All start from seed because it’s the best way to get healthy, robust plants of the varieties they want as early as they want. They all transplant t seedlings into larger containers at least twice before moving them to the garden. They’re scrupulous about hardening off, setting plants deeply, and protecting new transplants. They all fertilize regularly during the growing season with a variety of liquid fertilizers, foliar feedings, and top dressings of compost or granular fertilizers.

All of these growers mulch, usually with straw or plastic, to conserve moisture and prevent splashing, which can spread disease. They also avoid overhead watering.

Problems with plant diseases or insects are few. Some of this garden vitality may be the product of luck and location–as well as soil-moving–but then, these are the kinds of growers who pick off every yellow leaf and scout diligently for infant hornworms. Their prized plants are also assured plenty of sun and space. In addition, like little garden prodigies, these tomatoes receive a high level of training and support. You won’t find any super plants sprawling on the ground.

What can other growers learn from the success of these gardeners’ Though they have an extraordinary level of dedication every step of the way, they are not specialists. Similar attentiveness would undoubtedly give any of us big, beautiful tomatoes. As for that grand-champion tomato–even Gordon Graham has yet to beat his own record!


Decluttering Tips

Let Go of These 10 Items to Jumpstart Decluttering

Note: This is a guest post from Courtney Carver of Be More with Less.

If you feel overwhelmed with stuff or struggle with letting go, start with some of the items that don’t come with major emotional attachment. Start with these 10 items.

Decluttering is usually the first step people take to simplify their lives. It is often the easiest and most effective place to begin. Removing the excess from our homes naturally encourages us to look at the more challenging, often hidden things that also complicate our lives: debt, busyness, mental clutter, just to name a few. But it often starts with physical possessions.

Decluttering teaches us how to let go and create space. Owning less helps us save time and feel lighter. And it often causes us to rediscover the joy of giving.

If you feel overwhelmed with stuff or struggle when it comes to letting go, start with some of the items that don’t come with major emotional attachment—or at least, the items without positive emotional attachment.

If you are looking for a good place to start, let go of these 10 items to jumpstart decluttering:

1. Clothes you don’t wear. Clothing is a great place to begin. Most of us have too much of it, but we still wear the same things over and over again. Donate the jeans that don’t zip. Toss the socks with holes. Remove the outdated fashion. And if you have an extra coat or hat, give it away. There are lots of people who could use it this time of year.

2. Unidentifiable items in your junk drawer. It might be too soon to jettison the entire junk drawer, but you can easily remove the items that have no name, no place, and no meaning instead of saving them just in case you remember why you put them there in the first place. If you don’t know today, you won’t know tomorrow.

3. Lotions and potions. Get all of your lotions, potions, makeup, shampoo, and other products into one place. Put the things you use every day back where they belong. Toss the rest.

4. Lonely items. If it can’t be used without a match, and the match is long gone, it’s time to let go. Think cassette tapes without a cassette player, Tupperware tops without containers, and lone socks.

5. Kid stuff. Instead of shaming your kids into decluttering, make it fun for them. Announce a prize for every 10 things they can collect for donation. The prize can be a family activity or your child’s favorite meal. If you have more than one child, offer a bonus if everyone hits their goal to encourage them to work together.

6. Stale food. Set a timer for 15 minutes and go through your pantry, freezer, or refrigerator. Dump anything out of date, or opened and stale. If you find things that are good but you’ll never eat, bag it up and drop it at a homeless shelter or church.

7. Extra dishes. If you have two sets of dishware, silverware, or glassware, one can go. If you love your good dishes, use those everyday. If they are stuck in a box somewhere and you never use them, give them to someone who will.

8. Other people’s stuff. If your home has become a storage facility for friends and family, make a few phone calls. Be kind, give notice, and politely ask them to remove their stuff or offer to help if they aren’t interested.

9. Things that bring you down. Sentimental items are usually saved for later on in the decluttering process, but letting go of things that remind you of people, places, and events that have hurt you in the past will make room for more joyful memories.

10. The guilt. This might not fall in the “easy” category, but if you let it go now, it will make the rest of the journey more meaningful. You paid enough already with time, money, and attention. Guilt is the worst payment of all. With guilt, you continue to pay with emotion, by holding onto the past and by punishing yourself for old habits. Say goodbye to guilt.

Letting go of these items will lighten things up and encourage more decluttering, more simplicity, and more freedom. Once they are gone, celebrate your progress and dig back in.

A simple life is waiting.


Driverless Cars

Uber Driverless Cars

For now there are safety drivers.

Uber has lost another top executive.

Sherif Marakby, who worked in the company’s self-driving car division, is leaving after just a year on the job.

Uber confirmed the departure of the former Ford (F) executive, and released a statement on his behalf:

“Self-driving is one of the most interesting challenges I’ve worked on in my career, and I’m grateful to have contributed,” said Marakby.

Marakby, who joined Uber last April, is the latest in a string of high-profile execs to leave the scandal-plagued firm.

Rachel Whetstone, one of the company’s longest-serving senior female executives, left earlier this month. She led its policy and communications teams.

Jeff Jones, the second in command to CEO Travis Kalanick, quit his job in March because of concerns over the firm’s management culture.

Other major departures include the head of Uber’s maps business, the head of growth and product and the firm’s top engineer.

Related: Uber lost $2.8 billion last year

Uber has been hit with a series of scandals in the past few months. The company has launched an “urgent” investigation in response to a former employee who made public allegations of sexism and harassment.

In February, Kalanick admitted that he had to “grow up” after a video surfaced showing him arguing with his Uber driver. He admitted to treating the driver “disrespectfully.”

Kalanick had already taken heat from customers for his decision to serve on President Trump’s business advisory council. He later dropped out.

Related: Uber investors blast company culture

The division that Marakby worked on has also run into trouble: Google’s (GOOGL, Tech30) self-driving car project Waymo recently slapped Uber with a lawsuit and accused it of stealing trade secrets and intellectual property.

Marakby helped manage Uber’s relationships with automakers including Volvo. Uber noted his contribution in a statement:

“Sherif’s deep experience and knowledge of the automotive industry have helped us tremendously in working to make self-driving cars a reality,” it said.

Golf Balls in Hash Browns

Food Recall

How did golf balls get into hash browns.  Wait.  I don’t want to know.
Something is wrong if this happens.  Let’s have a connection to our food so we are not eating golf balls of all things.

Frozen hash brown recall due to possible ‘extraneous golf ball materials’