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Celebrating USDA’s 150 Years in Kansas

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits the Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium at Kansas State University, in Manhattan, KS, on Tuesday, April 10, 2012. USDA Photo by Jessica Bowser.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits the Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium at Kansas State University, in Manhattan, KS, on Tuesday, April 10, 2012. USDA Photo by Jessica Bowser.

Yesterday, I celebrated USDA’s 150th Anniversary with the people of Manhattan, Kansas. For 150 years, USDA has supported the tremendous growth and success of American agriculture, conserved natural resources and built stronger communities and a stronger America.  That legacy gives us a lot to be proud of. Read more »

Michigan Tribe Grow Walleye for the Wild

Many of Michigan’s American Indian tribes are returning to traditional foods to improve nutrition and sustain their culture. One of these foods is walleye, a native fish harvested from lakes and rivers.

Now USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is helping the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, raise walleye in order to restock local waterways.

Treaties between the United States government and Michigan Indian tribes give tribal members the right to harvest fish, including in some areas through spearfishing, and to hunt and gather. To ensure that walleye populations are not depleted, tribes stock the fish in lakes and rivers. Read more »

April’s Face of Food Safety Has Heart: Meet Veterinarian Dr. Nancy Atkins

Dr. Nancy Atkins’ devotion to animals is deep-rooted and widespread. She says she knew she wanted to be a veterinarian before she even knew what a veterinarian was, and now she oversees the welfare of poultry and livestock across ten states. Dr. Atkins is a District Veterinary Medical Specialist at the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which means she applies her compassion and 40 years of veterinary experience to make sure the animals intended for food in the western United States are handled humanely.

Dr. Atkins admits her job is tough, but she considers her position “the best job in the agency.” She is inspired by Dr. Temple Grandin, a fellow veterinarian and animal welfare advocate whose work continues to influence the way FSIS views animal handling. Dr. Atkins’ philosophy is, “Be vigilant and diligent. Animals are giving up their lives for us and they should be treated with the greatest respect and kindness under these circumstances.” Read more »

Community Baby Cafés: A Great Benefit for Moms, Children and Families

As Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service, I know that our 15 nutrition assistance programs help a wide variety of people around the country. But there’s nothing like getting out of the office to personally witness the boots on the ground efforts by those who administer and promote our programs on a daily basis. I recently traveled to the FNS Southwest Regional Office in Dallas to meet federal and state personnel and partners and to tour several centers that make up the first line of defense in creating our nation’s safety net against hunger.

One place that I found particularly impressive during my travel was the Dallas Community Baby Café, sponsored by the City of Dallas WIC program. The Women Infants and Children or WIC program provides aid to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding mothers, and their children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. Conveniently co-located next to a WIC clinic that serves over six thousand participants a month, the café is the newest member of a family of 12 centers located around the United States. It provides a relaxed, non-clinical place for pregnant and breastfeeding moms to get advice about lactation from professional and certified consultants free of charge. Read more »

Eager to Plant

Illinois field office director Brad Schwab examines a field of early planted corn in central Illinois. (NASS)

Illinois field office director Brad Schwab examines a field of early planted corn in central Illinois. (NASS)

Of the many factors that make farming risky, weather is particularly important. With this year’s unseasonably warm March, some farmers are taking a risk they hope pays off in a big way. Despite the peril of a spring frost, many farmers are planting corn almost a month earlier than the usual mid-April planting dates.

As they wait to see what happens with the weather, these farmers, along with analysts, policymakers and others interested in U.S. agriculture, will pay close attention to the Crop Progress report issued weekly by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Read more »