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A Dazzling Gem from Idaho Arrives on Capitol Hill

Englemann Spruce hoisted and put into place on the West Lawn of Capitol Hill

The giant Englemann Spruce is hoisted and put into place on the West Lawn of Capitol Hill. (Photo credit: Cecilio Ricardo)

You know Christmas is right around the corner when images of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree being hoisted from a very long tractor trailer show up on your social media apps and on TV.

An ongoing American tradition since 1964, this year, the great tree called fondly by its fans “An Idaho Mountain Gem,” comes from the Payette National Forest near McCall, Idaho. Read more »

That’s a Wrap! Meet the 6 Families from the #MyPlateMyWins Video Series!

A compilation of MyPlate, MyWins families graphic

The MyPlate, MyWins video series shows how real families make healthy eating work for them. We finish off this series with a video highlighting all six families.

In March, we kicked off our MyPlate, MyWins video series and introduced you to six American families, each from different backgrounds with their own unique approach to healthy eating. From Shelley, a single mom to Carol and Brad, a farm family with four children – we hope you enjoyed hearing their stories and discovered healthy eating solutions that could help you in your own lives. Read more »

Find Your Town, a New Tool Promoting Small Towns from the White House Opportunity Project

Findyour.town homepage screenshot

Visit Findyour.town today to find opportunities to help your rural community grow.

Charming, historic, cozy, vibrant, quaint and fun. Small towns and rural places hold a special place in our vision of America. They offer residents a unique and often genial place to live. Visitors and those just passing through come to enjoy distinct lifestyles, commerce, and countryside.  Yet, many rural towns have trouble promoting themselves and planning for a vibrant future. That is why we are helping to launch Findyour.town.

At USDA Rural Development, we know small towns may also be unaware of how our programs can help them thrive. We help build new fire stations, provide affordable housing, help expand a local business, strengthen broadband infrastructure in their community and so much more. To get the word out, we are working with The Opportunity Project, a White House initiative to expand access to opportunity for all Americans by putting data and digital tools in the hands of families, communities, and local leaders, to help them navigate information about the resources they need to thrive. Private sector tech developers and federal agencies come together to build digital tools that help address critical federal policy challenges, get information directly to the people we serve, and put federal data to use in innovative new ways. Read more »

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Staci Emm

Staci Emm, professor and Extension educator at the University of Nevada

Staci Emm, professor and Extension educator at the University of Nevada

Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. This month, we hear from Staci Emm, professor and Extension educator at the University of Nevada and member of the Yerington Paiute Tribe. Staci has spent the last ten years as an Extension educator in Mineral County, Nevada and is nationally recognized for agricultural and American Indian Extension programs. Staci holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations and business management from the University of Nevada, Reno and a master’s of agriculture from Colorado State University. Read more »

Southern Landowners Want to Help At-Risk Wildlife Species

Red-cockaded woodpecker

The red-cockaded woodpecker is an at-risk species under pressure from a loss of forested habitat (Photo Credit: Mary Snieckus)

Amid rising numbers of at-risk wildlife in the South, a new report from the American Forest Foundation (AFF) revealed private and family landowners in the South offer a solution to help at-risk wildlife species.

Southern forests rank at the top in terms of biodiversity when measured by the number of wildlife and plant species. But, due to a variety of reasons, a significant number of the South’s wildlife species are at risk. The reasons include: forest conversion to non-forest uses such as strip malls and commercial expansion; fragmented waterways; natural fire suppression; and an influx of invasive species. Read more »

Nanostructured Biosensors Detect Pesticide, Help Preserve Environment

Artist conception of the creation of a biosensor that is created with graphene ink

Artist conception of the creation of a biosensor that is created with graphene ink. (Image reproduced by permission of Dr. Jonathan Claussen from Nanoscale, 2016, 8, 15870.)

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. Read more »