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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.

USDA’s Collaborative and Active Engagement in the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System is Twenty Years Old and Going Strong

Today kicked off “Get Smart about Antibiotics” week in the United States and the World Health Organization’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week in 2016. During this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its other federal partners want to remind families and communities about the importance of responsible antibiotic use in both humans and animals, to help reduce the development of resistant bacteria. This week, we also celebrate the 20th anniversary of the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS).  Through NARMS, USDA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collaborate on everything relating to antimicrobial resistant bacteria.   Since 1996, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) have been active participants in this combined federal surveillance program.

So, what is antimicrobial resistance?  As you might recall, in 1928, Dr. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, a drug that revolutionized the treatment of bacterial infections. In the years following, penicillin and the discovery and therapeutic use of other antibiotics, we have relied on antibiotics to treat and cure a variety of illnesses - in both humans and animals, across the globe. The use of these drugs has aided in the development of resistant strains of bacteria. Unfortunately, this development means that some previously treatable forms of bacterial infections are now resistant to the antibiotics that were designed to treat them. It is estimated that the decrease in effectiveness of antibiotics, results in more than two million U.S. cases of antibiotic resistant infections, annually. Some of these types of infections might require longer hospital stays and are more costly to treat successfully. 

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Anita Roberson

Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. In honor of Veterans Day, we hear from Anita Roberson, a U.S. Army Veteran who started a post service career in agriculture. She and her husband Thomas, also a U.S. Army veteran, both proudly own a ten-acre farm in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, where they produce vegetables, fruit, flowers, and honey.

1. First off, thank you for your service. Tell us about your background and how you got into agriculture.

You are welcome!  I grew up in a military family, but some of my fondest memories were of life on the farm with my paternal grandparents. They had an amazing flower and vegetable garden, working dogs, laying chickens, and Jersey cattle. Those magnificent impressions helped me to realize that I was destined to work in the sciences.  As an undergraduate, I majored in biology and later joined the Army and served as a Medical Service Corps officer. Later I married a Physician Assistant who grew up on a farm. While serving in Germany, we purchased my aunt’s ten-acre farm so she could retire, thinking it would be an awesome opportunity to help us in our eventual retirement. It was one of the best decisions we made.  After we returned to Virginia, we met an Extension Agent who invited us to attend a Small Farm Outreach Program and the rest is history.

USDA Helps Iraqi War Veteran Enhance Conservation On Farm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping Iraq War veteran Adam Boge improve technology and other efficiencies in his new farming operation, allowing the Ventura farmer to prepare for long-term success in the first full year on his own.

Boge enlisted in the Army directly out of high school. After his initial military service, he attended Iowa State University for Ag Systems Technology and Mechanical Engineering. College was interrupted, however, by his Iraq deployment. Boge represented the Army National Guard’s 1133rd Transportation Company out of Mason City for 15 months throughout 2003 and 2004 in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Harvest Time: Celebrating Native American Heritage and Traditional Foods in FDPIR

Autumn is a time to reflect on all that we have to be thankful for, as we enjoy the harvest of nature’s bounty during gatherings with family and friends. In Indian Country, culture and tradition are sustained through shared meals with family and the community. Traditional foods are a powerful way for each new generation to connect with and honor its history and its ancestors, and participants in USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) have access to more traditional foods than ever this year. November, Native American Heritage Month, is an especially fitting time to celebrate the addition to FDPIR of bison, blue cornmeal, wild rice, and wild salmon – foods that not only nourish a body but sustain a culture.

In collaboration with the FDPIR community, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service and Food and Nutrition Service have been working to identify culturally relevant foods to procure and offer through FDPIR, a program that provides healthy food and nutrition education to an average of 92,500 income-eligible individuals living on or near reservations across the United States each month. The food package offers more than 100 domestically sourced, nutritious foods, including a variety of meat, poultry, fish, dairy, grains, and fruits and vegetables. In both fiscal year 2015 and 2016, USDA received an additional allocation of $5 million dedicated to traditional and locally-grown foods. This fund, authorized under the 2014 Farm Bill and subject to the availability of appropriations, has allowed the exploration of new culinary opportunities for FDPIR.

Conservation as a Peace Offering to Vietnam War Veteran

Conservation is giving Vietnam War veteran Gilbert Harrison a peace offering of healing, helping to balance the stresses of war. For Harrison, conserving the natural resources on his farm is an important outdoor activity. And who better to care for the land than the veterans who fought to protect it?

Harrison has worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) since 2012, when he received funding and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help him install an improved irrigation system to help develop alfalfa production on his land.

Promoting Integrity through Improved Technology

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you already know that USDA is committed to continuously improving the integrity of their programs.  We strive to operate our programs effectively and efficiently.  We aim to provide program participants with the best service possible, while ensuring taxpayers get the biggest bang for their buck.

We go about this in a number of different ways.  In previous posts, we’ve shared how we’re streamlining the USDA organic certification process; highlighted our prize competition, which crowdsourced design ideas to minimize error in school meals applications; and featured ways we’re working to educate farmers on official grain standards, sampling and grading rules.

Veterans Returning to Civilian Life Bring Skill and Talent to Farm and Ranch

In honor of Veterans Day, Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam provided Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with an overview of USDA’s support for veterans. Baccam, a proud army veteran, also serves as the Department’s Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison.

A Hero in Farmville

When I met Henry Smith in March, he told me about how two months earlier he stepped off of a plane and onto Belgian soil for the first time in more than 70 years. He said the setting was immediately familiar to him.

“It’s going to snow,” he said to his family as the chill in the air and low-hanging clouds echoed conditions he remembers vividly from January 15 and 16, 1945.

We All Agree - Veterans Are Part of Our National Fabric

With the political rhetoric finally over, there’s one inspiring message that everyone can agree with—our veterans already make America great every day. Every veteran who joined the military following the end of the draft in 1973 volunteered to serve our country. And they want to continue serving even after they packed away their uniforms.

During remarks delivered at Arlington Cemetery last year, the President noted that bringing veterans into the workforce shouldn’t necessarily reflect some moral obligation, charity or patriotism. Veterans, including those with disabilities, are simply good for business.  Our veterans possess training, skills, leadership, and motivation ideally suited for public service. Following their commitment of service during one of the longest struggles in history, our veterans consistently reflect passion, resilience, and tenacity to get the job done.  Their talents are seasoned by deployments, honed in many cases under the stress of combat, and forever shaped by an ethos dedicated to mission success.