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Regional Partnerships Help De-Clutter Arizona Grasslands

A popular new year’s resolution is to de-clutter our homes. But what if a clutter-free home was the only way you could survive and thrive?

Across Arizona, there is wildlife living in grasslands impacted by poorly-planned fencing and woody invasive brush. Invasive plant species, such as pinion juniper and mesquite that grow and spread quickly, create obstacles in grassland habitats that make it difficult for pronghorn and other migratory, grassland-dependent species to avoid predators.

Further, these invasives crowd out native grasses that provide food for wildlife and livestock, reduce soil erosion and help soil absorb precipitation, which is vital to replenishing supplies of groundwater and improving water quality.

Innovation is Driving Down Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Corn-based Ethanol

Ethanol, primarily derived from corn, supplies about 10 percent of US motor fuel needs.  A new study from ICF which was released today, titled “A Life-Cycle Analysis of the Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Corn-Based Ethanol,” finds that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with corn-based ethanol in the United States are about 43 percent lower than gasoline when measured on an energy equivalent basis.  This is comparable to reducing GHG emissions in the U.S.

Bringing it Home at the End of the Year

According to recent data on local food marketing practices, 167,000 U.S. farms locally produced and sold food through direct marketing practices, resulting in $8.7 billion in revenue. Pennsylvania led the U.S. in the number of farms selling directly to consumers, with more than 6,000 operations. California led in sales, earning $467 million. The survey also concluded that more than 80 percent of all direct market food sales occurred within 100 miles of the farm.

Local foods, pollination, organic products, fats and oils—these are just a few of the topics on which NASS recently began collecting and reporting data to meet data interests and requests, adding to our long-standing information on major commodities. We are innovating and building on more than 150 years of service to rural America with agriculture statistics. The value of accurate data is now more important than ever for decision-making on the farm, and by USDA farm program administrators, policy makers, researchers, market participants and, really, every aspect of agriculture.

Taste Test: Behind the Scenes with USDA Foods

The USDA Foods Available List is a lot like any other menu, with dozens of healthy options for state agencies to order and distribute through USDA’s nutrition assistance programs.  And every year, foods are added or removed from the list based on customer demand and market conditions. Some offerings are modified to improve nutrition content or make the product and its packaging easier to work with in the kitchen or more acceptable to kids.

The USDA Foods program is a collaboration between the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the agency that procures the food, and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), the agency that distributes the food. This school year, the USDA Foods team’s goal for training and conferences is to provide more opportunities to taste new and reformulated products. That way, state agencies can confidently order them and school districts can incorporate them into their menus.

USDA Offers Grants to Help Expand Marketing and Local Food Opportunities

If there is one word that best embodies agriculture, it is entrepreneurship. Over the course of my time at USDA, I’ve had the chance to meet with farmers, ranchers and food business of all sizes and in all parts of the country. The faces of these entrepreneurs and their innovative strategies and business models reflect the diversity that makes this country strong.  Each year, USDA helps thousands of agricultural producers and businesses enhance their marketing efforts and bring healthy, nutritious food to communities– and I’m excited that this week, we’ve announced another opportunity to support their work.

My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), announced the availability of more than $27 million in grants to help ensure the livelihoods of our nation’s farmers and ranchers while strengthening rural economies. The announcement included $26 million in AMS grant funding from the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program through the Local Food Marketing Promotion Program (LFPP) and the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP).

USDA Works to Deliver Broadband to Rural Communities

Thanks to USDA Rural Development’s Rural Utilities Service funding and Home Communications, Inc., those who live and work in a rural Kansas community don’t have to travel miles for broadband service. High school and college students can upload, research, and complete homework assignments online. Employees can work remotely, farmers can monitor operations, and businesses can successfully market and promote their products and services.

Home Communications, Inc. (HCI), based in Gypsum, Kan., is one example of how rural telecommunication service providers are investing in the future of their communities. Since they opened doors as a rural telephone company in 1933, HCI has transitioned to a broadband service provider focused on growth by expanding their customer base and service territory.

Here's a New Year's Resolution that You'll Want to Keep

The New Year is here and most of us are making resolutions about how to improve our lives in 2017. Well, we at the Natural Resources Conservation Service believe that learning about farming and conserving natural resources should be at the top of everyone’s list of resolutions. How can you make that happen? By signing up for a farm field day. Field days will give you plenty of opportunities to learn about how good agriculture is done and boost your knowledge of how to conserve and protect natural resources.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in or near Wisconsin, be sure to visit the Lower Fox River Watershed. It’s just south of Green Bay and home to the Great Lakes Demonstration Farm Network where you can see leading-edge conservation practices that are specifically designed to help farmers reduce how much phosphorus enters Green Bay and improve water quality in the Great Lakes.

#MyPlateChallenge Week 2 - Fruits & Physical Activity

The MyPlate Team welcomes you to Week 2 of our 5-week New Year’s Challenge! Last week we focused on the Dairy Food Group and physical activity. This week we’re adding another food group to the mix… fruit!

So, what foods are in the Fruit Group? This food group includes all fruits and 100% fruit juices. Focus on whole fruits—fresh, canned, frozen, or dried—more often for added dietary fiber. In addition to fiber, fruits contain many essential nutrients that are typically under consumed, including potassium, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid). Healthy ways to add fruit to your day:

Selecting Trees to Grow in Cities: Database Captures Urban Tree Sizes, Growth Rates Across US

In the cramped environs of U.S. cities every inch counts, especially if attempting to make space for nature. But now city planners and urban foresters have a resource to more precisely select tree species whose growth will be a landscaping dream instead of a maintenance nightmare.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station recently published a technical manual and launched the most extensive database available cataloging urban trees with their projected growth tailored to specific geographic regions.

U.S. Sweet Potato Production Swells

Chances are that if you order a side of fries at a restaurant, you need to specify whether you’re asking for white potatoes or sweet potatoes. Food trends that support the consumption of more healthful, colorful and unique foods have helped to encourage sales of sweet potatoes in the form of fries, chips, ready-to-cook and heat-and-eat preparations, expanding consumption of the orange tuber well beyond the holiday table.

Domestic consumption of sweet potatoes has grown considerably since 2000 with annual per capita availability (a proxy for consumption) rising from 4.2 pounds to reach a record-high 7.5 pounds in 2015. The marked rise in domestic demand has been encouraged by promotion of the health benefits of sweet potatoes – rich in vitamins A and C, high in fiber. Expanded demand has also been supported by the increasing variety of sweet potato products available in restaurants and for home preparation.