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March 2013

SuperTracker Announces New My Foods Feature

It’s been a little over a year since we first launched SuperTracker, and in that time we’ve loved hearing from our now over 2 million registered users – what they like about the site and ideas to make it better. We’re excited to announce a new SuperTracker feature that is based on user feedback!  It’s now possible to create My Foods – customized versions of SuperTracker foods with nutrition information that you enter.  When you search for a food in Food Tracker, just click on “customize” in the left hand column and Create My Food pops up. Nestlé Water North America created an educational Daily Buzz TV segment which reached 1.2 million viewers, as well as two Audio News Releases, which aired on nearly 1,900 stations.

A Tale of Alaskan Winter Weather Explains Current, Changing Landscapes

Yellow-cedar is an ecologically, culturally, and economically important tree species in the coastal temperate rainforests of Alaska and British Columbia. This slow-growing tree has few natural insect and disease agents and is capable of living more than 1000 years.

But less snow in Alaska’s winters is leading to the demise of yellow cedar trees at and just above sea level. During hard freezes when little or no snow is on the ground to insulate the yellow cedar’s shallow roots, the roots freeze. Ultimately this leads to the tree’s death. This yellow cedar decline has occurred over the past 100 years.

Rain, Snow or Shine – Spring Foods Are Here!

Although in some parts of the country record snow fall and colder temperatures have masked it—spring is officially here.  With the change of seasons come traditions and observances that date back to ancient times, many focused on growth, new life and change.  Among these traditions are some holiday and seasonal mainstays that evolved because of more practical reasons, like the process involved in making them or their chemical properties.

Secretary's Column: Partnering with Communities to Alleviate Poverty

At the U.S. Department of Agriculture we’re working hard to strengthen the economy across rural America – and in recent years, we have seen positive signs of growth.

At the same time, we know that areas of high poverty still exist, and many of these are in our small towns and rural communities. In fact, nine out of ten persistent poverty counties in our nation are in rural America.

That’s why USDA launched the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative.

Through StrikeForce, we provide intensive care for communities that suffer from high poverty. USDA identifies areas with over 20 percent poverty for the StrikeForce effort. We join together with communities in these areas that are working to build opportunity for their citizens. Our staff partner with local organizations and civic leaders, providing them with technical support and assistance to help them successfully apply for USDA programs.

Deputy Under Secretary Visits StrikeForce State of Mississippi, Says Public-Private Partnerships Build a Stronger Rural America

Earlier this week, USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien met with local and regional officials in Mississippi to discuss ways USDA can help businesses create jobs and stimulate local economies. Mississippi was one of the first states in the nation to be designated a StrikeForce state by USDA and last Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will launch its "StrikeForce" initiative in ten additional states.

The primary goal of the StrikeForce initiative is to increase partnership with rural communities and leverage community resources in targeted, persistent poverty areas. Vilsack noted that through the StrikeForce initiative, USDA will do more to partner with local and state governments and community organizations on projects that promote economic development and job creation.

Healthy Eating on a Budget

Is eating healthy too expensive? It doesn’t have to be if you are willing to follow three simple reminders -- Plan, Compare and Prepare.   If you follow these, you and your family can save money and eat healthier.

Organic 101: Almost 25,000 Certified Operations at Your Fingertips

This is the eleventh installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Last week the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) published the 2012 list of certified organic operations. Our online database now provides information on 17,750 certified USDA organic farms and processing facilities in the United States. That’s almost a 240 percent increase since the NOP began tracking this data in 2002. Worldwide, there are now close to 25,000 certified organic operators representing more than 100 countries.

Break Away with the Kids for Spring Outdoor Activities

Spring is here, and spring break is just around the corner or already underway. For parents everywhere trying to figure out how to keep their children amused, the answer can be simple: Get them outside!

Spring is a great time to watch birds collect materials to build nests or to check out the buds as trees and shrubs begin to bloom and leaf out. It’s also a time to see those early blooms that often lay soft carpets of color across the landscape.

NRCS Program Prevents Fuel Spill Disaster in Alaska

When a flood damaged the banks of the Yukon River in Fort Yukon, Alaska, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service stepped in to help prevent a major environmental catastrophe.

The citizens of Fort Yukon are predominantly Alaskan Natives who live a subsistence lifestyle, relying on fish from the Yukon River as one of their main food sources. The community is not accessible by road and all supplies are either barged in during the short summer or flown in at extreme expense. An entire year’s fuel supply for the village’s vehicles, heating and power is held in a 750,000 gallon tank farm.

USDA and Community-Based Organizations Partner for Ag Census

For a decade, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and community-based organizations (CBOs) have placed a high priority on improving the cover­age and response of minority and hard-to-reach farm and ranch operators in the Census of Agriculture. CBOs partner with NASS to help reach these underserved agricultural producers and encourage them to participate in the Census. As the CBOs educate and motivate the producers they serve to complete their Census forms, these producers become part of the data that represent the accurate picture of agriculture across the nation. The partnerships are serving both the CBOs’ mission of providing service to every producer and NASS’s goal of counting every farmer and rancher in the Census of Agriculture. In the following blog, one of NASS’s longstanding CBO partners, Ralph Paige, shares his thoughts on the importance of the ongoing 2012 Census of Agriculture.