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Safeguarding the Food Supply and Protecting Human Health

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 began as a program to ensure the safe production of a diverse food supply is now providing a value-added application of its core expertise: protecting honeybees from parasites and people from vector-borne diseases.

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funds the IR-4 Program (“Inter-Regional Project #4”), which was established more than 50 years ago and is headquartered at Rutgers University. The IR-4 funds laboratories that test pesticides intended to protect specialty crops. That testing generates data that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires for pesticide registration. Without the help of IR-4, the cost of the research required for pesticide registration for specialty crops would be prohibitive.

States Use Regional Partnership, Innovation to Protect Rivers and a Way of Life

The Pacific Northwest is known for its picturesque lakes, cascading streams and dramatic coastlines. The many rivers of the Pacific Northwest—the Yakima, the Snake, Snohomish, Willamette, Klamath, Boise, and others—are part of the cultural, economic and environmental foundation of the region. These waters are meaningful for local Native American Tribes, agricultural production, industries who rely on water resources, and local communities and tourists from around the world that enjoy fishing and other forms of recreation along Northwestern rivers and streams.

It’s no surprise that the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are interested in protecting their rivers to preserve these values, and the wildlife and ecosystems they’re a part of. More surprising, however, is the innovative way the states are collaborating to do it.

LED Lighting Improves Sustainability for Specialty-Crop Producers

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.

For about 2,000 years – since Roman emperor Tiberius demanded fresh cucumbers for lunch year ‘round – farmers have been looking for better ways to extend the growing season.  Now, a team of researchers led by Purdue University has found a way to grow more produce and save money doing it.

Greenhouses and other structures protect crops from harsh environmental conditions.  Over the last 50 years or so, some growers have added artificial lighting to compensate for shorter winter days or when conditions are cloudy.  However, the problem with most lighting systems is that they are relatively costly to install and do not provide the light spectrum that is most efficient for photosynthesis in plants.

Did You Just Toss that Carrot Stick Away?

Did you throw away any food today? If so, you are not alone.

Many of us struggle to store or use up the last of the leftovers or think of something edible to do with those shriveled vegetables at the bottom of the chiller drawer.  In fact, in 2010, 133 billion pounds of food in U.S. retail food stores, restaurants, and homes never made it into people’s stomachs. An estimated 30 to 40 percent of the food supply in the U.S. is wasted, in that it never reaches the intended consumers.  Unfortunately, the decision to purchase and then discard food has some serious ramifications for the environment and for food security.

Together, we can do something about this.  On June 4th - the day before World Environment Day – USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will launch the U.S. Food Waste Challenge and call on organizations spanning the food supply chain to join the fight against food waste.  Together we can help reduce the amount of food that is sent to our landfills and increase the amounts that are recovered to help families in need.

USDA Officials Participate in African American Policy Forum in Mississippi

On Wednesday, June 13, the White House, in conjunction with Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hosted an African American Regional Policy Forum at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. This forum is part of an ongoing series of regional discussions held in communities nationwide. Each forum is intended to connect Administration Officials from a wide range of policy areas with African American civic, elected, and faith leaders to discuss issues critical to the African American community and the nation.

Earth Day in Alaska-A time to Mark Progress on Improving the Quality of Rural Health

As America marks the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day, it’s good to reflect on the real, positive affect USDA’s water program and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) is having on rural Alaska.  Our Department, working with other Federal departments and the State, continues to fund projects to improve water quality across Alaska.  Here’s an example: