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President Obama Renews Charge to Help Rural Companies and Communities Compete Globally

Cross-posted from the Department of Commerce blog:

Yesterday, President Obama announced new commitments in the “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative, which is charged with bringing together federal trade-related resources for rural communities and businesses. This announcement reflects the Administration’s strategy for ensuring workers and businesses of all sizes, from communities large and small, benefit from the nation’s economic resurgence.

The Department of Commerce also released data yesterday that show 26 states set new export records in 2014, and many of those states are in the nation’s heartland. Read more »

How Trees Help Fight Climate Change – All Over the World

A Limber Pine on the near barren landscape of the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve stands as a strong symbol of the power of one tree. (Photo by Robert Westover, U.S. Forest Service)

A Limber Pine on the near barren landscape of the Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve stands as a strong symbol of the power of one tree. (Photo by Robert Westover, U.S. Forest Service)

The first in a series of blogs honoring the United Nation’s 2015 International Day of Forests

Did you know that carbon dioxide, or CO2, is one of the main contributors to the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change?

And, did you know that one averaged-size tree – say a 30-footer – can store hundreds of pounds of CO2 over its lifetime and even longer if it’s used in building materials for a house or furniture? Read more »

Soils Support Urban Life

Community gardens like this one in Louisville, KY, bring neighbors together to produce fresh fruits and vegetables in areas that usually have no access to fresh produce. NRCS photo.

Community gardens like this one in Louisville, KY, bring neighbors together to produce fresh fruits and vegetables in areas that usually have no access to fresh produce. NRCS photo.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils. This is one of a continuing series of blogs to mark this observance.

Soil is defined as a dynamic natural body that is made up of solids, liquid and gases and occurs on the earth’s surface, contains living matter, and supports or is capable of supporting plants.  But soil is bigger than this.

Civilizations have either flourished or perished partly based on this natural resource and the capability of its people to manage and use it wisely. We all depend on the soil, regardless of where we live – rural or urban. Read more »

Teach Healthier Meals in a SNAP!

Zucchini Coleslaw is a delicious alternative to sweet coleslaws. Adding salsa instead of sugar to the coleslaw sauce gives each serving more nutrients and more flavor. Photo credit: Jennifer M. Anderson.

Zucchini Coleslaw is a delicious alternative to sweet coleslaws. Adding salsa instead of sugar to the coleslaw sauce gives each serving more nutrients and more flavor. Photo credit: Jennifer M. Anderson.

This is the fourth installment of the What’s Cooking? Blog Series. In honor of the Let’s Move 5th Anniversary, and the commitment USDA shares with Let’s Move to promote healthy eating and access to healthy foods, this month-long series will highlight the various features of the What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl recipe website.

Attention nutrition educators helping Americans make healthy and budget-friendly choices—this edition of the What’s Cooking? Blog Series is for you!  If you haven’t already heard, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipes have a new home on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl web site. This site combines recipes designed for SNAP-Ed, child nutrition programs, the food distribution program, and ChooseMyPlate.gov.  Visit What’s Cooking?  USDA Mixing Bowl, and you will see that there are hundreds of healthy recipes for educators to browse and use in nutrition education programming. For example, how do Zucchini Coleslaw, Mozzarella Chicken with Garlic Spinach, A Simple Mexican Salad, or Ginger Orange Muffins sound?

Many of the recipes found in What’s Cooking?  USDA Mixing Bowl were created for educating recipients of SNAP benefits. The goal of the education component of SNAP, commonly called SNAP-Ed, is to improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP will make healthy choices, within a limited budget, consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.  The SNAP recipes were developed by SNAP-Ed educators to do just that! Read more »

An Amphibian Only a Mother (or Biologist) Could Love Needs your Attention

The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 24 inches.  Hellbenders need clean streams with high water quality and silt-free streambeds to find their prey and avoid predators.  (Copyright photo courtesy Freshwaters Illustrated/Dave Herasimtschuk)

The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 24 inches. Hellbenders need clean streams with high water quality and silt-free streambeds to find their prey and avoid predators. (Copyright photo courtesy Freshwaters Illustrated/Dave Herasimtschuk)

Hiding beneath a pile of rocks in a clear mountain stream flowing from the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina lurks North America’s largest salamander, the Eastern hellbender.  It is also locked in battle between its perilous decline and valiant struggle for survival.

Sediment from runoff, prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic and veterinary drugs, personal care products such as soaps, fragrances and cosmetics, other chemical pollutants, and the physical disturbance of its rocky lairs by unknowing recreationalists are all suspects contributing to the hellbender’s decline. Read more »

An Ag Outlook Audience Learns How Voluntary Conservation Can Help At-Risk Wildlife and Reduce the Need for Regulation

Meet seven at-risk species that benefit from habitat restoration and enhancement through NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife partnership. Infographic by Jocelyn Benjamin. Click to enlarge.

Meet seven at-risk species that benefit from habitat restoration and enhancement through NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife partnership. Infographic by Jocelyn Benjamin. Click to enlarge.

Regulations may be needed, but are they all we need? That was the common thread weaved through presentations by natural resource experts last week at USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Panelists included: Chris Hartley, deputy director of USDA’s Office of Environmental Markets; Jim Serfis, chief of the communications and candidate conservation branch of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (FWS); and Matthew Wohlman, assistant deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Read more »