Skip to main content


Common Past, Common Future: USDA & Gallaudet Create Opportunities for Students

I often wonder if the leaders who came before us recognized the pivotal things they set in motion, the far-reaching impact their actions would have, and how they helped shape America into a land of opportunity. President Lincoln’s legacy and impact is well-known and obvious, but he did so much more than lead this country during its most trying time.  And it’s these smaller acts—those that are not typically taught in the history books—that I wonder about the most.  Did he know what he was setting in motion?

In 1862, a year after the start of the Civil War, President Lincoln signed the law creating the U.S. Department of Agriculture—a place he called “The People’s Department.”  Two years later, and just five months after giving the Gettysburg Address, he signed the charter establishing Gallaudet University—an institution that has helped thousands of deaf and hard of hearing students achieve their educational goals and fulfill their dreams.

Former USDA/1890's Scholarship Recipient Makes Career in Public Health at USDA

On Wednesday, Secretary Vilsack signed a renewed Memorandum of Understanding with the Council of 1890 Universities, reaffirming USDA’s partnership with all 19 1890’s Universities across the country. Through this memorandum the USDA is able to put forth a collaborative effort to encourage more opportunities for students and graduates to work at the USDA or in careers related to food, agricultural science and natural resources. In partnering with 1890 Universities we are able to set up an equitable exchange of expertise and resources that will help strengthen the overall capacity of each institution of learning, as well as the USDA.  The following story demonstrates how one USDA 1890’s scholarship recipient has made rewarding career in public health.

Nisha Antoine, a USDA microbiologist and Lieutenant Commander of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, has always understood the relationship between personal health and public health. As a child with asthma, she spent a lot of time in the emergency room, and she was inspired by her doctors and nurses to want to take care of other children as an adult. From elementary school through college at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Nisha enjoyed studying biology, a path she knew would eventually lead to a career of caring for others. When she was a senior in high school, an application for the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program came in the mail, and her mother encouraged her to apply. Today, she says receiving the scholarship and going to an 1890’s institution afforded her opportunities that she may not have experienced otherwise.

USDA Pilots New Strategy to Recruit Minority Serving Institution Graduates

As we’ve celebrated Public Service Recognition Week this week, Secretary Vilsack and employees all across the government have shared what an honor it is to work as a public servant. But, it’s no secret that the federal hiring process is a lengthy one, which can be especially frustrating for recent graduates eager to begin careers upon earning their degrees. To streamline this process and meet an important hiring initiative—bringing qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds and more young people into our ranks—USDA has been piloting a new on-site hiring strategy at Minority Serving Institutions.

Working directly with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), USDA has hosted five on-site events where USDA hiring managers collect applications, conduct interviews, and in some cases make job offers on the spot for internships and recent graduate positions. To date, USDA has collected 795 applications at these events, for a total of 276 available positions within 10 USDA agencies, including the Agricultural Marketing Service, Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Farm Service Agency, Forest Service, Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Risk Management Agency, and Rural Development.

NIFA Signs Pact to Promote and Support U.S.-Israeli Agricultural R&D

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.

On November 22, the United States and Israel came one step closer to renewing agricultural research and development activities that could produce new knowledge and innovations beneficial to both countries and increase the economic bottom line for farmers and ranchers.

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Edo Chalutz, executive director of the U.S.–Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to promote collaboration via NIFA among U.S. and Israeli scientists and engineers. BARD and the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA’s intramural research agency, have cooperated on research together since BARD’s inception.

Funds Promote Development of Rural Wood to Energy Projects

Earlier this week, USDA, U.S. Forest Service and partners took a major step to improve forest management, create rural jobs, prevent wildfires, and expand promising renewable energy opportunities.

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden joined leaders from the Alliance for Green Heat, the Biomass Power Association, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, and the Pellet Fuels Institute here in Washington for the announcement of a new partnership agreement. Acting as master of ceremonies for the signing event was Acting USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Doug O’Brien.  Through the Rural Energy for America program and other programs, Rural Development has been a leader in promoting deployment of wood-to-energy projects.

USDA Redoubles Efforts to Provide Safe, Affordable Housing on a South Dakota Reservation

Recently, Crow Creek Sioux Tribal Chairman Brandon Sazue Sr.  joined USDA Rural Development Acting Housing Director Bruce Jones and Lori Moen, Chief Operating Officer for GROW South Dakota (GROW) in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that will streamline the process towards increased homeownership on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation.  “What we do today can make a difference for tomorrow.  By working together, we support the betterment of our Tribe as we know housing is much needed on our Reservation” said Chairman Sazue Sr.

Helicopters and Bird Strikes; Results from First Analysis Available Online

Bird strikes to civil and military helicopters resulted in 61 human injuries and 11 lost lives since 1990. As with fixed-winged aircraft, bird strikes to helicopters are costly.  Available data showed the average cost of a damaging strike to military helicopters ranged from $12,184 to $337,281 per incident, and APHIS-Wildlife Services (WS) wants to address this problem.

More than a dozen stakeholders representing both civil and military aviation groups, safety and regulatory agencies, and wildlife specialists turned out for the May 15th USDA-APHIS stakeholders meeting to hear results from the first scientific analysis of bird-strike hazards to helicopters.

Improving Access to Farm Programs in Indian Country

In keeping with President Obama and Secretary Vilsack’s efforts to improve the lives of Native Americans, USDA officials last month signed two Memorandums of Understanding with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).  The intention is to improve access to USDA programs by tribes and tribal members.

The MOUs set up a framework for consultation, training, coordination, and the provision of technical assistance which will increase the amount of Indian land enrolled under USDA conservation programs through NRCS and farm loan programs through FSA and improve service delivery on those lands. Farming and animal management, grazing, ranching and related food and agricultural operations will be supported through improved interdepartmental coordination. The MOUs also support establishment of Native rural businesses, renewable energy development, and job creation.

USDA, EPA Sign 5 Year Commitment with 1890 Universities

One hundred fifty years ago – just two months after the creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, a historic measure that created the land-grant university system. Twenty-eight years later, Congress enacted a second Morrill Act to establish African American land-grant universities.

Commonly referred to as 1890 Universities, these schools have remained the custodians of access to and opportunity for higher education in underserved communities, as well as leaders in agricultural, environmental and public health studies.

Understanding the special role 1890 Universities play in preparing the next generation of American leaders, on Friday, June 29, we signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between USDA, EPA and the Council of 1890 Universities, an organization comprised of presidents and chancellors of historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), to help build upon their rich history.

USDA Praises Industry, Midwest Stakeholders, as they Sign an Agreement To Develop Commercial Biofuels

Great things continue to happen as America moves forward in developing an “all of the above” strategy to become more energy independent.  For example, an agreement was signed between aviation industry leaders and Midwest stakeholders to develop and commercialize sustainable biofuels.  USDA will act as an advisor to this effort.