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Welcome to the MyPlate New Year’s Challenge

The MyPlate Team welcomes you to join us for a fun and competitive way to start the New Year—join our MyPlate New Year’s Challenge! The MyPlate Team is hosting a 5-week challenge, featuring a new food group each week along with physical activity. Join our New Year’s Challenge now by visiting our MyPlate New Year's Challenge page or by searching for “MYPLATE” on SuperTracker’s Join Group page. It’s never too late to join, so make sure to share this opportunity with your friends, family, and coworkers!

The first food group featured in the Challenge is the Dairy Food Group. Dairy foods include all fluid milk products as well as foods made from milk that retain their calcium content, like cheese and yogurt. Calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage) is also part of the Dairy Group. Calcium is a mineral that helps us to build bones and teeth, and maintain bone mass. Choosing low-fat or fat-free dairy options helps lower your intake of saturated fat. 

California's Clean Energy Pioneers Come in Black and White

California has a pioneering spirit. Rural folks there have been on the frontier for generations. That frontier may have been gold mines and cattle grasslands in the past, but today that frontier is the very air, soil and water of California itself. Climate change is transforming California like it’s transforming our globe. But Californians are leading the pioneer charge to transform, with pragmatism, ingenuity and a commitment to rural communities.

Just recently, I visited a small dairy farm in Elk Grove, California, the site of an anaerobic digester. Case Van Steyn’s operation of around 700 cows produces manure, and the Maas Energy digester, secluded in an unobtrusive red shipping container, uses the manure to produce methane. That methane creates enough electricity to power 125 homes—and enough to sell electricity back to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, or SMUD.

Missouri Dairyman Benefits From Happy, Healthy Cows

Polk County dairy farmer Nelson Hostetler can think of a ton of reasons to like his new dairy shed and animal waste system. The most obvious reasons are documented in Hostetler’s daily production log. It shows that the 100 cows that formerly resided in a couple of pastures are producing about 2,000 more pounds of milk each day since they were brought in the shed less than a year ago.

“NRCS’ interest is in protecting the quality and healthfulness of the natural resources that everyone needs,” said State Conservationist J.R. Flores. “Situations like Mr. Hostetler’s in which actions taken to protect the environment also improve his operation are great, because everyone benefits.”

Maryland Dairy Farmers Work to Improve the Health of Estuaries

Producing high quality, nutritious milk may be a top priority for Coldsprings Farm, but it is not the farm’s only accomplishment. Nestled between the rolling acres and lush green meadows of New Windsor, Maryland, lies a showcase of a dairy farm where owners Matt and Debbie Hoff are working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to reduce runoff of nutrients and sediment, leading to cleaner water downstream.

This is especially important, as Coldsprings Farm sits amid the Monocacy watershed, which eventually flows into the Chesapeake Bay.

"Fuel Up to Play 60" Has Game Plan to Supercharge School Fitness and Nutrition

Meet Jack, a sixth-grader who is eager to become a school nutrition and fitness game changer. He is one of nearly 20,000 student ambassadors with Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60), a program launched by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and National Football League (NFL) in collaboration with USDA. FUTP 60 empowers youth like Jack to improve nutrition and physical activity at their schools and in their communities. Jack serves as student ambassador for his home state of Delaware.

In late July, he and a select group of top ambassadors trained like athletes at the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Summit in Chicago—his first visit ever to the Windy City. In addition to playing flag football, making friends and having a great time, the ambassadors learned all about nutrition and the benefits of getting at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Most importantly, they learned the leadership and communication skills necessary to work with students and school staff to deliver FUTP 60 activities that meet their school’s wellness goals. Those goals could include introducing salad bars, planting and harvesting fruit and vegetables in a school garden or inviting an NFL player to talk about all aspects of wellness, to name a few.

Technology Enables Vermont Dairy Farmer to Measure Positive Impacts of Conservation

Stewardship and cutting-edge technology are nothing new to the North Williston Cattle Company, a Vermont dairy farm that uses solar energy and robotic milking machines. The latest advancement on the 800-acre, 224-head operation are edge-of-field water quality monitoring stations, which measure water quality and the benefits of using conservation practices on the dairy farm.

Lorenzo Whitcomb, one of the managers of the family-run dairy, worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to install the monitoring stations. NRCS has made technical and financial assistance available to farmers in key watersheds across the country.

“The results from this study will illustrate to farmers more precisely the real benefits that conservation practices have on water quality,” said Kip Potter, NRCS water quality specialist.

Through Conservation, an Iowa Farmer Keeps Water Clean Downstream

David Petersen takes extra steps to ensure his dairy in southeast Iowa does not impact water quality downstream. Through voluntary conservation work, he prevents manure from washing off the dairy into the nearby Cedar, Iowa and Mississippi rivers.

Majestic Manor, run by Peterson and his wife Amy, has been in the family for four generations. They milk about 120 Holstein dairy cows twice daily and also grow corn, alfalfa, oats, triticale and soybeans on about 320 acres. Petersen likes to refer to his operation as “closed-loop” where the soil feeds the crops, the crops feed the cattle, and the cattle feed the soil. “It is a benefit to everyone,” he says.

Let the Good Times Flow for National Dairy Month!

June is an eventful and versatile month—the start of warm summer days, school vacations, and holidays like Father’s Day and Flag Day.  We also celebrate many unusual observances in June such as Heimlich Maneuver Day, National Yo-Yo Day, and National Donut Day. But who can enjoy a donut without a nice, cold glass of milk?  June is the perfect month to combine the two as USDA joins the rest of the country in celebrating National Dairy Month.

For more than 75 years, we have celebrated dairy and all of its goodness during June.  What started out as National Milk Month in 1937 to promote milk consumption and stabilize the dairy demand has turned into a month-long celebration and tradition that acknowledges the dairy industry’s contributions to the United States and around the world.

Dairy has played an important role in America’s history since before the Revolutionary War, but it was not until

Training Pipeline Quenches Dairy's Thirst for College Grads

USDA’s mission includes working with land grant universities, including minority serving institutions, to ensure continued education in agricultural is available to help fill anticipated demand for knowledgeable employees.  Earlier this week, the Secretary signed an agreement continuing USDA’s support for Historically Black 1890’s Land-Grant Universities.  Today we look at one of the ways USDA partners with Hispanic Serving Institutions.

The business of producing milk shows no signs of slowing down, and a USDA grant is ensuring the pipeline of future industry professionals doesn’t slow to a trickle.

In August 2014, farmers in 23 states produced more than 16.2 billion pounds of milk, up 2.6 percent from 2013. During that same period, the number of cows increased 8.58 million head, up 60,000.

Catfish Continues to Swim to the Top of U.S. Aquaculture and Mississippi Agriculture

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.

Mississippi, commonly called the “Magnolia State", has long been one of the most rural states in the United States. However, agriculture makes significant contributions to all of Mississippi’s 82 counties. Agriculture is a leading industry in Mississippi. According to the latest Census of Agriculture, our farmers generated $6.4 billion in market value of agricultural products sold in 2012, a 32 percent increase from the last census.

The census counted almost 11 million acres of farmland, down 5 percent from the 2007 Census. The average farm size increased to 287 acres, up 5 percent from 2007. The highest concentration of cropland is located in the Delta Area of the State.