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January 2015

Farm Bill Program Helps Improve Water Quality in the Delaware River Watershed

The Delaware River watershed is one of our nation’s most treasured resources. It is home to more than 7 million people and the water supply for more than 15 million in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. An historic new Farm Bill program at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will help farmers and local leaders make investments to keep the watershed healthy and vibrant for years to come.

Secretary Vilsack recently announced the recipients of the 2014 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awards.  This new program will invest $1.2 billion over five years in innovative, partner-driven strategies to protect air and water quality, make more efficient use of water resources, restore habitat and protect open spaces.  This year’s RCPP awards nation-wide total more than $370 million dollars. Counting the dollar-for-dollar partner match, almost three quarters of a billion dollars will be invested in private land conservation through the RCPP.

Old Dominion Agriculture by Numbers

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Nothing can compare to the economic impact agriculture has in Virginia. 2012 Census of Agriculture counted more than 46,000 farms, which cover more than 8.3 million acres of farmland in the commonwealth. That’s nearly a third of our entire state! In fact, according to Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, agriculture is our state’s largest industry.

In the most recent census, Virginia farmers reported selling more than $3.7 billion worth of agricultural products. Of these, most came from the livestock sector. Broiler chickens were the top commodity sold in 2012, the year of the latest Census of Agriculture. That year, growers sold $638.3 million worth of broiler hens.

Don't Let Bacteria Score a Touchdown at Your Super Bowl Party

The Super Bowl is one of the most popular sporting events in the United States and the second largest food consumption day. This means there are many opportunities for Americans to come into contact with some nasty bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 48 million Americans will order takeout or delivery during the game. In 2014, the National Chicken Council estimated that 1.25 billion chicken wings were consumed Super Bowl weekend. To promote proper food handling, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing safety recommendations to explain how you can keep your Super Bowl food both safe and delicious.

Big Data Implications for the Production of Official Statistics

Unless you live completely off the grid, you likely have heard of, and contribute to, “big data,” the often-used catch phrase describing massive (and ever-increasing) volumes of information stored digitally on computers, servers and clouds.

From advertisers using data mined from customer interactions; to government agencies making data public so developers can create beneficial mobile apps; to farmers applying statistical data to determine their production and marketing practices, a wide-variety of people and industries use big data.

It's Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month - Head for a National Forest

A new year means new resolutions and new adventures to embark upon. As many of you sit down to contemplate your goals of the year, I would like to suggest learning to ski or snowboard on national forests.

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, which means that on many resorts learning now can be the easiest and most affordable time to head to a forest near you. The U.S. Forest Service is host to 122 ski areas. The most visited forest, the White River National Forest, has 12 ski areas.

Avocados: Helping Draw up the Perfect Recipe for the Big Game

The Super Bowl is next Sunday and people are busy making plans for the big game. For many, the most valuable player will be the avocado, which is quickly becoming a fan favorite.

In fact, it’s estimated that Americans will consume 120 million pounds or 240 million fresh avocados during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. This is a 20 percent increase from last year. It is also estimated that the amount of avocados consumed during the big game will be enough to fill an entire football field from end zone to end zone over 46 feet high.

Students Get Schooled by Schools of Fish

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.

Schools of fish may be common things to see, but watching some fish school high school students from a basement in Manhattan’s West Side is a different experience altogether. Cathie Woteki, USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, observed such a program recently during a visit to Food and Finance High School in New York.

There on West 50th Street, Cornell University operates laboratories that represent the latest in scientific technology to raise fresh, clean fish in addition to garden produce in a sustainable urban setting. Renowned Cornell scientist and educator Philson Warner developed a system for continuously re-circulating and reconditioning water to raise more than 10,000 tilapia and other fish at a time in the basement lab. The nutrient-rich water from the fish is then transferred to a hydroponic garden located a few floors up on campus. That garden produces nine types of lettuce, Chinese cabbage such as bok choi, and a variety of herbs that include sweet basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. The plants then clean the water, which is sent back to the fish.

Fresh Food Abounds on a Six Acre Mississippi Farm

Hattie Thompson has a heart for growing healthy food for her community thanks to the help of her new seasonal high tunnel.

“My mission is to network throughout the local community with other growers who might be interested in doing the same thing, and to teach children and mothers about nutrition,” said Thompson, who farms in Leake County, Mississippi.

After 50 years of city life in Wisconsin, Thompson and her husband moved to the country near Carthage, Mississippi, when they inherited some land 10 years ago. The small six-acre farm is landscaped with fruit trees and an abundance of beautiful flowers. Chickens, guineas and turkeys also call the farm home.

Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Pays Dividends

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.

A solid education is crucial to those seeking careers in animal science. However, many student loans can be burdensome. But a student loan payment the size of a mortgage couldn’t stop someone who has wanted to be a veterinarian since they learned to talk. Dr. Annie Bowes is one of those people.

After acquiring the knowledge to begin her dream career, Dr. Bowes was left with overwhelming debt.  Luckily for this Idaho-based veterinarian, she wasn’t left alone to repay it. In 2011, she received assistance through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) a program funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

USDA Seeks Variety to Help American Agriculture Flourish

While most of the country is braving cold and blustery winter conditions, farmers and gardeners are busy looking ahead to the spring. They are contemplating the variety of seeds or the plants that they will use. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) increases the options for our farmers, gardeners, and plant breeders by making sure there is an abundance of varieties available.

We do this through our Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO), which grants certificates of intellectual property protection to developers of new plant varieties. These certificates enable breeders to market their variety exclusively for 20 years. The protection is an incentive for the development of new and improved varieties.