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Historic Handwoven Rug Lays Path for US Forest Service Employee to her Shinaali

Nanebah Nez looking at her great-great-grandmother's rug.

Nanebah Nez connected to her past in a recent visit to the U.S. Department of the Interior Museum, where a rug made by her great-great-grandmother is part of the museum’s trove of historical pieces. (U.S. Department of Interior/Tracy Baetz)

Nanebah Nez turned to a roomful of U.S. Department of the Interior employees and asked quietly for a moment to herself. When the group of curators left, Nez turned her attention to an 80-year-old piece of her ancestral past and quietly began her private prayer in Navajo, “Yáat’eeh Shinaali,” or “Hello, grandmother.”

Bahe Shondee is a great-great-grandmother to Nez, an archeologist on the U.S. Forest Service’s Tonto National Forest north of Phoenix. Bahe Shondee, also known as Bull Snake Springs Woman, spent two years in the early 1930s preparing the yarn then weaving the 13-foot-by-12-foot rug “Sandpainting of the Arrow People.” Read more »

USDA and Landowners Work Together to Overcome Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

Conservation Work in the Gulf States, fiscal years 2010-2014 conservation map.

Tens of thousands of farmers in the five Gulf states have put conservation practices on more than 22 million acres from fiscal years 2010-2014. Click to watch video.

In a time of need, America’s private landowners voluntarily made conservation improvements to their land to aid recovery following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico region. Landowners are working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to put conservation systems to work on their farms, ranches and forests that clean and conserve water, boost soil health and restore habitat – all while making their working lands more resilient.

Since 2010, tens of thousands have made conservation improvements to more than 22 million acres in the five Gulf states during fiscal years 2010-2014.

“Landowners are really interested and committed to doing good things on their lands, said Wesley Kerr, NRCS area conservationist in southern Mississippi. Read more »

Water Quality Trading Program Awarded For Innovation

A Conservation Innovation Grant recipient accepts award

A Conservation Innovation Grant recipient accepts award from the U.S. Water Alliance. Photo courtesy NRCS.

When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded a Conservation Innovation Grant to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in 2009, the notion of administering the nation’s largest water quality trading program in the Ohio River Basin was a twinkle in the eye of EPRI scientist Jessica Fox.

Fast forward to 2015—the multi-state water-trading program is a reality, and the Institute was one of three entities to be awarded this year’s Water Prize by the U.S. Water Alliance. Read more »

The Forest Legacy Program: 25 Years of Keeping Working Forests Working

A rancher and his son survey a swath of Dakota grasslands

A rancher and his son survey a swath of Dakota grasslands preserved by a conservation easement obtained with the help of Land and Water Conservation Funds.

Two million four hundred seventy thousand acres — equivalent in size to two Delawares — are protected through the Forest Legacy Program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Enacted through the 1990 Farm Bill’s Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, this voluntary program has proved popular and crucial to aiding states in meeting their forest conservation goals.

The first Forest Legacy project was located in Vermont, the 1660-acre Cow Mountain Pond property. Today, 53 states and territories participate. The map below shows program accomplishments through 2014. Read more »

April is National Garden Month

Vegetables growing in raised beds at Hollygrove Market and Farm (HGMF) in New Orleans, LA

Vegetables growing in raised beds at Hollygrove Market and Farm (HGMF) in New Orleans, LA. USDA photo by Karen Lawson.

Nothing says springtime more than the sprouts and shoots of a garden. Secretary Vilsack has declared April, 2015 as National Garden Month.  The official proclamation celebrates the great American tradition of gardening at home, at school and in the community.

USDA’s commitment to gardening has deep roots. The USDA People’s Garden Initiative, was launched in 2009 and since 2,116 gardens have registered as People’s Gardens in communities across the United States and its territories and in 12 foreign countries.  The First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative has great information about starting a kitchen, school or community garden and the Plant Hardiness Zone Map, developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, is a go-to guide for gardeners across the nation.   Have a gardening question? Visit eXtension for in-depth and research-based gardening and landscape advice from your local land grant university. Read more »

Steps Producers Can Take to Ensure They Meet Conservation Compliance Provisions

To be eligible to receive many USDA benefits, including loans, disaster assistance, federal crop insurance premium subsidies and conservation assistance, producers must comply with requirements for highly erodible lands and wetlands. The purpose of the conservation compliance provisions is to reduce soil loss on erosion-prone lands and protect wetlands. Use these steps to ensure you’re compliant.

Farmers seeking federal crop insurance premium subsidies for the 2016 reinsurance year must comply by June 1 by filing form AD-1026. Read more »