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Aviation History Month: Aircraft and Paratroopers in the Forest Service

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the U.S. Forest Service relies heavily on fixed wing and rotary aircraft to accomplish the agency’s mission. Employees take to the skies for forest inventory surveys, prescribed fire support, firefighting or to get to remote locations. Since 1919, aircraft has been an invaluable resource for the agency.

There are differing accounts as to when the Forest Service first put aircraft to use. But, it wasn’t until 1919 when Forest Service leadership talked about the use of aviation resources. In April, Forester Coert du Bois told Chief Forester Henry Graves that aerial fire patrols would begin on the Angeles and Cleveland National Forests. These patrols, supported by military pilots from the Air Service of the U.S. Army, continued through 1927, after which the Air Service could no longer support the agency.

Training Growers, Growing Trainers: Preparing for New Food Safety Requirements

Are you preparing to meet the new Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Produce Safety rule standards?  Have you heard about Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)?  Maybe you’ve heard that they can get buyers to notice your products and improve your access to the market place - but you need more information to know if it can work for you.

USDA is hard at work connecting growers with training and resources to support GAP certification and expand their food safety know how. We’ve made big investments in food safety education for growers in recent years, supporting projects through AMS grant programs—the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Federal-State Market Improvement Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program, and Local Food Promotion Program.

Investing in Our Public Lands: The President's Proposal to Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Over 50 years ago, a visionary Congress established an innovative program to bring communities together to invest in open spaces and recreational opportunities that are an essential part of our nation’s heritage and economy. Since then, the highly successful Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped to protect working forests and ranches, preserve our public lands -- parks, refuges,  forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife habitats -- and provide access to outdoor recreation across the nation for use and enjoyment by all Americans.

President Obama is committed to passing on America’s public lands and waters to future generations in better shape than we found them. That’s why he is proposing full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, and pursuing permanent authorization in annual mandatory funding for the Fund’s programs beginning in 2018.

Baby, it’s cold outside. Time to stock up on firewood.

 It’s fall in North America.  It’s the time of year that marks the transition from summer into winter.  It’s when the night time comes earlier and the weather cools considerably.  It’s also the time of year when most of us start to turn on our heat or start to acquire firewood. 

There are a lot of us that use firewood as a heat source.  According to U.S. Census data 2.4 million homes across the country are heated by wood.  This number does not include homes that use firewood as secondary heating or those of us that use it when we’re camping or even just to sit around in the yard.  Whether or not you use wood to heat your home or build a campfire, firewood is used by millions of Americans. 

Speaking of Pumpkins

In the fall a person’s fancy often turns to thoughts of…pumpkins. The season is underway, from the ornamental pumpkins of Halloween to the pies that grace many tables at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Where do pumpkins come from? Though six States account for nearly half of U.S. production, pumpkins are grown in virtually every State of the union. This is important to consider in light of recent media reports of a looming pumpkin shortage.

USDA is Making Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Possible through STEM and Collaboration

Today, USDA will engage with citizen-science professionals, researchers, and stakeholders from local, state, Federal, and Tribal governments, as well as representatives of the academic, non-profits, and private sector to celebrate citizen science at the first-ever White House citizen science forum on “Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People” – co-hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Domestic Policy Council. The forum will raise awareness of citizen science and crowdsourcing as innovative approaches that can be used to solve complex real-world problems and encourage more Americans to take advantage of them. For example, Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary of USDA’s Research, Education and Economics mission area, is moderating a panel discussion on citizen science in areas related to water and agriculture.

Healthy Lunchtime Challenge and Kids' State Dinner

Calling all budding chefs! Do you like to cook and make healthy food for your friends and family? If so, you might be able to show off your skills and creativity to the First Lady of the United States and your peers from across the country. Learn more about how you can represent your state at the Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House this summer.

First Lady Michelle Obama, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Education, and WGBH Boston invite you to enter the fourth annual Healthy Lunch Time Challenge & Kids’ “State Dinner.” Check out the past events here on the Let's Move! website and get inspired to participate in this year’s challenge.

At the Agricultural Outlook Forum: 2015 Outlook for Farm Income and Food Prices

Policy makers, economists, the farm and food industry, consumer advocates, and others rely on USDA’s food price outlook and farm sector income and finances data in their decision making and planning.  At this year’s Forum, two sessions focus on these closely watched USDA forecasts and present the latest analysis and projections.

A session on the Farm Income Outlook for 2015 focuses on general measures of the financial well-being of the farm economy. The analyses and data released by the Economic Research Service (ERS) and used by USDA and others in both the public and private sector provide insights about the financial health of the U.S. agricultural economy. Financial performance measures assess the farm sector's receipts and expenses; net income; variations in farm income by farm size and other categorizations; and changes in the sector's wealth holdings. ERS estimates and forecasts of farm income and wealth are based on information collected across USDA and other parts of government, as well as responses to USDA's annual Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) and other sector-level information.

What Kept Food Security from Improving After the Recession?

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.

USDA’s annual survey on food security among American households showed, not unexpectedly, that the prevalence of food insecurity increased during the 2007-09 recession. In the post-recession period, the highest monthly unemployment rate dropped from 10 percent in 2009-10 to 8.3 percent in 2012. But the rosier employment picture was matched by very little improvement in the level of food insecurity – i.e., households’ lack of consistent access to adequate food for active, healthy lives. The national prevalence of food security was 14.5 percent in 2012, essentially the same as in 2009 and 2010. What could be the explanation?

SNAP Achieves Record High Payment Accuracy Rate for Seventh Year in a Row

Each year, as required by the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008, USDA issues the payment accuracy rate for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) nationally and state by state.

I’m happy to announce that the fiscal year (FY) 2013 SNAP payment accuracy rate is an impressive 96.8 percent.  This is an all-time high, and is the seventh year in a row with record-breaking accuracy rates.   Payment accuracy means providing the correct amount of SNAP benefits to eligible households. The aim is to make sure that no one gets too little or too much in benefits, but gets exactly the amount they are intended to receive under the law.  This historically high rate indicates that states are continuing to reduce improper payments in SNAP and are making sure that eligible citizens get the right amount of benefits.