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March 2018

Agricultural Youth Opportunities: A Journey to Future Career Success

From ages nine to 99, the opportunities available in agriculture are endless – and ageless.

As student leaders of the National FFA Organization, there are few people who know that better than our fellow 650,000+ members and us. In a few years, we’ll fill some of the most challenging and critically important jobs that keep America fed, fueled, clothed and competitive.

A Wood Product Stronger than Steel that Could Change the World

Measuring one million times less than the width of a human hair, graphene is harder than diamonds and 200 times stronger than steel. Small, strong, and flexible, it is the most conductive material on earth and has the potential to charge a cell phone in just five seconds or to upload a terabit of data in one. It can be used to filter salt from water, develop bullet-stopping body armor, and create biomicrorobots.

Farm Community Effort Leads to Improved Drinking Water for Thousands

All communities depend on clean water and that supply of clean water depends on the actions of members in the community and outside of it. The small city of Kutztown lies within the Saucony Creek watershed in Berks County, Pennsylvania. The watershed is mostly agricultural, dotted with small family crop and livestock farms, and the activities on these farms affect water supplies near and far. Saucony Creek itself feeds into Lake Ontelaunee, the water supply for Reading, Pennsylvania. Kutztown gets its water from wells that, because of the soils and geology of the area, are strongly affected by activities on the surrounding landscape.

A Proud History of U.S. Hops Creates Diversity in Ag, and Great Beers

Our third U.S. President and well-known home brewer, Thomas Jefferson would be proud. In 2017, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) reported that hop production totaled a record high 104 million pounds out of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Brewers of all sizes use this crop – worth $618 million in 2017 – as a flavorful ingredient and stabilizing agent in one of America’s favorite beverages: beer! With hop varietal names like Zeus, Cascade, and Eureka this powerful little flower has had brewers developing new flavors for years.

Disaster Recovery: USDA Answering the Call

In early December, I gathered with a group of neighbors in a Puerto Rican community to watch work begin on a USDA project to protect a nearby bridge. Minute-by-minute, the sound of rumbling equipment grew louder as the excavators emerged from behind houses, rolled along the debris-covered horizon and worked along the river’s edge. I was glad to be able to see first-hand USDA’s disaster recovery work after Hurricane Maria, including this emergency watershed protection project to aid a southern Puerto Rico community.

Healthy Changes in the Child and Adult Care Food Program

USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) works to combat hunger by bringing nutritious and wholesome foods to tables for children in child care centers, homes, and afterschool programs as well as adults in day care. More than 4.2 million children and 130,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks each day through CACFP. As an added benefit, these meals and snacks often reflect regional and local food preferences.

The Dollars and Cents of Soil Health: A Farmer’s Perspective

Last year, the United States lost 2 million acres of land in active crop production. As the global population grows towards a projected 9.8 billion people by 2050, so too does demand for the food, fuel and fiber grown in America. The result? American farmers are looking for sustainable ways to produce high yields year after year.

Building High-Quality, Employer-Driven SNAP E&T Programs

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of welcoming 39 people from all across the U.S. and a variety of different sectors to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) Learning Academy. These devoted leaders have committed eight months to becoming experts in SNAP E&T so they can share what they’ve learned with their networks back home and ultimately build successful E&T programs that help individuals find – and keep – gainful employment.