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New Report Looks at Improving Biodiversity Measurements

A new report titled Measuring Up: Synchronizing Biodiversity Measurement Systems for Markets and Other Incentive Programs was just released by the Willamette Partnership with funding and support from USDA’s Office of Environmental Markets (OEM). The report analyzes 25 existing biodiversity measurement systems to identify the elements necessary for a good system.  It presents a standard process for developing measurement systems and offers options for improving the performance of biodiversity markets and conservation programs.  The report’s findings are useful to those interested in measuring conservation effects and increasing the effectiveness of incentive programs.  For example, the report examines how to balance precision and usability, and standardization and customization. Read more »

Addressing Hunger Through Local and Regional Food Systems

In 2009, 14.7% of U.S. households were insecure, meaning that at some point during the year these households were uncertain of having, or unable to obtain, enough food.  In addition to tracking and reporting on hunger in the United States, USDA plays a significant role in helping families acquire food through a myriad of nutrition programs (15 in all), inluding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the National School Lunch Program.

An area of USDA support for finding solutions to hunger that may be overlooked is through our National Instutite for Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an agency within the Department that supports research, education and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations.  Last week we annouced eight awards totaling more than $18 million, made through the Agriculture Food and Research Initiative (AFRI), that are supporting local and regional food systems while investigating sustainable solutions to food access within those regions.  Here’s a list of the projects: Read more »

USDA Funding Helps Convert a Michigan School Building into Quality Senior Housing

Recently, a USDA Rural Development project received one of the 2011 Governor’s Awards for Historic Preservation from the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office.  The ceremony was held in the state Capitol rotunda and dozens of citizens and legislators from across the state turned out.

Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director Gary Heidel opened the ceremony by noting the rich historic heritage of Michigan’s towns and cities and how the preservation of these sites is vital to keeping our state a place where people work, live and spend their leisure time. Read more »

Human Ecology Mapping and “All-Lands” Conservation

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.

U. S. Forest Service social scientist Lee Cerveny has carved out a special niche in the world of research. While her colleagues go into national forests and other protected areas to study things like trees and wildlife, she enters these natural environments to study humans – how they interact with and use a range of sites and resources.

Read more »

A North Dakota Community Lessens Arsenic Levels in its Water Supply with USDA Funding Support

Lidgerwood kindergarten students planting one of seven Hackberry trees donated by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Lidgerwood kindergarten students planting one of seven Hackberry trees donated by USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

After a long, blizzard-filled winter, Earth Day was celebrated April 29 in Lidgerwood, North Dakota.  USDA Rural Development delivered the latest in a number of loans and grants to help offset the cost of a $1.58 million project to provide safe drinking water to the city.  Lidgerwood’s leaders first learned of arsenic in their water supply twenty-three years ago.  After a number of other methods failed to solve the problem, the city eventually joined a regional rural water district.  Rural Development North Dakota State Director, Jasper Schneider said the USDA is proud to partner with the city and other funding sources to make safe and reliable water a reality for its 700 citizens. Read more »

Recipes for Healthy Kids Advances; Judges Visit Greeley, Colo., School

Cross posted from the Let’s Move! blog:

On April 26, I had the pleasure of visiting Harold S. Winograd School in Greeley, Colo., to kick off the judging for the First Lady’s Recipes for Healthy Kids competition. As I arrived at the school, I could feel the excitement, enthusiasm, and deep pride among the students and staff.

The students greeted us at the entrance of the school, dressed in professional-looking aprons embroidered with their names, and crisp, white chef hats. Four 8th-grade students – Jace, Bethany, Abraham, Amairani – along with local chef Amanda Smith, Kara Sample, RD, SNS, the administrative dietitian for Weld County School District 6, and Emily Wigington an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, developed the recipe of Chic’ Penne, one of 15 semi-finalist recipes from around the country. Read more »