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Moroccan Delegation Visits the National Forests in Florida

Fire Management Officer Mike Drayton, left, escorts Driss Misbah, a regional forester in northern Morocco during a prescribe fire demonstration on the Ocala National Forest. Photo Credit: Susan Blake, Public Affairs Specialist, National Forests in Florida

Fire Management Officer Mike Drayton, left, escorts Driss Misbah, a regional forester in northern Morocco during a prescribe fire demonstration on the Ocala National Forest. Photo Credit: Susan Blake, Public Affairs Specialist, National Forests in Florida

Fire experts from the Ocala National Forest and instructors from the Prescribed Fire Training Center in Tallahassee, Fla., recently hosted a delegation of natural resource specialists from the Moroccan Government.

The three-day long program in Florida focused on fire management techniques and observing actual prescribed burns.

“We’ve been cooperating with a Moroccan government agency called the High Commission, an agency akin to the Forest Service as they manage forests and watersheds across their country,” said Natasha Marwah, Middle East and North African Program Specialist with the U.S. Forest Service. “For the past five years, we’ve been providing technical assistance on forest conservation and health, rangeland and watershed management, and most recently, fire management.”

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Mississippi Farmer Continues Family Conservation Legacy

As a youngster growing up in rural Jasper County, Miss., Anthony Lovett never forgot the words of his late grandfather, who told him, “Take care of the land and the land will take care of you.”

Cattle and poultry farmer Anthony Lovett and Supervisory District Conservationist Ron Read monitor the success of conservation practices, such as the incinerator and cross-fencing, on his Jasper County farm.

Cattle and poultry farmer Anthony Lovett and Supervisory District Conservationist Ron Read monitor the success of conservation practices, such as the incinerator and cross-fencing, on his Jasper County farm.

That advice from his beloved grandfather has guided him during his career—the poultry and cattle farmer is no stranger to conservation. In fact, Lovett’s family has worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) since the 1990’s to ensure the land is productive and healthy. Read more »

The Legend Grows – South Dakota Seed Company Saves Big Bucks with Biomass

As the team at Legend Seeds of De Smet, South Dakota, gears up for spring and the 2012 growing season, they do so from a newly-constructed, state-of-the-art facility, located just east of their former space on Highway 14.  The new office, seed lab and expanded warehouse space were designed to better accommodate the additional full-time office staff needed to support the stretching trade area and growing field staff for the Legend organization. Thanks to a USDA program, the building is also energy efficient.

USDA Business & Cooperative Program Director Dana Kleinsasser(left), Area Specialist Darlene Bresson, and Legend Seeds President Glen Davis check out the biomass boiler system, which saves 60 percent of the cost of heating the seed company building, compared to the previous system.

USDA Business & Cooperative Program Director Dana Kleinsasser(left), Area Specialist Darlene Bresson, and Legend Seeds President Glen Davis check out the biomass boiler system, which saves 60 percent of the cost of heating the seed company building, compared to the previous system.

The former office space that was purchased in 1992 had been remodeled and updated over the years but Legend owner, Glen Davis, recognized that the increasing demand for productivity would be best met if he augmented the workspace and workflow for his talented team.  In addition to a fresh contemporary look and serviceable layout, the new space boasts an impressive, highly-efficient heating and cooling system powered by a 250,000 BTU biomass boiler. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A Health Care Law for Rural America

Two years ago last week, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act – the law that gives hard working, middle-class families the health security they deserve.

For too long, rural Americans have been getting the short end of the health care stick, with limited options, fewer doctors and nurses, and more expensive insurance.  But the new law is building a stronger health system in rural communities – increasing payments to rural health care providers, strengthening Medicare, and training thousands of new primary care doctors who will serve in rural areas. Read more »

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Outlines Blueprint for Jobs, Economic Growth

Calling all local officials and entrepreneurs! Imagine high-tech, well paying jobs coming to rural America. It’s not impossible and in fact it’s already happening.  A recent webinar entitled “An American Economy Built to Last: Advanced Manufacturing in Rural America” and hosted by USDA’s Rural Development provided a tool kit for attracting Advanced Manufacturing operations to rural communities.  Among the presenters, an industry representative described how the world’s largest semi-conductor chip-maker scouts locations in rural America to set up advanced manufacturing facilities and even shared a sort of “check list” that his company uses when evaluating a particular area. Officials from USDA Rural Development and the Department of Commerce itemized government programs and financing that can be leveraged to make one’s community more attractive, particularly to this type of investment. Read more »

Seen and Heard: The USDA Food Safety Discovery Zone is a Big Hit at the B’More Healthy Expo

The USDA Food Safety Discovery Zone began its spring 2012 tour this past Saturday at Baltimore’s B’More Healthy Expo. Staffed by five food safety experts, the Discovery Zone was arguably one of the top attractions at the expo, giving interactive tours and food safety prizes to at least 5,000 visitors in one day. FSIS’ Bridgette Keefe-Hodgson, who communicates through American Sign Language, captured the attention of deaf and hearing visitors alike with her presentations.

Bridgette estimates that about 15 deaf expo attendees stopped by the Discovery Zone, and each stuck around for quite some time to see what they could learn. They were thrilled that FSIS has a series of YouTube videos in ASL, called SignFSIS, on preventing food poisoning, and Bridgette wrote down the URL for her pet project so the videos could be found later. One happy customer told her, “Wow, it is truly fantastic to see a deaf employee working at the FSIS booth.  For me, that makes it so much easier to ask food safety questions directly in ASL.” Read more »