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Conservation Helps a Rancher Survive Historic Drought Conditions

Stuart Fisher, left, shows NRCS soil scientist Tom Clark new grass growth.

Stuart Fisher, left, shows NRCS soil scientist Tom Clark new grass growth.

Texas landowners and producers could never have predicted the severe drought conditions this year, which have impacted small and large operations alike. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is helping many of these ranchers and farmers survive the ongoing drought—including Stuart Fisher, a rancher in Ellis County. Read more »

Organic 101: What Organic Farming (and Processing) Doesn’t Allow

The USDA organic label on dairy or meat products means that the animals from which it originated were raised in living conditions that accommodated their natural behaviors, without being administered hormones or antibiotics, and while grazing on pasture grown on healthy soil.  Photo by Ryan Thompson.

The USDA organic label on dairy or meat products means that the animals from which it originated were raised in living conditions that accommodated their natural behaviors, without being administered hormones or antibiotics, and while grazing on pasture grown on healthy soil. Photo by Ryan Thompson.

This is the first in series of Organic 101 pieces that will explore the different rules within the USDA organic regulations.

When it comes to organic foods, it’s just as important to know what isn’t allowed as what is.  The organic standards are process-based, meaning they establish the rules for an entire system of farming that follows a product from its beginnings on the farm all the way to retail. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Honoring Rural Troops This Holiday Season

As they have in years past, tens of thousands of American troops will celebrate the holidays overseas. Many of them call our nation’s rural communities home.  So it is important – especially in this season – to remember those men and women who defend our nation.

There is one notable difference this year.  At President Obama’s direction, after nearly a decade at war, we are moving forward so that all American troops will be out of Iraq to reunite with their families for the holidays.  We should never forget the sacrifices of the more than one million men and women of the United States armed forces who served in Iraq, and the sacrifices of their families.  We are indebted to them, and proud of their efforts. Read more »

Don’t Lose Your Holiday Cheer: Avoid Having Your Imported Holiday Food Items Seized

Importing foods from abroad can make the holidays more meaningful and fun. But please take care when bringing any food or agricultural items into the United States—whether you’re returning from an international trip or ordering online. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) restricts or prohibits many foreign foods and agricultural items from entering the United States. Why? They could be carrying pests or diseases that could threaten human health or devastate the environment, crops, agricultural animals, ornamental plants, and gardens.

Invasive pests threaten agricultural jobs and raise our food prices by damaging crops, costing millions of dollars in treatments to farmers and government agencies, and closing foreign markets to U.S. products from infested areas. They also feast on America’s natural resources, disrupting and harming our environment. These pests push out native species that provide food and habitat to wildlife, reduce biological diversity, kill forest trees, place other species at increased risk of extinction, and alter wildfire intensity and frequency. Read more »

Urban Fruit for Urban Communities

Thanks to the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, USDA Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program (UCF) is supporting urban tree planting, including urban orchard and urban agroforestry projects

Who says you have to travel outside the city to enjoy the beauty (and deliciousness) of fresh fruit orchards? Cities all across America are transforming the urban landscape by harvesting trees in public spaces. Together with growing community gardens, planting urban orchards is bringing local groups and residents together to improve their neighborhoods. Planting fruit and nut-bearing trees in limited resource neighborhoods and in neglected areas in cities connects people with nature, provides volunteer opportunities, produces food in public areas, and teaches the public about the environment. Read more »

From Art Student to APHIS Veterinarian, Dr. Karen James-Preston on World Vet Year

Hello, I’m Dr. Karen James-Preston. I’m work for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, as Director of the Veterinary Services’ National Center for Import and Export, Animal Products. My staff and I work every day to make sure animal products are safely imported into the United States. We also work to facilitate the export of animal products to other countries. My job is fulfilling because I’m part of the team that’s protecting the domestic livestock and poultry population from disease, as well as helping our agriculture industry move products abroad.

My path to becoming a veterinarian was non-traditional, to say the least. My undergraduate degree is actually in Art Education. Even though my plan for college was math, I somehow ended up in the art department. While I was at Howard University, I got my first pet, a toy poodle named Oatmeal. After a while, my friends asked why I didn’t want to become a veterinarian… and I didn’t have a good answer. Now I wasn’t a great artist, so I decided to pursue a veterinary career. I needed additional science courses to get into vet school, but luckily I was able to take those classes at University of Maryland and get into the vet school at Tuskegee, Alabama. Read more »