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A Huge Undertaking with Tremendous Benefit - USDA's Integral Role in the National Beef Quality Audit

About once every five years since 1991, the National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) brings together producers, consumers, academia, and government in a collaborative research and data collection exercise that spans the entire U.S. beef industry.  Funded by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (the beef checkoff program), the NBQA assesses the current status of the industry regarding production processes and practices that ultimately affect consumer demand for beef.

The audit uses a multi-phase approach to identify the top challenges the fed-beef (cattle raised for meat production) industry faces.  The NBQA first gathers data to measure current quality and consistency of U.S fed-beef, and then quantifies the level to which cattle producers are applying common sense husbandry techniques, specifically the Beef Quality Assurance principles, to safeguard that quality.  The results are translated into practical guidance for continued improvement in the production of fed-beef and, in turn, consumers’ acceptance of the end products found in stores.

The Morrill Act: 153 Years of Innovations for American Agriculture

July in America.  It is summer time and school’s out. It is about vacations and maybe a trip to the beach. It is Independence Day—the 4th of July—and parades and fireworks.  It is about barbecues, hotdogs, and burgers. 

2015 marks America’s 239th birthday.

July is also the month for another important birthday in America—passage of the Morrill Act on July 2, 1862, which established the land-grant university system, ensuring access to education for all people.

Exploring New Options for Agroforestry

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.

The language on the 1930s poster for the Prairie States Forestry Project was downright plaintive: “Trees Prevent Soil Erosion/Save Moisture/Protect Crops/Contribute to Human Comfort and Happiness.”

The mission of the project, initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt, was to encourage landowners to plant tree windbreaks on cropland ravaged by dust storms and drought. As a result, more than 210 million trees from North Dakota to Texas were planted in 18,500 miles of windbreaks, some of which still remain.

Virginia Tech Animal Breeding Graduate Program Makes Strides in Online Learning

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 the USDA's rich science and research portfolio.

Imagine a graduate school that combined the faculty expertise of seven universities throughout the United States. Imagine this program focused on animal genetics, using the latest research data to teach students.  Best of all, students can attend with the click of a mouse.

It’s not some futuristic university—this is a digital learning center created by faculty at Virginia Tech, and funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  Ron Lewis, professor of animal genetics at Virginia Tech, received a grant from NIFA’s Higher Education Challenge Grant Program to launch this on-line graduate-level training in animal breeding and genetics in 2007.

USDA Rural Development Hosts Turkish Delegation in Nebraska

Rural development officials from Hatay Province, Turkey were in the United States recently to learn about USDA Rural Development programs at the national level and in Nebraska.  Hatay Governor Mehmet Celalettio Lekesiz, Hatay Rural Development Agency Director Savas Ozgursoy and four agency staff were on the delegation tour.

Turkey will soon be joining the European Union and Hatay is one of the 20 Turkish provinces chosen for the first phase of EU assistance to support the establishment of a rural development agency.  Hatay is in southeast Turkey, bordering Syria and on the Mediterranean Sea.  The first settlement goes back to 40,000 to 9,000 BC when the main city of Antioch was founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals.

Recipe for Recovery of Rural Communities

Rural communities will play a critical role in the nation's economic recovery, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Omaha, Nebraska on January 28, 2011. Vilsack pointed out that producers learned well about the dangers of debt during the 1980s’ farm crisis and took heed, which has placed them and their communities in a better position during the recent downward trend in the economy.

Innovation has been key to producers as they find new ways to boost production. Ethanol and bio-fuels are an important factor for continued growth and the strong exports of U.S. crops are supporting jobs in rural America, Secretary Vilsack said.  He also commented that it is probable that the most successful part of our economy today is agriculture.

Secretary Vilsack Addresses Nebraska Students and Ag Industry Leaders-Says Rural America is Leading the Way in Biofuels Research

In an address last month to students of the Peter Kiewit Institute and members of Nebraska’s agriculture industry, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack cited numerous examples of how USDA is meeting President Obama’s challenge to Americans to “out innovate, out educate and out build the competition.”

The Peter Kiewit Institute offers academic programs from both the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Engineering and the University of Nebraska at Omaha's College of Information Science and Technology. Although the correlation between the Institute and the Department of Agriculture may not be immediately evident, Vilsack’s remarks quickly painted a picture of two entities with a common goal — success through innovation and technology.