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Blog Archives

Seeing is Believing: Soil Health Practices and No-Till Farming Transform Landscapes and Produce Nutritious Food

This month, we’re highlighting 12 important gifts given to us when we conserve natural resources: soil, food, plants, wildlife, people, health, protection, recreation, air, water, technology and the future. NRCS’ mission is to conserve the full range of natural resources, but soil health is our foundation. And it’s the first conservation gift that we’re going to highlight. And without soil, we couldn’t celebrate with food. We encourage you to give the gift of conservation this season!

Curbing Soil Erosion

Soil is the foundation for a healthy environment. If you need proof that no-till farming works, look no further than the rolling hills of north-central Oregon.

For decades, this region was dominated by winter wheat farms that used extensive tillage to control weeds during fallow years. It was the conventional way of farming in the area, from the early 1900’s through the 1980’s.

A Holiday Get Together: Cooking for Friends and Family

The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends. Office parties, holiday buffets and potluck dinners offer great opportunities to exchange gifts and goodwill. But if food is not properly handled, they can also be a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria that causes foodborne illnesses. Following the recommendations below will help keep foodborne bacteria off of your menu.

One-Stop Shopping for Federal Scientific Collections

Federal agencies act as custodians of hundreds of diverse scientific collections that contain everything from plant and animal specimens, tissues, and DNA to microbes, minerals, and moonrocks. These collections are part of the country’s science infrastructure, and support work in fields that include public health and safety, agriculture, trade, homeland security, medical research, trade, and environmental monitoring.

Agencies have been working to improve access to information about these collections and expand opportunities for their use. Now, through a joint effort between the USDA and Smithsonian Institution, an Interagency Working Group on Scientific Collections (IWGSC) has been cataloging them in a newly established Registry of U.S. Federal Scientific Collections (USFSC) managed by the Smithsonian.

Fighting Hunger: Closing the Summer Feeding Gap

Summer is tough to enjoy when you’re hungry. It’s a hard reality that many kids from low-income households face when school is out and the weather turns sunny. To help close the summer feeding gap, the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer demonstration offers a new model to do just that.

Without the daily nutrition provided by the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program, many families facing poverty are also experiencing its most difficult symptom: hunger. USDA has several tools to help solve this problem, with the newest addition being the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer for Children demonstration project, commonly referred to as Summer EBT.

Vermont Says 'Thank You' to Massachusetts for Fighting Invasive Beetle

The Vermont maple syrup industry is well aware that an invasive, tree-killing insect could threaten the production of its delicious, all-natural commodity.  So on December 13, just four days before National Maple Syrup Day on December 17, the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association and Vermont state officials hosted a special pancake and maple syrup breakfast to thank partners for supporting the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) eradication program in Massachusetts.

Why would people in Vermont make breakfast for their neighbors in Massachusetts?  Vermont’s Forest Health Program Manager Barbara Schultz told the group the Asian longhorned beetle poses a significant threat to our northeastern forests and the insect could spread throughout the region and devastate maple sugaring in Vermont if it’s not eradicated in Massachusetts.

It's Almost Time to Think about New Year's Resolutions...Almost!

The holiday season is a wonderful, exciting, and incredibly busy time.  Between the celebrations, family gatherings, and the food (so much food!), healthy eating isn’t likely the first thing on your mind. And that’s OK.

In a few short weeks, many of us will be turning our attention to the new year. What will 2017 bring? What are our personal goals for the year?  Every January there is an overload of information about New Year’s resolutions, and many people will set goals that focus on health, fitness, and nutrition.  But while we often set high hopes on January 1, less than half are still committed to accomplishing our resolutions months later.

SNAP E&T Boosts Job Skills, Transforms Lives

On a recent trip to California,  I took part in a wonderful event in San Francisco’s Mission District - also known as “The Mission” - one of the most racially and economically diverse areas in the nation.  After parking the car, Jesus Mendoza Jr., Regional Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region, escorted me to a room buzzing with activity and excitement. Now given my role as Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), you might expect that we were visiting a food bank or a meal program for low-income children.

But this visit wasn’t about food.

It was about jobs!

USDA Breaks into the Top 10 Best Places to Work

I would like to congratulate all who work at USDA for the incredible improvement in our ranking in the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.  In 2016, for the first time, we have moved into the Top 10 Best Places to Work among large Federal agencies.  When I became Secretary of Agriculture in 2009, one of my first priorities was beginning a cultural transformation of our Department, redoubling our efforts on diversity and inclusion and retooling USDA to be a modern, 21st century employer and premier service provider that better reflects all of the communities we serve.  Participating in this transformation has been one of my most meaningful experiences as Secretary, and I am immensely proud that it has become part of the fabric of our Department.

Over the past eight years, USDA has worked to become a model employer by making it a priority to improve in areas such as communication, teamwork, diversity and inclusion, work-life balance, and employee training and development.  Today, as a result of these efforts, I am proud to announce that the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit organization, has recognized USDA for the strides we have made across our Department to improve the quality of our workplace.

Working with the Private Sector, Guaranteeing Affordable Housing Opportunities in Rural America

Groceries, childcare, education, transportation, insurance, utilities: these are just some of the essential places families nationwide spend their paychecks every month. Making ends meet takes hard work, but sometimes even after working long hours and shopping right families need help to make it.

Twenty years ago essential affordable housing opportunities were scarce in rural America. Banks weren’t investing in these opportunities because deals that would build affordable rentals required long-term, patient capital that turned profit much slower than those big, new, luxury apartments in cities and larger towns.

Family Farm Co-op in Missouri Shows Commitment to Food Safety

For more than four generations, Amish farmers in the Kansas City area have abided by a simple tenet:  farm sustainably and care for the earth to preserve their way of life for future generations.  Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF), a cooperative of 18 Amish family farms in Missouri, is using GroupGAP, a new USDA audit program, to help them safeguard their future by building strong markets for the high-quality, local foods they produce. In August, the group made USDA history as the first to receive an official USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification through our new GroupGAP program.

Since 2002, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has provided the traditional USDA GAP audit program to the fruit and vegetable industry. GAP is a voluntary program that verifies its participants follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and industry best practices to minimize risks of food safety hazards when producing, handling, and storing fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops. In 2016, AMS conducted nearly 4,000 traditional GAP audits.