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cooperative extension

Biosecurity Education and Compliance are Critical in Preventing Avian Influenza Outbreaks

The December 2014 to June 2015 avian influenza outbreak was the largest animal health emergency in U.S. history. The virus contributed to the death of more than 48 million birds, either due to infection with the virus or depopulation to prevent additional spread.  The virus was introduced into the U.S. by wild migratory waterfowl and then spread from farm to farm in a number of ways.  This included farms sharing equipment, vehicles moving between farms without being cleaned or disinfected, employees moving between infected and non-infected farms, rodents and small wild birds reported inside some poultry houses, and feed stored outside or without appropriate biosecurity measures. The virus spread was also assisted by instances of noncompliance with industry-recommended biosecurity practices.

Fortunately, avian influenza poses little threat to human health and food safety. Human infections with avian influenza are rare and most often occur after direct contact with an infected bird. Avian influenza does, however, adversely affect food availability and the economy. If a single bird became infected with the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus during the 2014-15 outbreak, every bird in the same commercial poultry house – which contains an average of 30,000 birds – was depopulated.

Teaching Rural Alaskans to Farm is her Passion

The following guest blog from University of Alaska Fairbanks highlights the professionalism and dedication of educators in the Cooperative Extension System.

By Debbie Carter, University of Alaska Cooperative Extension

Heidi Rader planned to become a farmer when she graduated from college.

During high school and college, she worked a succession of jobs at greenhouses and farms that seemed to be leading to an agricultural career.  For her master’s degree, she grew snap beans and lettuce, and studied high-tunnel production at University of Alaska Fairbanks’ School of Natural Resources and Extension Fairbanks Experiment Farm.

UC Sheep Shearing School Prepares Students for Gainful Employment

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers the Smith-Lever capacity grant program. The Smith–Lever Act established the cooperative extension services program administered through land-grant universities. Today, a guest blog from Jeanette Warnert, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, tells us how this program supports a unique rural economic opportunity:

Sheep shearing is like a dance. It requires strength, flexibility, a tender touch, and the right moves. Once mastered, the skill can open the door to gratifying and high-paying seasonal work.

Sheep shearers will never be unemployed and never be poor. They can earn $50 to $100 per hour and can start a business with a $3,000 investment in equipment, says John Harper, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) natural resources advisor in Mendocino County.

Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub Extension and Outreach Team Develop Regional Efforts

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA's Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

The USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub (NPRCH) partnered with the 1914 Cooperative Extension programs in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North and South Dakota, and Nebraska to develop and deliver science-based, region specific information and technologies to agricultural and natural resource managers to enable them to make climate-informed decisions.  The team has met monthly since June 2015, and through their efforts and partnership with the NPRCH they reached out to Extension colleagues to develop relevant projects that meet stakeholder needs in the region.

Since becoming partners, the NPRCH Extension and Outreach participants have developed the following three efforts, which they will work on during the coming year.

Investments in EFNEP Pay Big Dividends, Now and in the Future

What would you think of a deal with a potential return-on-investment of up to 10-to-1?  But wait, there’s more… now, add the potential to save some serious money on future medical bills.  Too good to be true, right?  Not so.

EFNEP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Expanded Food, Nutrition, and Education Program, has consistently proven its ability to improve the health and well-being of low income families and youth.  The program teaches participants how to improve their diets, be more physically active, stretch their food dollars, and increase their knowledge of food safety.

In New York, Youth Learn Leadership by Doing

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.

In Binghamton, New York, at-risk youth are learning to take charge of their lives by working on a variety of community improvement projects that they design and carry out.

CITIZEN U stands for Citizen You and Citizen University,” said Dr. June Mead, director of New York’s Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) program.  “(It’s) a metaphor for creating a university environment in which teens are empowered to become community change agents and graduate from high school prepared for college, careers, and citizenship.  Through their involvement, teen leaders gain knowledge and real-world application of civic engagement.”

Five Things You Should Know About USDA Climate Hubs In 2015

In October the Regional Hub Leads gathered in Washington D.C. to discuss their successes and challenges over the last year. Tasked with producing science-based, region-specific information and tools for their stakeholders, the USDA Regional Climate Hubs spent 2014 working hard to ensure they understood who their constituents where, building regional partnerships, and identifying regional needs before rolling up their sleeves in 2015 to start producing results.

Land-Grant Universities Make NFL Natural Turf Grass Better and Safer

Grass is a big deal in football – a really big deal.  Nearly every day of the week, untold millions of people watch players step out onto lush, green fields painted with white.

All aspects of the game are tough. Even growing and maintaining a real turf grass field has its challenges, like freezing temperatures, rain, and damage from tackles and foot traffic.  So what type of grass can hold up to all that? Horticultural specialists and plant breeders throughout the land-grant university cooperative extension system, as well as USDA researchers from Agricultural Research Service, are working to answer that question.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture supports their research with Hatch Act funding.

NIFA-Funded Obesity Prevention Project Sparks Community-wide Health Changes

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.

 

What started as a project to test the effectiveness of childhood obesity prevention methods has turned into a community-wide effort and a new culture of health for families in Firebaugh, California.

Virginia Is for Lovers - and Silvopasture

Throughout his life, Chris Fields-Johnson has been keenly aware of the need to preserve the natural landscapes, which provide us with clean air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat. As a graduate student of soil science at Virginia State and Polytechnic University, a forestry undergraduate, a student of Tom Brown, Jr.’s Tracker School and a former employee of the Virginia Department of Forestry, he also knows much of the science behind soil restoration and forestry. These experiences have given him a strong desire to turn his knowledge into action by managing land in the most beneficial way possible.

To make this dream a reality, he began converting a 250-acre loblolly pine plantation in Scottsville, Virginia., into a goat and sheep silvopasture system that resembles a pine savanna landscape. Silvopasture combines trees with forage and livestock production. The trees are managed for high-value sawlogs and, at the same time, provide shade and shelter for livestock and forage, reducing livestock stress and sometimes improving forage quality. Fields-Johnson and friends have spent many weekends thinning and pruning trees by hand, conducting controlled burns, fighting invasive plants and experimenting with forage establishment while they also learn how to raise goats and sheep.