Skip to main content

new mexico

New Study Offers Sage Advice

For many, one of the New Year’s first big chores is to remove a tree from inside their home. Trees, beautiful and useful as they are, do not belong everywhere. Such is the case with trees and other woody species that are expanding into the Western grasslands.

Over the years, woody species like juniper, pinyon pine, redcedar and mesquite have encroached on grassland and sagebrush ecosystems, altering these landscapes and making them unsuitable for native wildlife like the lesser prairie-chicken and greater sage-grouse. Encroaching conifers also degrade rangelands for agricultural producers whose livestock rely on nutritious forage.

Learning Through Listening: Convening with the Navajo Nation

“We do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”—Navajo proverb

Last month, Rural Development and the Navajo Nation convened an economic development workshop involving an array of leaders and stakeholders from across the Navajo Nation and 14 Federal partners in Crownpoint, N.M. The convening gave me a chance to meet with Navajo Nation officials, university representatives, private business owners and nonprofit administrators.  All were focused on improving the economy and quality of life throughout the Navajo Nation.

Digital Connection Helps Kodiak Students

Cross-posted from the Alaska Dispatch News:

For students heading back to school this month in Kodiak, it's anything but "class as usual." Because at Kodiak Island Borough School District, 400 miles from Anchorage and accessible only by airplane and ferry, ConnectED investments in high-speed internet and new technology have transformed the student experience — with remarkable results.

Walking through Kodiak High School offers a glimpse at the transformative role education technology is playing in rural America. In one classroom, students use videoconferencing technology to connect with teachers and students from across the island — expanding their horizons through virtual field trips and never-before-available courses like music and civics. Math offerings, once limited to algebra, now include online and distance-learning courses all the way up through calculus. And before and after school, high-speed connectivity allows teachers to tap into interactive professional development and training to customize student learning based on individual needs.

Unique Mural Captures Essence of the Sustainable Recreation Movement

Recently, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell visited the agency’s Southwestern Regional Office in Albuquerque, NM, to review the status of a number of different programs. However, on this visit, the setting was very different than the normal business setting of a boring conference room.

This is because the Very Special Arts (VSA) North Fourth Art Center in Albuquerque was asked to paint a mural that represented what sustainable recreation meant to them. The art center immediately embraced and ran with the idea, creating a 6’ x 16’ movable mural that helped bring the outside inside.

Using Science to Help Keep Food Safe: A Day in the Life of a USDA Laboratory Auditor

July is the height of summer grilling season, and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence.

From soup to nuts, we use science to help ensure the quality of agricultural products for consumers worldwide. As a Microbiologist for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I am one of a small group of highly-qualified auditors that travel across the country to certify over 70 private laboratories. These labs are consistently testing to verify the quality and wholesomeness of U.S. food and agricultural products.

Our Laboratory Approval Service approves, or accredits, labs that test agricultural products in support of domestic and international trade. Our programs cover a variety of products from aflatoxin testing in peanuts and tree nuts to export verification for meat and poultry products.

Nutritional Security Through Sustainable Agriculture

Nutritional security is defined as “a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Achieving nutritional security in the context of the burgeoning population, climate change, diminishing land and water resources, environmental degradation, and changing incomes and diets will require not just approaches to sustainably producing more food, but also smarter ways of producing food, dealing with food waste, and promoting improved nutritional outcomes.  The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve these societal challenges. NIFA’s portfolio of support for nutritional security and sustainable agriculture includes literally thousands of impactful efforts across our nation; below are just a handful that speak to the transformative work transforming lives.  For example:

Acequia de Las Joyas Blooms with Traditional Irrigation Methods

Spaniards built the Acequia de Las Joyas approximately 300 years ago. The acequia, a community irrigation watercourse or ditch, was the principal method of providing water to the farmers for their crop and rangelands in northern New Mexico. The parciantes (also known as acequia members) worked together to maintain the acequia and each member in return received a portion of the water.

Three centuries later, the practice is still key to making the land bloom. But, time and the elements have taken their toll on acequia and repair costs have escalated to the point that members can no longer shoulder the burden of maintaining the critical community resource alone.

Outdoor Laboratories Provide Unique Opportunity for Environmentally-Responsible Food Production

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.

Some of the world’s most unique cacti, reptiles and plants reside right here in the United States among our nation’s lush watersheds and rangelands. Their ability to survive and thrive provide clues to preserving a diverse, sustainable habitat well into the future. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are the stewards of some of the agricultural lands that these fascinating creatures live on.

One such place, ARS’s Jornada Rangeland Research Facility in Las Cruces, NM, is a treasure trove for observing and gathering long-term information about how these species, environmental factors and agricultural practices intertwine and impact one another.

What I Would Have Said Today to Vice President Biden about the Recovery Act

This blog is cross posted from Secretary Vilsack's Medium page:

Somedays being a Cabinet member, you have to be flexible. Today is one of those days. While in New Orleans to speak to the Renewable Fuel Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, I traveled to the Port of New Orleans to attend an event with Vice President Biden. The Vice President scheduled an event at the port to highlight the 7th anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Vice President is the most logical person to celebrate the anniversary of ARRA achievements since he led the historic effort on behalf of the Administration. I was to be one of the warm-up acts for Vice President Biden, but due to a scheduling conflict, I had to leave before the program started. Out of respect for the Vice President's effort to lead the Administration's implementation of ARRA, I had planned to highlight for him the enormous investment made in rural America as a result of ARRA. If I had been able to stay, I would have pointed to these 6 big investments by USDA:

Navajo Nation Highlights the Value of the Environmental Justice

I recently traveled to New Mexico and Arizona to visit with local Navajo government leaders, Tribal College officials, and community members to hear about life on the Navajo Reservation. Michael Burns, from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was also there to discuss an important new collaboration, the College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP).

CUPP develops partnerships between underserved communities and geographically close colleges and universities to provide technical support through faculty, students and staff at no cost to those communities. One of my top priorities is for USDA to help EPA expand the CUPP program to involve Tribal communities and colleges to advance the cause of environmental justice.