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December 2011

Social Media Moment Number One: Redesigning USDA

If you've been following our favorite Social Media Moments of 2011, you can see we had a lot to choose from. Top on our list isn't necessarily a social media moment, but is an important moment in our focus on providing better service through web communication. The redesign of in April 2011 was only the beginning of changes we're making with our web program - USDA agencies are working to redesign their websites in 2012 for a consistent user experience and we consolidated many websites to streamline access to information, making it easier to find information that's important to you.

We chose this launch because it is a shining example of the platform that we at USDA are working to build and maintain that is relevant and responsive to your needs. This redesign was a collaborative effort with our agencies and based on insights and feedback of our users. Your feedback is important to us, and we want you to be sure that your voice is always heard.

Secretary's Column: A New Year For Agriculture

As we enjoy the holiday season, it is a great time to celebrate all that American agriculture has accomplished, and to look ahead to a productive new year.

Our farmers, ranchers and growers make incredible contributions each day to the health and strength of this country.  Thanks to their productivity, Americans spend – on average – less than 10 cents out of every dollar they earn on food.  This is far less than families around the world.  It gives us the freedom and the flexibility to spend on our families and invest in our businesses.

Football Turf a Source of Protein?

When a Kansas State University football player plants his opponent’s face into the turf, the result may be a better-tasting blend of artificial grass. Turf is not a part of the USDA’s MyPlate recommendations, but defensive ends playing in the Wildcats’ stadium can skip their pre-game soy latte and get their fill during the game instead.

International Market Analysis Just a Mouse Click Away

U.S. broiler meat exports to Sub-Saharan Africa have increased 24 percent since 2010 and 460 percent since 2001.

The U.S. is the largest supplier of China’s turkey meat imports, totaling nearly 90 percent of all imports. Turkey meat imports to China in 2011 will increase 70 percent over 2010.

With Social Media, Your News Becomes Our News

Here in the Office of Communications at USDA, we work hard every day to get news and information out the digital door and into the hands of our diverse stakeholders. This steady flow of information takes the form of press releases, tweets, photos, videos, blogs and more. With the growing popularity of social media channels, this flow of information is increasingly a two-way street. In 2011 some of our best resources came from you, our readers. On two occasions we put out specific requests for your photos to personalize issues, and the responses were overwhelming.  Through the power of social media, we were able give our audience the chance to help tell the story for us, and that is our number 2 Social Media Moment of 2011.

When First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Vilsack announced the new food icon, MyPlate, in June, we asked you to snap a picture of your plate and use the hashtag #MyPlate to show us how MyPlate became your plate. Photos of creative plates came rolling in showing us how you use the icon to help build the foundation for your healthy diet. There were - and still are - some healthy and tasty creations posted to Twitter!

U.S., China Plant Seeds for Stable Global Growth

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) recently hosted two examiners from China who were on hand to learn the U.S. system for examining new plant variety applications.

AMS’s Plant Variety Protection Office and the American Seed Trade Association invited Yang Yang and Lingo Gao from China’s Ministry of Agriculture to work to improve global intellectual property protection. The two countries are working toward harmonizing their respective plant variety protection systems.

World Veterinary Year Celebrates More than Just a Profession

In any large organization, it can be easy to overlook the contributions of individuals, each with unique stories and perspective. With this in mind, USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) was proud to mark the 250th anniversary of the veterinary profession by offering a series of weekly blogs showcasing a different APHIS veterinarian each Thursday. Written in first person, the “world veterinary year” blogs share career paths - from dream to reality – and put a face on the sometimes overlooked aspects of 'on-the-ground' USDA employees. It is this creative use of social media to effectively showcase the rich personality of our workforce that makes this series our number 4 favorite new media moment.

Resounding Spirit of Giving

The USDA Rural Development Center in Yankton, South Dakota is an active participant in the Yankton Mall’s Christmas Tree Gift –Away.  This is the second year they have donated a tree decorated with a USDA theme and kid friendly ornaments.

Business and individuals have donated 43 decorated Christmas trees on display at the mall, with votes for the best tree made through donated canned goods for the Yankton Contact Center.  Voting for the best tree was open through December 11, 2011.  With the assistance of the Contact Center, the trees are donated to needy families in the area.

Secretary's Column: Hunger And the Holidays

Like millions of Americans, I will join family and friends this holiday season to share meals, conversation and to count our blessings.  We’ll take a moment to thank the men and women in uniform serving our country overseas – and also those who produced the food on our tables.

During this time of celebration and good cheer, we should also look out for those less fortunate than we are.  This year at USDA, we provided critical nutrition assistance to one in four Americans during a time of record need.  But our work only goes so far.  That is why I want to encourage Americans to help fight hunger and poverty and to support those struggling to feed themselves and their families.