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What does Maple Syrup Have in Common with an Invasive Insect?

Today is National Maple Syrup Day!  So, what does maple syrup have in common with an invasive insect?  Well, if the insect is the Asian longhorned beetle, then they both can come from maple trees.  Obviously, we want the maple syrup and not the invasive beetle.  But who cares?  And why should anyone care?  Well, I care and here’s why:

Not only do I work for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, an agency that is actively fighting known infestations of Asian longhorned beetle in three different states, but I also am a native of Vermont.

U.S. Forest Service Hosts Visitors from the Jewish National Fund to Discuss Resource Management

In the late 1980s, Israel experienced one of its worst fire seasons ever. Devastating blazes ravaged the forested corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The U.S. Forest Service responded by sending a technical team to assess the damage and subsequently recommended future mitigation and management strategies. Thus, a cooperative exchange program between the Jewish National Fund/Keren Kayemeth Leisrael (JNF-KKL) and the U.S. Forest Service was born.

Earlier this fall, a team from the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region, headed by Deputy Regional Forester Maribeth Gustafson, hosted a small group of guests from Israel. They included Minister of the Environment Amir Peretz; David Leffler, director general from the Ministry of Environmental Protection; Efi Stenzler, the JNF-KKL World Chairman; David Brand, the KKL Chief Forester, and four other staff members.

Discover the Cover: Farmers Realize Benefits, Challenges of Soil-Improving Cover Crops

A growing number of farmers throughout the nation have “discovered the cover” — and for some very good reasons.

They’re recognizing that by using cover crops and diverse rotations, it’s possible to actually improve the health and function of their soil, said David Lamm, a soil health expert with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Farmers are also reaping the benefits healthy soils bring to their operations in the form of better nutrient cycling, improved water infiltration and more consistent yields over time.

Kitty Litter: Potential New Use for Spent Corn Grains

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.

Sometimes, the results of USDA science show up in the most unlikely places—maybe even in your cat’s litter box.

USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have discovered a way to make kitty litter that's nearly 100 percent biodegradable by processing spent grains left over from corn ethanol production.

And what’s good for you and your cat may also be good for the environment. ARS researcher Steven F. Vaughn and his colleagues have shown that litter made with these grains as the starting material may prove to be more environmentally friendly than popular but nonbiodegradable, clay-based litters that mostly end up in landfills.

Science that Sells

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.

Agriculture is key to any nation’s success.  American farmers continue to be more innovative and productive, providing affordable foods for the U.S. consumer while supporting a robust export market. Global agricultural trade is complex, constantly changing, with multi-layered requirements that have to be met before a grower can get his product into another country.

Although a general export certificate is issued for most agricultural products, some countries require certification based on scientific testing.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service provides the service and scientific expertise that helps American farmers export their products.

Alaska Forests are Fine for Fungi

While many people look forward to fall for football rivalries and tailgate parties, others enjoy a different pastime — foraging for fall’s crop of fungi.

In Alaska, the season’s fungi festivals will find enthusiasts lined up for hikes into the woods to search for lichens and forage for mushrooms.

In September, the Wrangell Ranger District on the Tongass National Forest hosted a two-day event near the Rainbow Falls Trail. Karen Dillman, the forest’s ecologist, and Kate Mohatt, an ecologist from the Chugach National Forest, shared a variety of tips and information on fungi with locals and visitors including information profiled in the video “The Mushroom Maven of the Chugach National Forest.” What are the differences between edible and poisonous mushrooms? The pair described how to look for telling colors of the mushrooms after they are cut open, as well as the distinctive features of the caps and ridges.

Water Quality Trading in the Chesapeake Bay

Last fall, USDA brought together a group of Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) awardees, state policymakers, and other stakeholders involved in one of the most challenging nutrient management initiatives in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed: enabling water quality trading markets.

Water quality trading offers flexibility to those required to improve water quality in the Bay: power plants, wastewater treatment plants, new developments, and agricultural producers, among others. It allows those facing high costs of water quality improvement to reduce those costs, working with farmers to improve water quality on their behalf, thus providing farmers with additional income streams and the opportunity to significantly increase the scope of conservation practices on their land.

MyPlate Holiday Makeover - Week 5

The MyPlate Team continues to share “Makeover Monday” recipes each week on the USDA blog and the MyPlate Facebook page through January 6th.

We love serving cranberry sauce as a sweet side with our holiday meals -- but, traditional cranberry sauce can be a little too sweet. This year we decided to try something new – cranberry chutney.

This recipe for cranberry chutney was simple to prepare -- all the ingredients go in one pot, and cook for about 30 minutes. And, to save time during the busy holiday season, it can be made 2-3 days in advance.

The Faces of Agriculture - A Glimpse of What the Farm Bill Means to Our Nation

A life of farming—whether you grow up in it or are called to it later in life—takes a special kind of commitment and sense of responsibility. The reward is just as unique and appeals only to a handful of people who are willing to literally roll up their sleeves and work hard at a physically- and mentally-challenging job every day of the year. To me, there’s just something special about a profession where the fruits of your labor provide one of life’s most essential elements–food.

But that’s not where their contributions stop. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers strengthen our economy, with nearly one out of 12 jobs in the U.S. coming from agriculture.

Over the last year, I had the opportunity to visit and speak to farmers and ranchers across the country. During these visits, I get a chance to see first-hand how connected they are to their communities and the differences they make for the folks that live and work with them. And I also get to answer their questions directly, to hear the challenges they face and the help they could use. Inevitably, conversation turns to the Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill and what that legislation would mean to each of the farmers, ranchers, businesses and schools that depend on it.

Mail Order Madness: Sending and Receiving Those Food Gifts

It seems like the holidays come earlier every year. One way to reduce the stress of gift giving is to shop online or from catalogs. Food gifts are extremely popular because the recipient gets to enjoy the gift twice – first as a lovely gift, and second by serving and sharing it with family and friends.

The following food safety tips will help the purchaser and recipient determine if perishable foods they receive in the mail have been handled properly: