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July 2013

Building Swap Financed by USDA Supports Arts, Education Goals

Sussex County, Delaware’s only charter school, the former Sussex Academy of Arts & Sciences middle school, is being re-named “Sussex Academy” as it expands to include a high school.  But unlike most expansion projects, the academy is swapping its old building for an existing building that meets its needs, and it is doing it with help from USDA.

The swap was highlighted recently at an event attended by USDA Rural Development, school officials, and U.S. Senator Tom Carper.

Renewable Energy on Farms Study Released - First to Look at Role of State-Level Policies

USDA has published a study examining states’ adoption rates of distributed generation for solar and wind energy on U.S. farms. The results show that states with higher energy prices, more organic acres per farm, and more Internet connectivity adopt renewable electricity at higher rates.  For solar systems, full-farm ownership and solar resources were also significant factors.  Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) targets were found to increase state level renewable electricity adoption at the distributed-generation scale while electric cooperative prevalence in the state was found to have a negative relationship to renewable electricity adoption share.

Black Bear Cubs Find Temporary Home at APHIS Wildlife Research Facility

For the first time in its 40-year history, the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) National Wildlife Research Center’s (NWRC) field station in Millville, UT, is home to more than just coyotes.  Recently, two orphaned black bear cubs arrived at the facility as part of a collaborative effort with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (Division) to rehabilitate the cubs.

It’s not uncommon for the Division to take in orphaned bears in hopes of rehabilitating them and releasing them back into the wild.  However, it can be difficult to find an appropriate facility to house bears.

Providing Water for Cattle on the Navajo Nation

Two chapters of the Navajo Nation in Utah are getting new livestock wells, thanks to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Members of the Teec Nos Pos and Red Mesa Chapters use wells drilled deep into the desert floor to water their 1,000 or so cattle. (A chapter is both a rural community and a unit of local government in the Navajo Nation.) But in the 2000s, the Navajo Nation Water Code Administration found, through testing, that these wells had high levels of arsenic, uranium and E. coli, rendering them non-potable for both humans and livestock.

The Spicy Story of Green Chiles

It’s no secret I love New Mexican grown green chiles.  So does Melissa’s World Variety Produce in Los Angeles, California. So much so, that during a recent trip to California, I attended a spicy workshop and reception hosted by Melissa’s, featuring New Mexican Hatch green chiles.

“When I grew up, I thought there was only one kind of chile: we just called them green.” says corporate chef Rodriguez who grew up in El Paso, Texas.

Southwesterners like Ida and I may just call them “greens”. However, the rest of the country is quickly getting to know these meaty, flavorful Hatch green chiles, named after Hatch, New Mexico, epicenter of state’s chile growing region.

How Millennials are Reducing Food Waste

Today’s college students and young professionals are particularly attuned to the environmental issues that face our nation. Universities across the United States are often stuck with excess food left over from dining halls, sporting events, and other social gatherings that more often than not goes directly into the dumpsters.  While many young adults across the country are working their way through school and loan payments, they are also becoming increasingly cognizant of the efforts underway at their Universities to reduce food waste.

In a recent study conducted by The Princeton Review, 69 percent of college applicants claim that a University’s environmental commitment would contribute to their decision to apply or attend the school. Fortunately for college students, there are several innovative and environmentally friendly ways to deal with excess food waste on-campus.

Keeping NASS Ahead of the Technology Curve

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 USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Unlike the math and agricultural statisticians with whom I work daily, I took a completely different career path into the world of agricultural statistics. In college, I started out as an accounting major at Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, WV. Based on the recommendation of friends, I took some courses in computer programming and the love affair began when I was introduced to Fortran and Cobol. After college, I stuck to my IT knowledge and went into sales revolving around IT solutions for government contractors and customers including Dulles Airport, Martin Marietta, and Contel. These experiences taught me to think logically, to put myself in the other person’s shoes, and to communicate effectively.

Making California and Minnesota a Magnet for New Jobs

While many manufacturing companies provide well-paying jobs and play a vital role in creating vibrant, healthy rural communities, sometimes rural communities may struggle to attract these companies. To help bridge this gap, the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) was created. This Administration-wide effort brings together federal departments and agencies to provide coordinated assistance to communities to become more attractive for manufacturers.

Recently, USDA hosted two IMCP events in Minnesota and California with diverse audiences of about 120 stakeholders representing manufacturing businesses, lenders, economic development organizations, universities and community colleges, small businesses development centers, and local leaders among others. At both meetings, USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno led panels of federal partners that discussed the initiative and sought input on the needs of local manufacturers.

Forest Service Partners with Shedd Aquarium on Great Lakes Exhibit

You can actually feel the wonder while discovering a new side of the U.S. Forest Service at Shedd Aquarium’s new Great Lakes Exhibit At Home on the Great Lakes.

The Shedd Aquarium, on famous Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, unveiled the exhibit as part of its renovation of the facility’s historic Local Waters Gallery. The exhibit features exciting new interactive components. Visitors experience a connection to the Great Lakes through hands-on learning and up-close encounters with native Great Lakes species.

“There is a strong connection between the health of national forests and the health of the Great Lakes,” said Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson. “The Forest Service is thrilled to collaborate with the Shedd Aquarium to raise awareness about the interconnectedness of these resources.”

How Immigration Reform Will Benefit Farmers and Rural Communities

Cross posted from the White House Blog:

Today, the White House released a new report detailing the important benefits provided by the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill for the domestic agriculture sector, its workforce, and rural American communities. As the report states, in recent years, the agriculture sector has seen strong growth, with farm income and agriculture exports both reaching historic highs. But there’s more work to do, and currently the agriculture industry is hampered by a broken immigration system that fails to support a predictable and stable workforce. Among all economic sectors, the U.S. agriculture sector is particularly reliant on foreign-born workers. Agricultural producers cite difficulty in locating qualified available authorized workers—both foreign and domestic—as one reason for the high rate of undocumented labor. Moreover, there continues to be insufficient U.S. workers to fill labor needs: of those crop workers surveyed between 2007 and 2009, 71 percent were foreign born.

As President Obama said in his State of the Union address, "If we’re truly committed to strengthening our middle class and providing more ladders of opportunity to those who are willing to work hard to make it into the middle class, we’ve got to fix the system. We have to bring this shadow economy into the light so that everybody is held accountable — businesses for who they hire, and immigrants for getting on the right side of the law. That’s common sense. And that’s why we need comprehensive immigration reform."