By Brad HaireUniversity of GeorgiaCattle sometimes go to streams and rivers to drink because there is no other place they can get water. But they can pollute that water downstream. A University of Georgia expert is setting up sites near Georgia’s coast to show cattlemen how to use wind and sun to take the water to the cattle.Using solar panels and wind turbines to produce electrical power is nothing new, said Gary Hawkins, a water specialist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. But using them to power water pumps in Georgia is. They are more common in the Midwest and Western United States.“The goal of this project is to provide cattlemen who are already involved with other conservation and grazing management programs a sustainable alternative for getting their cattle the water they need,” Hawkins said.Five farms will be picked this fall to participate in the three-year project. The Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grants Program will pay for it. The project is a collaboration with the Seven Rivers and the Coastal Georgia Resource Conservation and Development, Inc. The systems will be installed and running by spring.The water pumps will be powered by a hybrid system, one that uses both wind and solar energy, said Hawkins, the project’s coordinator.Georgia isn’t considered a windy state. But the wind blows consistently along the coast during cooler months when days are shorter. The wind dies off in the summer when the days are longer. The hybrid system will use wind turbines for power in cooler months and the solar panels in summer. Both sources are enough to provide power to pump as much as 3,000 gallons a day. This is enough water to easily sustain a herd of up to 150 head of cattle.The cattlemen get the power systems free but must agree to take data and open their farms for field days so others can learn about the technology, too, he said.Traditionally, cattlemen have used electricity or diesel to fuel pumps. Diesel prices have more than doubled in the past five years to more than $2 a gallon. In some remote pastures, electricity is not available. It costs between $2.50 per foot and $3 per foot to install electrical line, depending on the location and company.But the biggest limiting factor for the hybrid system technology is the price, he said. It varies depending on the configuration needed. The systems in this project cost about $12,000. But solar panels and wind turbine prices are coming down.Hawkins will study the economic benefit of the hybrid system, too. Considering current prices for electricity and diesel, a hybrid system may pay for itself in a decade. Instructional publications will be created for other cattlemen to use to build similar systems on their farms.Hawkins setup a solar powered irrigation system on a farm in Pierce County two years ago to see if it could pump water adequately from a holding pond to a five-acre pecan orchard. It worked. The farmer was pleased, he said. Seventy people came to a field day on the farm to learn more about that system earlier this year.
While soaring healthcare costs are draining the funding pool, education is often an efficient path to avoiding expensive healthcare problems. Increasing investment in a system that addresses resulting health problems in our society without addressing the root cause of many of these problems – poor diet and lack of access to fresh food – is like building an expensive house on sandy soil. By J. Scott Angle and Linda Kirk FoxUniversity of GeorgiaData released this week shows Georgia’s obesity rate is improving, but 28 percent of the state’s citizens still weigh in as obese. Growing health problems and rising healthcare costs are straining both the physical and economic wellbeing of America. Good health often begins with good nutrition, and good nutrition begins when you put a seed in the soil.Improving our food system by investing in research to enhance nutrition, increase yield and evenly distribute fresh food would go a long way toward solving long-term, underlying health issues in America. Finding a more holistic cure to troubling health trends through prevention and nutrition is more economically and physically sustainable than slapping a Band-Aid on the problem, offering only short-term treatment of the symptoms. Americans face two glaring related problems: obesity and inadequate healthcare. Both are especially prevalent in the South. While obesity cuts across all socioeconomic sectors, poverty in the South is likely a major factor. Many low-income areas are food deserts, large areas with limited access to healthy food.If you don’t have the means to get to a market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables or the space to grow them yourself, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a healthy diet. If the only store you can walk to is long on supplies of snack foods, soda and sandwich meat, but short on whole grains, vegetables or lean cuts of meat, then your options are limited. Education is a key component to solving this health crisis. Whether educating more healthcare workers in Georgia or delivering hands-on Extension health and nutrition education to local citizens, knowledge is power in the fight for a healthy life.In a recent speech to the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Microsoft founder Bill Gates made a stark statement that struck at the heart of the problem. He said: “The rising share of both state and federal budgets committed to healthcare, broadly defined, leaves very little room for flexibility (to fund education). The mathematics are quite brutal.” Properly investing available funds in education and improved food systems can put Americans on solid footing and headed down a new road to better health. (J. Scott Angle is dean and director of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Linda Kirk Fox is dean of the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences.)
Rock Eagle 4-H Center will present Camp EcoAdventure day camp April 1-5 for first through fifth graders.Each camp day will have a theme focused on creating awareness and appreciation for the natural environment. Each day includes two snacks, activities, a craft and more. Presented by the Rock Eagle Environmental Education Program, the hands-on camp is designed so that participants can attend one day or the whole week. Weeklong campers will receive a camp t-shirt. Themes for Camp EcoAdventure are as follows:April 1 – Let’s Have an AdventureApril 2 – Inside the EarthApril 3 – Movin’ and Shakin’April 4 – Our Living WorldApril 5 – Give me Some EnergyCamp fees are $50 per day or $240 for the entire week. The registration deadline is March 22. To register, call (706) 484-2881 or e-mail email@example.com.
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and the Georgia Green Industry Association are inviting veteran nursery and greenhouse growers to “get nerdy” with them this summer at the inaugural Academy of Crop Production, June 12-15 at Hotel Indigo in Athens, Georgia.Organized for greenhouse managers, nursery growers and landscape designers who want a more in-depth educational experience, the three-day Academy of Crop Production will include 18 speakers from 14 universities. “Growers across the nation have been asking for more “high-level” education targeted at nursery managers and owners,” said Paul Thomas, an Extension horticulturist at UGA and one of the academy’s organizers. “There are lots of trade show type programs out there that target introductory-type ideas. But our content is more in-depth and technical, while maintaining that friendly and fun atmosphere that we are known for in the Southeast.”The goal of organizing the academy was to give experienced green industry professionals access to the most cutting-edge crop production research available in a non-academic and fun atmosphere.Topics will include employee management, variety trial reports, the best uses of smart irrigation and unmanned aerial vehicle technology.”It’s going to be a great time for people who love plants and plant production to talk about the challenges and opportunities facing their operations, and to learn from some of the best experts in the field,” said Matt Chappell, an Extension nursery horticulturist with UGA Extension.“It is a jam-packed program meant to focus on new products, technologies and processes that will improve profitability of participants,” Chappell said.In addition to the daytime workshop session, the academy will be punctuated by events to allow participants and their families to socialize, including an opening night gala hosted by GGIA at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, a pool party at UGA’s Legion Pool sponsored by Harrell’s Fertilizer, an evening banquet sponsored by Netafim USA and the UGA Trial Gardens Commercial Open House sponsored by Ball Horticultural.As with most UGA Extension offerings, this conference will offer five to eight credit hours of pesticide continuing education credits and three to five hours of International Society of Arboriculture regional credits (depending upon state) for Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.Registration costs $400 per participant. To register for the academy and to view the full schedule, visit http://t.uga.edu/21R.Discounted room rates for conference participants are available at the Hotel Indigo in downtown Athens. Reservations should be booked separately by calling (706) 546-0430 with hotel booking code “UGA Horticulture Commercial Agriculture.” Conference pricing is available through May 31.
A University of Georgia student’s survey of the cotton industry found that the crop, once “king” in Georgia, can compete with synthetic fibers and will continue to be economically and environmentally feasible into the future.For her master’s degree thesis, Shannon Parrish, a former graduate student at the UGA Tifton campus, set out to gauge the status of cotton production today and whether growers can improve the crop and minimize its impact on the environment. She set out to study how the Georgia cotton crop compares to the crop nationwide.“Cotton is a major commodity crop in the U.S.,” said Parrish, who studied under George Vellidis, a professor in the crop and soil sciences department in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “I don’t really ever see cotton not being grown here.”The research study was prompted by global consumer concern over cotton’s environmental sustainability, according to Don Shurley, UGA Cooperative Extension cotton economist, who also worked with Parrish on the project.“Over the past 10 years or more, we’ve lost market share in cotton to man-made fibers,” Shurley said. “Some people believe that loss in market share is, in part, due to the fact that there are consumers out there who think cotton production is not environmentally friendly.”With funding from the Georgia Cotton Commission, Parrish met with cotton producers across the state and gathered information about their management practices. She calculated data in the Field to Market Fieldprint Calculator when she had all the information for a specific cotton field.The Fieldprint Calculator assigns a sustainability rating for a specific field based on seven different metrics. Everything is based on a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 is the most sustainable, and 100 is the least sustainable. Once she had the sustainability ratings, she compared them to the national and state benchmarks that are in the calculator. Based on the results obtained from this research, Georgia cotton can be determined less resource intensive than the national benchmarks.“You consider all the elements that make up cotton farming: a producer’s land use; their energy use; their greenhouse gas emissions; if they’re irrigating; their water use; their water quality; soil conservation; soil carbon. That’s essentially what the calculator looks at,” Parrish said.The second part of her research was to fit producer management practices to the university’s cotton production budget, changing only what the producer told her they were doing in the field. For example, Parrish learned of the farmers’ pesticide sprays and fertilizer applications and changed those elements in the budget to determine if a relationship existed between profitability and the field print metric scores. She also explored the impact of tillage methods, variable costs, and fixed costs on profit.“Based on the numbers we have, I don’t feel like you could necessarily say cotton is not sustainable,” Parrish said. “Cotton is competing with synthetic fibers, so what’s to say production of synthetic fibers is 100-percent sustainable?”Cotton production in the United States has dropped in recent years. Cotton was planted on 8.56 million U.S. acres in 2015, down 22.5 percent from 2014 and the lowest level in 33 years, according to the UGA Extension 2016 Georgia Cotton Production Guide.UGA Extension also reported Georgia’s cotton acreage dropped 19 percent in 2015. Georgia cotton was worth $713.1 million in farm gate value in 2015, according to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.
Peanut researchers from the University of Georgia met with hundreds of peanut scientists from around the world earlier this week to discuss the international impact of peanut research and to recognize top researchers.With a “Peanuts Around the World” theme, the annual meeting of the American Peanut Research and Education Society was held in Auburn, Alabama, featured presentations by the UGA-housed Feed the Future Peanut Innovation Lab demonstrating the benefits of research collaboration to science, industry and agriculture in the U.S. and countries around the world.Among the team’s well-attended sessions was a two-hour symposium titled “Synergies from U.S. Global Research Partnership,” which highlighted individual projects in the lab’s portfolio and how scientists in the U.S. and African partner countries are working to harness genetic diversity in the peanut. Such diversity will help farmers in partner nations, as well as in the U.S., adapt to pest and climate challenges today and for years to come.Agricultural challenges don’t recognize geographic or political boundaries, and solutions have the potential to come from all parts of the world.For example, resistance to tomato-spotted wilt virus in the U.S. comes from peanuts bought in a market in Brazil in 1952, explained David Bertioli, a professor in the UGA Institute for Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics and principal investigator of an innovation lab project incorporating wild alleles to improve West African peanut cultivars.“When this type of transfer happens properly, everyone wins,” Bertioli said.International treaties meant to thwart bad actors and protect biological resources have limited research in unintended, negative ways by slowing the exchange of germplasm to a trickle, which hurts global food security, he said.Working to inventory and analyze the diversity of peanuts grown across Africa, a team of U.S. and African researchers are leveraging the recently sequenced peanut genome to create tools plant breeders can use to generate varieties with natural resistance to disease and other shocks.Along with David Bertioli, UGA researchers Soraya Bertioli, Josh Clevenger and Peggy Ozias-Akins work on the U.S. side of these related Peanut Innovation Lab projects, while Daniel Fonceka of Senegal, David Okello in Uganda and plant breeders from seven other countries in Africa lead the work on that continent.In recognition of the Bertiolis’ work to help improve peanut production worldwide, they were awarded the most prestigious awards of the conference, the American Peanut Council Peanut Research and Education Award.According to the American Peanut Council, the Bertiolis’ unique but related research programs have focused on the wild relatives of peanuts. They work to unravel the collection of untapped genetic traits naturally occurring in the peanut ancestors and identifying the traits for use in breeding programs around the world to solve real-world limitations to peanut production.For more than 15 years, they have worked to genetically characterize the relationships of the wild relatives of peanut with cultivated peanuts. Importantly, their work underpinned the effort to sequence the peanut genome by first focusing on the more tractable diploid, wild ancestors. Their research has led to a much deeper understanding of the relationship of the wild relatives to cultivated peanuts and our ability to move valuable traits from the wild into cultivated crops.For more information about UGA’s researchers work with peanuts, visit plantbreeding.caes.uga.edu.Communications staff from the American Peanut Council contributed to this release.
As summer slowly melts into fall, temperatures are still reaching the high 90s and many plants wilt in the afternoon sun.Plants with big leaves, such as hydrangeas and angel trumpets, are often the first to get a little droopy in the hotter part of the day. It’s very tempting to water plants that are wilted at the end of the day, but late afternoon is not the best time of day to determine whether your landscape plants need water.There are two problems with watering in the afternoon. First, water that remains on the leaves of plants throughout the evening is more likely to invite disease problems. For example, hydrangeas and roses are highly susceptible to leaf spot diseases such as Cercospora, anthracnose or black spot.Watering in the morning as the sun rises allows leaves to dry more quickly and minimizes these disease problems. It is even better to avoid wetting the leaves at all and just water the roots with a drip irrigation system. If you hand-water your plants, invest in a watering wand with a water breaker nozzle that can be used to apply water directly to the roots. Remember, don’t water the leaves.The second problem with watering in the afternoon is that people have a tendency to water plants that don’t actually need watering. Although many plants appear wilted in the afternoon, that doesn’t always mean they need water. Wilting is an adaption that many plants use to reduce water loss during the hottest part of the day. A wilted leaf has less surface area exposed to sunlight and therefore will not lose water as quickly.Plants that are wilted in the afternoon will often perk back up at night and look perfectly happy by morning. If the plants’ leaves do not appear stressed in the morning, they can probably go another day or two before needing water. In some situations, plants that are watered every afternoon may get too much water from their well-intentioned caretaker. Georgia red clay soil can hold water for several days after a good soaking rain. One inch of rain or irrigation will soak clay soil several inches deep. Established landscape plants and mature trees can extract this water and maintain their water needs without needing any additional rain or irrigation for seven to 10 days. Newly planted trees and shrubs may need supplemental water more often for the first couple of years until their roots grow deep enough to seek out water in the subsoil. Let the plants tell you when they need water. Even new trees and shrubs can go a couple of days without being watered. When you do water, soak the soil deeply to encourage deeper rooting — this will pay off in the long run as the plant acclimates to its new environment and is able to take care of itself for extended periods of time without rain.Adding a few inches of mulch around trees and shrubs will conserve soil moisture and help reduce extreme temperatures and drying of surface roots.Permanent wilt may happen if plants remain wilted even after you water them. There are certain soilborne diseases — such as Fusarium wilt, bacterial wilt, and Phytophthora — that can infect the stems or roots of plants and literally stop the flow of water. This is a common problem in vegetables like tomatoes and certain landscape plants such as rhododendrons. The plants might start out with one or two branches that wilt and then eventually the entire plant wilts. Unfortunately, there are no effective treatment options for plants infected with one of these permanent wilt diseases. Ironically, infected plants often wilt more dramatically in the early stages of the disease, especially in the afternoon. This causes people to water them more often. Excessive watering actually helps these diseases spread. To remove the fungal disease, dead or dying plants, along with the soil around the roots, should be completely removed. The spores of these diseases can survive in the soil for many years and infect the next plants you try to grow there. Sometimes, these diseases hitchhike on infected plants bought from nurseries. It’s always a good idea to inspect the roots before you buy a plant.Gently slip the plant out of the nursery pot and examine the roots all the way to the bottom. A healthy plant will have white, healthy roots throughout the soil. An unhealthy plant will often have black or brown roots on the lower third of the root ball. This could indicate the plant was overwatered at the nursery or may already be infected with a root disease.For more information on growing healthy plants and other agriculture topics, see the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension publications at extension.uga.edu/publications.
CCTA Announces Fiscal Year 2004 Ridership Increase of 8.5%Streamlining of Routes and New Ridership Initiatives Attributed to Ridership IncreaseBurlington, Vermont: The Chittenden County Transportation Authority (CCTA) has announced that Fiscal Year 2004 bus boardings are up 8.5% from the previous year, recording almost 1.8 million rides for the year. This is the highest ridership increase that CCTA has seen in more than two decades, continuing the upward trend that started two years ago. Some key ridership highlights from FY04:” University Mall/Airport is up 10.6%;” PARC Shuttle is up 24.2%;” Williston is up 28.9%;” Neighborhood Special routes are up 21.6%.Offering better public transportation to residents while still able to hold down the cost of bus services to our member communities has been a challenge for CCTA but one that we have embraced and have been successful at, says Chris Cole, General Manager of CCTA. We have successfully created public transportation linkages that benefit Vermonts economy as a whole by implementing transportation services that provide opportunities for both businesses and commuters by giving residents increased access to jobs. These bus services have been implemented without increasing the CCTA property tax assessment to our member communities, a funding source that does not support growth of our transportation system, added Cole.Many innovative projects can be attributed to the ridership increase. In FY03 and FY04, CCTA has analyzed its routes and have made route and time point modifications to increase on-time performance and efficiency. Extra passenger amenities have also been added to the CCTA system, such as new shelters, bus stop signs and schedule boxes at major stops also help residents navigate the bus system and make it easier to use. University and employee transit programs are also a factor in the increase:” CCTA and the University of Vermont have partnered up to provide free bus rides to all University of Vermont students, faculty and staff members, on all CCTA bus routes by showing bus drivers their University identification card. UVM then reimburses CCTA for the rides, making a large investment in public transportation, which helps out the community as a whole. This program, called Ride CCTA Free, reduces the number of cars that are used to commute to UVM, reduces parking demand, increases students access to the campus, aids in recruiting and retaining staff and students, and reduces the students costs of attending college, all large benefits of the University joining this program.” Through a partnership with the City of Burlington and the Campus Area Transportation Management Association (CATMA), CCTA operates public transportation shuttle services for Fletcher Allen and Vermont Red Cross employees, and students, faculty and staff from Champlain College. These high frequency shuttle routes are also available to the general public and visitors to the CATMA institutions and create a transit link from the South End of Burlington to Champlain College, the University of Vermont and Fletcher Allen Health Care.” CCTAs newest route, the LINK Express, has exceeded ridership projections in the first year of service. This commuter route runs Monday through Friday during peak commuting times and connects Montpelier to Burlington, giving Vermonters greater access to jobs and larger opportunities for employment. The success of this route has allowed CCTA to expand the LINK program in this Fiscal Year; a Middlebury to Burlington LINK will start in mid-October and a Swanton to Burlington LINK will begin operating next spring.The Chittenden County Transportation Authority operates the regions public transit buses and provides 1.8 million rides per year in the Burlington area. CCTA has a forty-seven bus fleet, which services Burlington, Essex, Shelburne, South Burlington, Williston, Winooski and a portion of Colchester. The mission of CCTA is to make efficient transportation services available to all residents of and visitors to the Chittenden County region that are safe, accessible, reliable, clean, affordable and sustainable, thereby enhancing the quality of life for all. For CCTA route and schedule information, please call (802) 864-CCTA or log onto www.cctaride.org(link is external).
12th Annual NSRA Northeast Street Rod Nationals, Sept. 23-25, Champlain Valley Exposition, Route 15, Essex Junction, Vt. More than 1,500 colorful pre-1949 street rods, trade show, vintage auto parts swap meet, arts and crafts show. Show hours Sept. 23, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sept. 24, 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sept. 25, 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Admission $12 for adults, $3 for children 6-12, under 5 is free when accompanied by an adult. For more information, 878-5545 or the Northeast Street Rod Nationals at (724) 932-3747 or visit www.nsra-usa.com(link is external).17TH ANNUAL VERMONT SHEEP AND WOOL FESTIVAL, Oct. 1-2, Champlain Valley Exposition, Route 15, Essex Junction, Vt. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Vermont’s premier fiber event, with fleece, roving, and wool yarns from area producers. Visually stunning hand dyed wools, fine fibers and specialty foods. Eighty-plus vendors including farms with livestock for sale. Demonstrations and workshops offered. Admission is$5. Call (802) 446-3325 or visit www.vermontsheep.org(link is external)CHAMPLAIN VALLEY ANTIQUES FESTIVAL, Oct. 8-9, Champlain Valley Exposition, Route 15, Essex Junction, Vt. More than 200 dealers from the Northeast will display a full range of antiques, with 40 room settings. Named a 2005 “Top 10 Vermont Fall Event” by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. Saturday, Oct. 8, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Oct 9, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults and children 12 and under free. Special preview admission beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday is $15. All exhibitors are indoors. Sponsored by the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and produced by New England Antique Shows of Lexington, Mass. For more information, www.antiquingvermont.com(link is external) or (781) 862-4039.SHRINERS BINGO, Oct. 9. Miller Expo Centre, Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Junction, Vt. Variety of games, half-and-half, money machine. Open seating, concessions. No children under 12. All proceeds benefit Mount Sinai #3 Shrine Activities. For information, call (802) 434-2055 or (802) 878-1714.NINTH ANNUAL Blue’s MODEL HORSE SHOW, Oct. 15, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Champlain Valley Exposition, Route 15, Essex Junction, Vt. Admission is free. Presented by Guy’s Farm and Yard of Williston. Scale models of horses on display, competitions and hobbyist demonstrations. Information, 878-5112 or write firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail).EVERYTHING FIT AND HEALTHY EXPO, Oct. 22, Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Junction, Vt. A daylong event for children, adults, families and senior to learn more about healthy lifestyles, nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices. Sponsored by the Champlain Initiative, United Way of Chittenden County, Vt. Dept. of Health and UVM Extension. Seminars, demonstrations and trade show. For more information, Suzie Petrie, (802) 878-5545 or Kimberley Legg at (802) 864-7541.WOKO GIANT FLEA MARKET, Oct. 23, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Champlain Valley Exposition, Essex Junction, Vt. Hundreds of tables and booths will be set up to sell collectibles, flea market and garage sale items, antiques and close-out items. Outdoor space available for motor vehicles, boats, RV’s, snowmobiles and other large items. Food concessions will be available. Tables and booths are still available for exhibitors and commercial vendors. Call Susan Petrie at (802) 878-5545 or email email@example.com(link sends e-mail) to register in advance.
Small business lenders now have access to more in-depth information and resources on U.S. Small Business Administration loan programs through the new Lender Toolkit on the agency’s recently redesigned website.The new site strengthens SBA collaboration with its lending partners, making it easier for them to identify the points of contact, loan programs and financing options that will best expand access to capital for local small businesses to help them grow and create jobs.Elements of the streamlined Lender Toolkit include useful tools like the ability to download and submit loan packages, updates on interest rates and important lending news, all at www.sba.gov/for-lenders(link is external).‘Lenders are vital partners in our efforts to help entrepreneurs and small business owners grow successful companies and create good paying jobs in their communities,’ said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills. ‘Over the last two years, we’ve worked hard to strengthen these partnerships. This new online toolkit puts more information on SBA loan programs at lenders’ fingertips and makes it easier for them to use these programs to meet the capital needs of their small business customers.’The online Lender Toolkit features:· Find a Loan Package, which allows users to select a loan type and download all the associated forms. Instruction on how to complete the loan package and standard boilerplates will help lenders prepare more accurate loan applications, increasing the probability of guarantees to worthy small businesses.· Find a Service Center enables the lender to search for servicing center contact information based on the loan processing parameters of loan type and stage. Lenders can also Find a Lender Relationship Specialist by selecting a local district office from a pull-down list.· Lender FAQs provide answers to questions about the SBA’s approach on the financing and underwriting of loans to small business owners.· Recent Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) notices, which display current versions of loan processing, servicing and liquidation documents along with a copy highlighting any updates.· Weekly Lending Report, which provides details on lending activity for SBA loan programs, along with comparisons for FY 2009, 2010 and 2011 for the period ending that week.The SBA’s commitment to transformation is reflected in the new Lender Toolkit, which is part of the redesigned SBA.gov website, which went live in December 2010. Designed to better meet the needs of small business owners and entrepreneurs, the enhanced website features SBA Direct, which allows visitors to seek information on starting or growing a business, financial assistance, and regulatory compliance based on their location, type of business, and specific needs. The project is also a flagship for the agency’s Open Government Plan, with the goal of building an online presence for SBA that is transparent, participatory and collaborative.