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FoodCorps Brings Nutrition to Rural Montana Schools

In an effort to counter rising obesity rates among children, one Montana group is looking to a younger generation to take the lead in bringing locally-grown, nutritious food to schools in the area. The Grow Montana coalition, in conjunction with AmeriCorps, is accepting applications from March 25 to April 22 for a team of 11 FoodCorps members who will develop Farm to School programs in Montana’s food deserts. Because many residents in these areas must drive an hour or more to the nearest grocery store, good nutrition is literally out of reach.

As AmeriCorps VISTA members, the FoodCorps team aims to address this problem by connecting schools with farmers and ranchers to serve healthy, locally-grown meals, building and tending school gardens, and educating students about how and why to eat nutritious foods. Read more »

Solar Energy Use in U.S. Agriculture

A newly released report Solar Energy Use in U.S. Agriculture.  Overview and Policy Issues published by USDA’s Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, serves as an overview of solar energy use by farmers and ranchers in the U.S. that identifies trends and future potential.  According to USDA’s 2009 On-Farm Energy Production Survey, ninety-three percent of farms with on-farm renewable energy production produce solar energy and 8,000 farms have installed a solar energy system on their farm.

On-farm solar energy production has increased significantly in the last decade.  Sixty-three percent of solar panels in agriculture were installed from 2005-2009 and the growth rate was almost five-fold from 2000-2009.  Solar energy projects funded under USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program also experienced a five-fold increase between 2007 and 2009.  The report reviews the regulations and incentives that are available to farmers and ranchers, which has recently boosted installations, and also examines major financial influences.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Asks Gathering of 4-H Youth to Commit to Public Service, Reach Out to At-Risk Peers

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke with approximately 300 youth from 47 states or territories and Canada at the National 4-H Conference on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. The conference is the premier youth development opportunity of the USDA. Aged between 15-19 years old the attendees were selected=

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke with approximately 300 youth from 47 states or territories and Canada at the National 4-H Conference on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. The conference is the premier youth development opportunity of the USDA. Aged between 15-19 years old the attendees were selected by various means by their states to be delegates to the conference. The Secretaries then took questions from the audience. Secretary Vilsack received questions on topics such as land grants, what is an average day for him, and both talked of their goals to have 1,000 new farmers and 1,000 new educators. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

“I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service and my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.” This is the pledge that 300 4-H youth and volunteers gave on Monday when the 2011 National 4-H Conference kicked off in Bethesda, Md. Youth and adults from 47 states and territories, as well a delegation from Canada, took part in an event that has happened in the Washington area since the 1920s, when 4-Hers slept in tents on the Washington Mall in front of the USDA headquarters. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA, is the parent organization to 4-H National Headquarters. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke to 4-Hers about community service, valuing education, and embracing positive health and nutrition habits. Read more »

Feeding the World With Quality and Nutritious Grain Products

USAID’s Food for Peace program has provided U.S. grown food and nourishment to billions of hungry people in 150 countries during the past 50+ years.  The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) plays an important supporting role in ensuring that the grain and products provided are of high quality and meet nutritional specifications. Read more »

Producing Fuel for the Future in the Midwest

Nebraska Rural Development State Director Maxine Moul was joined by South Dakota State Director Elsie Meeks and Iowa Area Director Theresa Jordison on March 30th to recognize Ag Processing Inc. (AGP) headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska with a plaque for their production of advanced biodiesel fuels.  The business produces advanced biodiesel from soybean oil created in two facilities, Sergeant Bluff, Iowa and St. Joseph, Missouri.

In January 2011, AGP received payment of almost half a million dollars under the USDA  Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels, based on eligible production of advanced biodiesel from soybean oil produced at the two plants. Read more »

Saving Hawaii’s Tropical Forests

Hapu'u (Cibotium glaucum) is a native tree fern and a common understory species found in Hawaiian wet forests.

Hapu'u (Cibotium glaucum) is a native tree fern and a common understory species found in Hawaiian wet forests.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio. Read more »