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August 2011

A Big Thing in a Little Township

Lee Township is a small community tucked into Michigan’s southwest corner in the rural area between Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lake Michigan.

On Tuesday, Aug. 16, the township officially broke ground on a new fire station – though construction work has already begun.  The project was made possible by a $400,000 loan and $50,000 grant from Rural Development funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Total project cost is $1,068,500 with Lee Township contributing $618,500.

Township Supervisor Steve Miller presided at the brief ceremony which included state Rep. Bob Genetski, and remarked that it was the biggest thing to happen in the township.

Students Monitor Urban Wood for Knowledge and Experience

District of Columbia science classes help in an enhanced pest detection program.

The Challenge –
Non-native wood-boring insects and pathogens that infest and kill trees pose a serious threat to our nation's forests.

But monitoring trees to look for emerging insects is time-consuming and resource intensive.  Exotic pests are frequently first introduced in the country’s urban areas where they go undetected until they are well established and have damaged host trees.  Enhanced survey and detection methods are needed to identify new introductions of invasive insects and diseases.

USDA Administrator Jonathan Adelstein Joins Tour of Rural Alaska Village Grant project sites

In what was some of the most beautiful weather Southwest Alaska had seen recently, USDA Administrator Jonathan Adelstein joined the USDA-Rural Development Alaska team to tour several rural communities including Manokotak, New Stuyahok, Kasigluk and Kwigillingok and Pitkas Point.  The site tours were part of viewing Rural Alaska Village Grant (RAVG) program projects USDA helped fund over the past few years.

Sidebar – What’s it like to do research in the Brazilian Rain Forest?

I have lived and worked abroad for most of my adult life, including many years in Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, so it was not too difficult adjusting to life in the Brazilian Amazon. I learned to speak Portuguese in the field; my tutors were the field assistants that I hired locally. The politics of doing research on this species are challenging and complicated. That side of my research has been almost as educational and fascinating as the actual fieldwork.

The Future of Mahogany

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The very name mahogany is synonymous with luxury and sophistication. This beautiful wood has been traded internationally since the Spanish discovered natural forests around 1500 during colonization of Mexico and Central America. Mahogany is more than a pretty plank – its strength, light weight, resistance to rot, and structural stability made it an ideal timber for ocean-going vessels as well as furniture. Mahogany also occupies an important position in the ecosystem insofar as it is a large tree that emerges above the forest canopy. Many other species depend on it for habitat and survival.

A Day in the Life of a USDA Photographer

A day in the life of a U.S. Department of Agriculture photojournalist is never the same. This one was no exception.

It started out testing a new memory card that transmits photos from a digital camera to our Flickr social media gallery ( and click the Flickr link).  After making the card work in the office , a field test was in order.

USDA Science Lab Buzzing With “Sweet” Results

In an intense around-the-clock operation, more than 60,000 worker bees have churned out 30 pounds of raw honey from a USDA laboratory in Gastonia, N.C.

The People’s Garden Initiative beehives are managed by the staff of National Science Laboratory (NSL), a part of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). To support the 2011 Feds Feed Families initiative the team has donated all of the honey to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, which encompasses the Charlotte, N.C., metropolitan area.

The honey is a product of local poplar and Tupelo trees. In a process known as centrifuge extraction, the sweet nectar was spun from honeycomb and then poured into 1-pound bottles and labeled as shown below.

USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program Finances 1st Flex Fuel Pump in Minnesota’s McLeod County

The line of cars stretched out of the parking lot and onto the street at the Glencoe Co-op Association on a recent warm afternoon in August. With financing from the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the co-op recently installed the first flex fuel pump in McLeod County, and several  flex fuel vehicle owners in the area wanted to be among the first to fill up.

“We’re glad to help stimulate the economy and support clean air and agriculture. That’s what the co-op is all about,” said Dale Heglund, Co-op Director.

Rural Champion Helps Tribal Farmers with Development and Land Management

Cross posted from the White House Rural Champions of Change website:

Ross Racine is the Executive Director of Intertribal Agriculture Council. He assumed those duties in January 2001. He served as the IAC Natural Resources Director beginning in 1991, and as the IAC Director of Programs since 1999.

What's Hot about COOL?

Whether shoppers stroll through a grocery store or visit a local farmer’s market, they often wonder where meat or produce comes from.

The Country of Origin Labeling program, or COOL, began as an amendment by Congress to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bill. However, COOL did not officially take effect until March 2009. This regulation requires retailers, such as grocery stores, supermarkets, and club stores, to provide accurate country of origin information on all covered commodities, including muscle cuts and ground beef (including veal); pork, lamb, goat, and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fruits and vegetables; peanut, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng.