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The Brightest Gem in Washington isn’t the Hope Diamond, it’s the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Isabella Gerard accompanied by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) performs her winning poem from Senator Crapo's Contest before the lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Isabella Gerard accompanied by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) performs her winning poem from Senator Crapo's Contest before the lighting of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree in Washington DC, Dec. 6, 2016. (U.S. Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo)

The American public doesn’t have to sneak a peek at the Christmas present the U.S. Forest Service has given them this year because it’s on full display just below the U.S. Capitol dome on the building’s West Lawn.

A gift from the Forest Service’s Payette National Forest, this year’s U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, aptly titled “An Idaho Mountain Gem”, was twinkling like a million facets of a bejeweled royal scepter after Isabella Gerard, a fifth grader from Boise, Idaho, who was chosen to do this honor by winning an poem contest, flipped the switch to illume the great tree. Read more »

Making a Promise in Puerto Rico

USDA Rural Development Puerto Rico State Director Jose Otero-Garcia speaking

USDA Rural Development Puerto Rico State Director Jose Otero-Garcia speaks on USDA’s opportunities to spur economic development in the Roosevelt Roads region of Puerto Rico. Behind him (L-R) are USDA Rural Business Service Administrator Sam Rikkers, White House Puerto Rico Task Force member Fred Pfaeffle, and Leonardo San Román of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

When Roosevelt Roads Naval Base ceased operations in 2004, the surrounding region suffered a significant population and financial loss. The land transfer process from the Navy to the local government created the Local Redevelopment Authority (LRA), entity with the responsibility of leading the rebuilding process and revitalization of the former base and the adjacent communities of Ceiba, Fajardo and Naguabo. The collaboration between the LRA and the communities seeks to improve public infrastructure and renovate economic activity in the area, as well as improve access to health care, improve educational opportunities, reduce crime, and spur job creation.

The area served by the Roosevelt Roads LRA in eastern Puerto Rico was recently designated a Promise Zone by President Obama. This designation made the region eligible for funding that can help them develop job training for a modern workforce, improve access to education, and provide for the development of improved public safety and affordable housing. Read more »

Una Promesa para Puerto Rico

En la foto José Otero-García, Director Estatal de USDA Rural Development, explica las oportunidades que ofrece USDA para el desarrollo económico de la región de Roosevelt Road en Puerto Rico. Detrás de el de izquierda derecha esta Sam Rikkers, Administrador del Programa de Cooperativa y negocios y también Co-Presidente del Comité Directivo de la Zona Prometida, Fred Pfaeffle Arana, Representante de Puerto Rico en el Comité de Desarrollo de Casa Blanca y Sub Secretario de Derechos Civil de USDA Rural Development, y Leonardo San Román del Departamento de Comercio Federal.

En la foto José Otero-García, Director Estatal de USDA Rural Development, explica las oportunidades que ofrece USDA para el desarrollo económico de la región de Roosevelt Road en Puerto Rico. Detrás de el de izquierda derecha esta Sam Rikkers, Administrador del Programa de Cooperativa y negocios y también Co-Presidente del Comité Directivo de la Zona Prometida, Fred Pfaeffle Arana, Representante de Puerto Rico en el Comité de Desarrollo de Casa Blanca y Sub Secretario de Derechos Civil de USDA Rural Development, y Leonardo San Román del Departamento de Comercio Federal.

Cuando la Base Naval de Roosevelt Road cerró operaciones en el 2004, el área cercana sufrió una baja poblacional y una gran contracción. Como parte del proceso de transferencia de terrenos de la Marina de los Estados Unidos al gobierno local, se creó la Autoridad de Redesarrollo de Roosevelt Roads (LRA). Esta organización es la encargado de dirigir el proceso de planificación y revitalización de los terrenos de la antigua base junto a los municipios de Ceiba, Fajardo, y Naguabo.

El trabajo de colaboración entre estas comunidades y  la LRA busca mejorar la infraestructura pública y renovar la actividad económica del área, mejorar el ofrecimiento de servicios médicos y educativos como también crimen y la creación de empleos. Read more »

Philly Market Rises Up to Meet Hunger Challenge

Left to right: Bruce Summers, Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service and others

From left to right: Bruce Summers - Associate Administrator, Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA); Travis Hubbs - Assistant Regional Director, PACA Division, Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA); Yowei Peralta - Senior Marketing Specialist, PACA Division, Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA); Elise Golan - Director of Sustainable Development, Office of The Chief Economist (USDA); Christine Hofmann - Marketing Coordinator, Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market; Dan Kane - General Manager, Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market; Rose Harrell - Deputy Director of Maryland Food Center Authority & President of National Association of Produce Market Managers

Did you know that nearly one-third of the food available to U.S. retailers and consumers never makes it to the dining room table?  That’s 133 billion pounds of food going to waste–all of which has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation, and climate change.  Experts have projected that reducing food waste by just 15 percent would provide the equivalent of enough food for more than 25 million Americans every year.

That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), decided to help tackle the problem by sponsoring the Terminal Market Food Waste Challenge.  Produce markets across the U.S. joined the friendly 90-day competition by making sure that usable fruits and vegetables were not thrown away.  While these fresh foods weren’t picture-perfect supermarket quality or simply didn’t sell, they were healthy, wholesome foods that could be made into juices, added to animal feeds, used for compost, or donated to charity. Read more »

Agriculture Gets an Aerodynamic Boost

Anni Brogan, owner and president of Micro Aerodynamics, inspecting vortex generators (VGs) on the wings of a small aircraft

Anni Brogan, owner and president of Micro Aerodynamics, inspects vortex generators (VGs) on the wings of a small aircraft used in studies by ARS engineer Dan Martin. Martin found that the dime-sized metal clips can help ensure more accurate targeting of pesticides. Brogan’s firm provided the VGs used in the research.

Hitting your target—and only your target—is a top priority when spraying pesticides from an airplane. And the use of a small object could be a big help in making sure that happens.

That’s the focus of the research being conducted by Daniel Martin, an engineer with Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Aerial Application Technology Research Unit in College Station, Texas. Martin has shown that attaching dime-sized metal clips to airplane wings—a technology known as “vortex generators”—can reduce pesticide drift. Read more »

World Soil Day – A Time to Celebrate the Foundation of Agriculture

Amy Overstreet holding soil

Amy Overstreet, NRCS Public Information Officer, created a video series for the 2015 International Year of Soils to raise awareness and appreciation for everything that soil provides.

Last year during the International Year of Soils (IYS), I had the incredible opportunity to help the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) spread the word about the many life-giving functions of soil. As part of this effort, I traveled to New York City to attend the kickoff ceremony for IYS at the United Nations, which was held on World Soil Day.

In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly designated December 5 as World Soil Day. It is observed this day each year to honor the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, the world’s longest reigning monarch, who passed away in October. He played a pivotal role in the promotion of soil science and conservation, and was a leader in sustainable land resource management. Read more »