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Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan Teams Up with USDA’s Certified Beef Program

Nolan Ryan is one of the greatest icons in Major League Baseball history – a first-ballot Hall of Fame member and team president of the Texas Rangers. But Ryan is special in another way: he heads the Nolan Ryan Guaranteed Tender Beef Program, one of just a few marketing programs verified by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

AMS relies on university-researched and industry-recognized standards to determine which marketing claims it chooses to verify, and Ryan’s beef has been called “safe at home.” Companies approach AMS to verify marketing claims, such as “guaranteed tender,” to assure their customers that the products are exactly what they claim when listed on packaging. This is an important service to consumers who desire a certain quality of beef and want government, third-party assurance that their beef purchases meet exacting requirements. Read more »

Online Resource Helps Producers Get Products to Market, Bolster Local and Regional Economies

Just because a producer works at a smaller operation doesn’t mean he or she can’t sell on a bigger scale. And the size of a farm shouldn’t limit a producer’s ability to feed local foods to local people. But how can such an operation connect the dots to successfully market its products?

One answer lies in a new kind of business model known as food hubs, which are emerging as critical pillars for building stronger regional and local food systems.  A food hub centralizes the business management structure to facilitate the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products. Read more »

New Guide to Managing Invasive Plants in the South

Cogongrass, a nonnative invasive plant, infesting a southern pine plantation. (photo by Chris Evans, courtesy of Forestry Images)

Cogongrass, a nonnative invasive plant, infesting a southern pine plantation. (photo by Chris Evans, courtesy of Forestry Images)

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.

Nonnative plants have hitchhiked their way into flower beds, gardens, and yards of landowners in the South for decades, invading and often harming forests and other natural areas by pushing out native plants and degrading wildlife habitat. These exotic plants often reduce forest productivity, wildlife diversity, and water quality and quantity. Read more »

Check Your Steps! Clean: Wash Hands and Surfaces Often to Keep Your Family Safer from Food Poisoning

Bacteria exist everywhere in our environment, and some of them can make us really sick. Illness-causing bacteria exist in or on food, on countertops, kitchen utensils, hands, pets, and in the dirt where food grows. As part of the Food Safe Families campaign, this week’s Check Your Steps blog focuses on cleaning before, during, and after preparing and eating food to keep your family safer from food poisoning. Read more »

Wisconsin Business Excels in the Asian Market with Help from USDA’s Market Access Program

With assistance from USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP) and working with Food Export-Midwest, a Milwaukee-based company has expanded its access to the Asian market for its brand of specialty cookies. Nikki’s Cookies & Confections has been baking a full line of shortbreads, chocolate layered cookies and holiday specialty products for 25 years. The company’s export success was recently recognized in the National Export Strategy Report, an annual update on the National Export Initiative progress. Under this initiative President Obama set a goal of doubling overall U.S. exports by the end of 2014. Read more »

It’s Never Too Late to Start a New Beginning

Just ask eighty-six year old Rita Fincher in Park Hills, Missouri and she will tell you it is never too late to start a new beginning.

After raising ten children in a mobile home, her current dwelling was literally falling in around her when her children and grand children came to the rescue.  One of the grandsons was in the real estate business and learned of a vacant home that had been foreclosed and owned by a local bank.   With the help of the USDA Rural Development direct home loan program she applied through the Farmington, Missouri office and was determined eligible.  The house was structurally sound but needed lots of tender loving care.  With some financial help from the local bank and USDA Rural Development, her family, church friends, and neighbors made the needed repairs and improvements. Read more »