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Blog Archives

Nanostructured Biosensors Detect Pesticide, Help Preserve Environment

When does too much of a good thing become a bad thing? That’s the question Dr. Jonathan Claussen, assistant professor at Iowa State University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and his team of researchers aim to help farmers answer when it comes to pesticide use. Underuse can harm farmers’ crops, while overuse can result in runoff into the soil or waterways.

Claussen and his team created a flexible, low cost and disposable biosensor that can detect pesticides in soil. This biosensor is made of graphene, a strong and stable nanoparticle, and provides instantaneous feedback, as opposed to the time and money it would otherwise take to send a sample to a lab and await results.

USDA's FoodKeeper App Uses Open Data to Keep Consumers Safe and Food Fresh

The FSIS FoodKeeper app is an easy way for consumers to keep their food safe by providing valuable advice on storing foods and beverages to maximize freshness and minimize food waste. By helping users understand food storage, the app empowers consumers to select methods that extend shelf life and keep items fresh longer than if they were not properly stored.  The app is available for Android and Apple devices.

Two NASS Surveys Critical for USDA Crop Programs for Farmers

When drought and flooding impact crop production, or even in a year with good yields, good data is crucial to the agriculture industry.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts more than 400 surveys each year.  Two of our larger and more impactful surveys are the annual Row Crops County Agricultural Production Survey (CAPS) and December Agricultural Survey, the results of which are combined to set our county average yields.

Grants, Gardens and Green Beans: Charlottesville's Growing Farm to School Program

In celebration of Virginia Farm to School Week, I recently visited Charlottesville Public Schools to learn about the district’s garden and Harvest of the Month efforts. Here’s a snapshot of what I observed that day.

We push a cart piled high with plates of green beans down the hallway stopping at each classroom. Noses press against the glass in the doors and teachers urge students to sit down, as the door cracks open to excited chatter. The green beans are passed off and we are on to the next classroom, getting to every class in just under 30 minutes. It’s only 9:30 in the morning on October 6 at Burnley-Moran Elementary School and the Harvest of the Month taste test is off to a great start!

A Reflection: Celebrating Eight Years of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Looking back at USDA’s efforts to help rural America thrive, I am truly proud of the impact our diverse partners, both from faith and secular communities, have had within their communities. On behalf of the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, I would like to say thank you to our partners these past eight years as well as reflect on a few notable highlights of the work we have achieved together.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans every day, whether they realize it or not. While our programs to reduce food insecurity are well known, our nation’s most vulnerable citizens can still be hard to reach. Faith-based and community partners have been especially helpful in this area, particularly when it comes to feeding children in summer months, when school is out of session. In collaboration with many partners, including Catholic Charities USA, the Church of God in Christ, Islamic Relief USA, the National Baptist Convention and the Salvation Army, USDA increased the number of summer meals served to kids by 16% between 2009 and 2015, a total of more than 1.2 billion summer meals served when school is out and food is scarce.

Helping Farmers Adapt to Extreme Weather and a Changing Climate

Changes in climate and more extreme weather are already increasing challenges for agriculture and natural resource managers nationally and globally.  Many of these challenges are expected to continue into the future.

A new USDA report Adaptation Resources for Agriculture: Responding to Climate Variability and Change in the Midwest and Northeast provides educators and advisors information, perspective and resources to help farmers in the region prepare for, cope with and recover from the adverse impacts of a changing climate. Developed collaboratively by scientists, conservationists and educators, the report translates the best available climate science into usable resources for making climate-informed decisions.

Small Town 4-H'er Reaches for the Stars

Many kids gaze up into the night’s sky and dream of touching the stars. Peggy Whitson, NASA astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, turned that dream into reality.

Whitson grew up in the small town of Beaconsfield, Iowa, completing standard chores like mowing the lawn and caring for animals, but never lost her determination to fly and eventually go to outer space. At the age of nine, Whitson became involved with the 4-H program. Her brothers and sisters were active with the local Ringgold County 4-H club and it was a natural fit for her. The program played a key role in helping her develop from a shy girl into an exceptional leader.

Research in Energy Security Helps Lead to Food Security in West Africa

Research shows the majority of people in Africa depend on biomass to meet their energy needs, with approximately 80 percent relying on wood energy. Such high dependency makes families vulnerable to unexpected and sudden changes, including extreme weather and socio-political events. Researching and developing ways to diversify energy sources is crucial for a more sustainable, food secure future.

A project funded through the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Cochran Fellowship Program on “Biofuels for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods,” hosted by the University of Missouri (MU) College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources International Programs, set out to address this very issue. The research and training program was organized for West African Cochran Fellows to learn how different uses of biofuels can help support sustainable livelihoods in their communities. The two-week-long program consisted of workshops, field visits and interactive discussions in cooperation with the USDA Forest Products Laboratory, the MU Center for Agroforestry, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and Envest Microfinance.

SNAP Employment and Training (E&T): USDA Study Finds Skills, Credentials Critical to Helping SNAP Participants Find Jobs

The vast majority of jobs in the future will require some level of education beyond high school.  Unfortunately, these jobs are out of reach for the majority of SNAP participants, who often lack the skills they need to compete in today’s job market.  To combat this challenge, USDA offers the SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) program. SNAP E&T, which is available in all states, is a skills and job training program designed to help SNAP participants prepare for and secure jobs that lead to economic self-sufficiency.  SNAP E&T programs provide SNAP participants the opportunities to gain skills, training and experience, which increase their ability to qualify and get hired for jobs with earnings high enough to transition off of SNAP.  A newly released SNAP E&T Best Practices report provides new insights into how states can strengthen SNAP E&T programs and make them more effective at helping SNAP participants gain the skills employers are seeking and support long-term self-sufficiency for SNAP participants.