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California Tree to Shine Christmas Cheer on the Capitol

Last year's Capitol Christmas Tree from the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming was lit on Dec. 7, 2010.

Last year's Capitol Christmas Tree from the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming was lit on Dec. 7, 2010.

In less than two months, a 65-foot Californian white fir from Stanislaus National Forest will grace the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Have you ever wondered how the Capitol Christmas Tree is selected? Read more »

New Technology Means Increased Consistency and Efficiency in Grading for Beef Industry

A screenshot from the electronic grading system showing USDA Choice, Yield Grade 2 beef. The left is the natural color view of the cut; the right is the instrument enhanced view that details the amount of marbling, size, and fat thickness. Beef grading is a complex and detailed process, requiring graders to think and calculate quickly with great accuracy.  Using technology to compliment and supplement the onsite human graders generates an efficient and more precise process.

A screenshot from the electronic grading system showing USDA Choice, Yield Grade 2 beef. The left is the natural color view of the cut; the right is the instrument enhanced view that details the amount of marbling, size, and fat thickness. Beef grading is a complex and detailed process, requiring graders to think and calculate quickly with great accuracy. Using technology to compliment and supplement the onsite human graders generates an efficient and more precise process.

The USDA Choice and USDA Prime grade shields are highly regarded, both domestically and internationally, as symbols of high-quality American beef.  Cattle producers and feeders increasingly rely on USDA grades to determine payments for their cattle—a vital link to supporting and sustaining rural America. Read more »

Helicopters Give Fish a Better Chance to Spawn in Oregon

Large wood plays many roles in river systems, including providing needed structure for the proper channel conditions in a stream, enhancing the production of aquatic invertebrates - which provide food for the trout - and essential cover for juvenile and adult fish.

Large wood plays many roles in river systems, including providing needed structure for the proper channel conditions in a stream, enhancing the production of aquatic invertebrates - which provide food for the trout - and essential cover for juvenile and adult fish.

Working collaboratively, the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust, Oregon Department of Fish, and Wildlife and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department are completing a restoration project designed to improve redband trout spawning and rearing habitat on the Lower Williamson River in south central Oregon. Read more »

Feds Feed Families: Stories from the Field

How did USDA employees raise over 1.7 million pounds of food this summer for Feds Feed Families? The stories below provide a cross-country flavor of the many examples of generosity and creativity demonstrated at USDA field office’s food drives around the country.

On the West Coast, two field offices in California worked with producers to gather thousands of pounds of local produce for food banks. The Oroville Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Center partnered with Pacific Coast Producers to donate an astonishing 4,367 pounds of canned fruits to North State Food Bank.  The Dixon Service Center partnered with Robben Farms to collect 2,513 pounds of bagged, dry canario beans for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Counties. Read more »

White House Recognizes HealthierUS School Challenge Schools

From left: Alex Roman, Walsh Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, First Lady Michelle Obama and Becky Bounds, Lamar County Schools, Mississippi. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a reception on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, Monday October 17, 2011 to honor the over 1200 winners in the HealthierUS Schools Challenge that met the First Lady’s goal to double the number of participants in the HealthierUS School Challenge in a year.

From left: Alex Roman, Walsh Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, First Lady Michelle Obama and Becky Bounds, Lamar County Schools, Mississippi. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a reception on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC, Monday October 17, 2011 to honor the over 1200 winners in the HealthierUS Schools Challenge that met the First Lady’s goal to double the number of participants in the HealthierUS School Challenge in a year.

Watch a video from the White House event

Given that many children eat as many as two meals a day at school, it’s pretty clear that schools have a vital role to play if we’re going to combat the disturbing rise in childhood obesity we’ve seen in recent years. Just as clear is that schools participating in USDA’s HealthierUS School Challenge honored at the White House this week demonstrate the kind of deep commitment needed to create and maintain a healthy school environment. These schools are leaders that set an example for schools across the country. Read more »

USDA Forest Service Scientists Develop Tool to Evaluate Vulnerability to Climate Change

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the American Pika (Ochotona princeps) could be the first mammal victim of climate change (US Forest Service Photo).

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the American Pika (Ochotona princeps) could be the first mammal victim of climate change (US Forest Service Photo).

In Scanning the Conservation Horizon, a report published by the National Wildlife Federation, with support from the U.S. Forest Service and other partners, scientists describe climate change as an increasing threat to species and ecosystems. Read more »