Skip to main content

August 2012

Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 8/31/12

Visit for the latest information regarding USDA’s Drought Disaster response and assistance.

Hurricane Isaac has grabbed most of the weather headlines in recent days, but drought remains deeply entrenched across nearly two-thirds of the continental United States.  According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, dated August 28, drought covered 62.9% of the Lower 48 states, down only slightly from a peak of 63.9% on July 24.  However, during the five-week period from July 24 to August 28, the portion of the country in exceptional drought (D4) increased from 2.4 to 6.0%.

USDA and Memphis Community Working Together in the Cotton Patch

This summer, the Cotton Division of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) established a People’s Garden in Memphis, Tenn. The garden, suitably named “the Cotton Patch,” is a collaborative project developed and maintained by USDA employees and residents in the surrounding community.  The exotic garden features raised vegetable beds and a colorful Japanese maple tree, as well as flower and rose gardens.

Let Kids Play with Their Food?

Whether in a school setting or at home, when you involve kids with food preparation, you open the door to a healthy future.  Kids learn that it’s fun and easy to create healthy meals and snacks.  They receive the benefits of fruits and vegetables as they explore different flavors and textures, and they gain knowledge and skills that will last a lifetime.

So, parents, let your kids dig in as you spend time together in the kitchen.  Teachers, use food to keep your students engaged while learning across several subjects. Need some suggestions? can help.

Secretary's Column: Saying "Thank You" To Farmers and Workers on Labor Day

As Americans celebrate Labor Day this weekend, I know the holiday is overshadowed by a drought that has been extremely challenging for thousands of farm and ranch families.

President Obama and I will continue to do all we can to help drought-stricken producers. In a nation where one of every 12 jobs is supported by agriculture, we know that it’s critical to help farmers, ranchers and producers mitigate the effects of drought and continue to strengthen the agriculture sector.

Meanwhile we will continue to call on Congress to pass a comprehensive, multi-year Food, Farm and Jobs Bill – to give USDA tools to help drought stricken producers, and to give more certainty to farmers and ranchers.

But even in a challenging time, American agriculture has stayed strong and resilient. That’s why, as we gather with family and friends to mark Labor Day, it couldn’t be a more appropriate time to say “Thank You” to the folks who provide the most affordable, the most abundant, and the safest food supply on earth.

USDA Participates in a Tribal Collaboration Meeting in Rural Alaska

Recently, representatives of USDA Rural Development and other federal agencies held a collaboration meeting with the federally recognized tribes of the Ahtna Region, Alaska. The meeting was the fourth in a series of government-to-government Tribal Collaboration Meetings scheduled with tribes in Alaska. The venue for the meeting between federal officials and tribal leaders was in the beautiful remote Copper River valley at the Tazlina Community Hall. Tazlina is located seven miles south of Glennallen on Alaska’s Richardson Highway.

Tribal representatives and other partners from the region used the session in early August to discuss issues affecting their villages. Leaders from Rural Development, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Small Business Administration, Housing and Urban Development and the Economic Development Administration (EDA) were on hand to listen and participate in the dialogue.

Coastal Native Peoples Share Knowledge with Scientists to Address Climate Change

The First Stewards: Coastal People Address Climate Change symposium was recently held in Washington, D.C. This meeting brought coastal area Native Americans, Alaska Natives and indigenous U.S. Pacific Islanders together with scientists, non-governmental organizations and policy makers to discuss the impacts of, and develop collaborative solutions to, climate change.

Adaptation to climate change is a pressing issue for indigenous people, who have lived closely with the ocean and coastal land for generations and depend on them for cultural survival.

The Quinault Indian Nation, Quileute Nation, Makah Nation and Hoh Tribe hosted a gathering of over 300 people July 17–20 at the National Museum of the American Indian.

One of the panels was moderated by an employee of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Ciro Lo Pinto, District Conservationist in Wellsboro, Penn. As part of the discussion, he shared the new Indigenous Stewardship Methods and NRCS Conservation Practices Guidebook.

Massachusetts Kids Get a Lesson in Natural Resource Conservation

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is working with Land’s Sake, a non-profit organization in Weston, Mass., to improve soil health and to install an irrigation system and a high tunnel on their working organic farm.

The Land’s Sake farm has been in operation since 1980, when the town bought the land from Harvard University, which owned it as part of the Arnold Arboretum. Land’s Sake’s mission is to connect people with the land through farming and forestry through educational programs on their farm and local conservation lands.

Newly Updated Food Availability Data Reflect the Changing American Diet

True or false?

  • Since 1985, the amount of rice available for Americans to eat has nearly doubled, from 11.6 to 21.2 pounds per person in 2010.
  • In 2010, pineapples were America’s favorite canned fruit, and tomatoes were our favorite canned vegetable.
  • U.S. milk availability, which peaked at 44.7 gallons per person in 1945, was 20.1 gallons per person in 2010.

Answers (all true) can be found in the Economic Research Service’s Food Availability (Per Capita) Data System—a unique data set revealing the types and amounts of food commodities available for U.S. consumers to eat.

US Forest Service Assists with Fire Monitoring in Zambia

Managing wildland fire is pretty much the same anywhere in the world. You need to think carefully about when and where to apply it and how to starve the fire of fuel in places you don’t want it. There are several ways to do it—but you need to know how.

As a U.S. Forest Service fire applications specialist, managing wildfire, monitoring ecosystem response and teaching others how to do so has been Tonja Opperman’s job for years. She is so good at it that recently the Forest Service International Programs invited her to teach fire monitoring in Zambia’s Kafue National Park.

Livestock Producers Affected by Disasters Urged to Keep Good Records

The Farm Service Agency would like to remind livestock producers affected by natural disasters such as Hurricane Isaac to keep thorough records of their livestock and feed losses, including additional expenses for such things as feed purchases because of lost supplies.

In addition to Isaac, there are a variety of disasters from fires in the west, floods in Florida, storms in the Mid-Atlantic and drought and heat affecting the heartland.  Each of these events is causing economic consequences for ranchers and producers including cattle, sheep and dairy operations, bee keepers and farm-raised fish, and poultry producers.

FSA recommends that owners and producers record all pertinent information of natural disaster consequences, including: