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Longleaf Pines Flourish on an East Texas Ranch

Simon Winston and his family recently won the national Leopold Conservation Award for their conservation work.

Simon Winston and his family recently won the national Leopold Conservation Award for their conservation work.

In deep East Texas, pine trees are king. Towering pines line the roads and blanket the rolling countryside and national forests. Loblolly and slash pine dominate the landscape in contrast to the area’s historic longleaf pine trees that once reigned.

The reduced number of longleaf pines has not gone unnoticed by landowners and conservationists. In response to the striking loss of longleaf pine trees from Texas to Florida, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the national Longleaf Pine Initiative, which provides technical and financial assistance for conservation practices that help restore longleaf pine forests and enhance existing pine stands. Read more »

Homeowners Struggle in Midst of California Drought

Carlen Overby (left), with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rural Development State Director Glenda Humiston, shares some of the struggles she and her neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony face since their wells have gone dry.

Carlen Overby (left), with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rural Development State Director Glenda Humiston, shares some of the struggles she and her neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony face since their wells have gone dry.

Carlen Overby’s days are filled with worry.  On July 4th, her well went dry and has since collapsed.  In order to flush toilets or wash dishes, she and her husband haul water in five-gallon jugs. And a hose from a neighbor’s house connects to her water tank so that she and her husband can take showers. When they started having trouble with their well, her husband got a second job so they could save enough money to drill a new well.  The average well costs around $20,000, and even then there’s a waiting list almost a year long.

“You wake up and you just expect that there will be water when you turn on the faucet,” she said. “Who knows how long it will be until our neighbor runs out of water, and then what will we do?” Read more »

2012 Census: A Snapshot of Peach State Agriculture

Peanuts, Pecans, Poultry, Peaches – and cotton and quail - Georgia’s agriculture is as diverse as its people.  Check back next week to learn about another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Peanuts, Pecans, Poultry, Peaches – and cotton and quail - Georgia’s agriculture is as diverse as its people. Check back next week to learn about another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Georgia may be known as the peach state, but as the 2012 Census of Agriculture results showed, in reality we are ranked 3rd in total peach acreage. The census results also showed, that just like our agricultural producers, Georgia agriculture is very diverse.

In addition to harvesting thousands of acres of peaches, Georgia farmers also now lead the United States when it comes to chickens. When I say ‘chickens’, I mean ‘broilers and other meat type chickens’, which is what you buy when you purchase chicken at the local grocery store, or what you eat when you get a chicken sandwich at your favorite fast food restaurant. When it comes to these birds, Georgia had more than 235 million, more than in any other state. Poultry producers sold 1.37 billion broilers in 2012. That is more than 4 chickens for every man, women and child in the country, based on 2010 Population Census numbers. Read more »

Keeping #AgStrong

Look for more facts, figures, and farmer insights on the @USDA_AMS Twitter feed or the #AgStrong hashtag.

Look for more facts, figures, and farmer insights on the @USDA_AMS Twitter feed or the #AgStrong hashtag.

The strength of America’s farmers and ranchers is undeniable. I knew that strength firsthand growing up in a rural community that depended on agriculture. And I see it in so many ways as I meet folks from across the country in my role at USDA—in their work ethic, in their dedication to their crops and animals, and in their commitment to feed their communities and the world. They are all #AgStrong—an old truth in a new format, celebrating the common agricultural roots among farmer and rancher, family business and rural community.

Through these commonalities, many family-owned farms find strength in numbers, in pooling resources and expertise to grow and sustain their family businesses.  For many of them, ag boards—with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—are vital to their success, increasing business opportunities and mapping out a long-term future for their industry. Read more »

Land Conservation Strengthens Rural Communities: Examples of the Land and Water Conservation Fund at Work

A canoe on the shoreline of Pond of Safety in the Randolph Community Forest in Randolph, NH. White Mountains National Forest, Ammonoosuc River watershed. Photo: Jerry and Marcy Monkman/EcoPhotography.com. Used with permission

A canoe on the shoreline of Pond of Safety in the Randolph Community Forest in Randolph, NH. White Mountains National Forest, Ammonoosuc River watershed. Photo: Jerry and Marcy Monkman/EcoPhotography.com. Used with permission

The Forest Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund investment in national forests and grasslands has ripple effects that extend far beyond the Forest Service and the land that is protected.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, created by Congress in 1964, provides resources to federal, state and local governments for the conservation of important lands, waters and historical sites.  Using no taxpayer dollars the Fund uses earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help preserve our history, protect our lands and strengthen our economy. Nationwide, over 7 million acres have been protected. Read more »

Dirt, Fire and Road: My First Season as a Wildland Firefighter

Michaela Hall, a Job Corps alumna, challenged herself to learn firefighting skills as part of the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, stationed at Schenck Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center on the Davidson River on the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. (U.S. Forest Service)

Michaela Hall, a Job Corps alumna, challenged herself to learn firefighting skills as part of the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, stationed at Schenck Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center on the Davidson River on the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. (U.S. Forest Service)

For the second time, I spilled burn mix on my clothing as I reached to replace a drip torch, a wildland firefighting tool used to ignite fires for controlled burns.

After three days of working with the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, I was getting used to how things worked – except for the drip torch.

I’d spent the first seven years of my career buried behind papers and computers in the U.S. Forest Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C. When I heard of a job to improve firefighting training skills for Job Corps students, I jumped on it. As a Job Corps alumna, and someone who’s still passionate about the program, I felt that I was the perfect candidate. Read more »