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Crafting New Opportunities for a Local Economy One Fiber at a Time

Shearing time at Cider Hill Farm in North Haven Island.  This photo will be featured in the online Maine Fiber Resource Guide.  Photo courtesy of Maine Fiberarts,  Topsham, Maine, <a href="http://www.mainefiberarts.org" rel="nofollow">www.mainefiberarts.org</a>

Shearing time at Cider Hill Farm in North Haven Island. This photo will be featured in the online Maine Fiber Resource Guide. Photo courtesy of Maine Fiberarts, Topsham, Maine

In an age where shopping malls and retail establishments dominate many urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods, most people’s knowledge about fibers comes from their clothing tags. However, Maine Fiberarts is working hard to change this. Read more »

Meet USDA’s Youngest Ally in the Fight against Invasive Species: Ben Shrader, Invasive Hunter

In the battle to preserve agriculture and the environment, Ben Shrader is Luke Skywalker and invasive species are Darth Vader.

Ben, a young man from central Texas, first became interested in invasive species after reading a newspaper article about plants wreaking havoc on native ecosystems. Also known as “Commander Ben,” he describes it as a “battle in nature, like good versus evil” and decided that he wanted to help the “good guys” win.

In his first of many spars with invasive species, Ben conducted a science fair project on giant reed (Arundo donax), an invasive plant that is damaging riparian ecosystems in his home state of Texas. But Ben didn’t stop there. Combining his love for filmmaking with his passion for science, Ben created a blog entitled “Commander Ben-The Invasive Hunter,” where he records his exploits and posts videos and other content to teach kids about the fight against invasive species. Read more »

SNAP Benefits Lessen Depth and Severity of Poverty

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 USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

To help those in need make ends meet, the Federal Government offers a variety of assistance programs.  Some provide cash, but more offer in-kind assistance such as subsidized rents or assistance with home energy bills. USDA provides eligible households with in-kind assistance in the form of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits to buy groceries (formerly called the Food Stamp Program). But these benefits, and other in-kind assistance, are not counted as income when the Census Bureau calculates official poverty rates.  Not accounting for these benefits understates the resources of U.S. families who receive them and masks the greater relative hardship of those who do not. Read more »

USDA Scientists Make Breakthrough in PRRS Research

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.

Porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) is a disease that costs the U.S. pork industry an estimated $664 million per year. Recently, scientists have made a breakthrough in research efforts to curb the disease.

A consortium of scientists from around the country, with funding from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS), have discovered a genetic marker in pigs that identifies whether or not a pig has reduced susceptibility to PRRS. Read more »

Cultivating the Next Generation of Conservationists

In Minnesota, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is piloting an innovative partnership to introduce high school students to careers in science and agriculture.

Since last year, NRCS has teamed up with the Hmong American Partnership, a nonprofit that provides services to Minnesota’s Hmong community. The Hmong are an ethnic group from the mountains of Southeast Asia, and the Twin Cities—St. Paul and Minneapolis—have the highest concentration of Hmong populations in the country. Read more »

4-H students Visit Washington, DC and Present on Bringing Let’s Move! to Their Communities

4-H student presenters check out the White House following their meeting.

4-H student presenters check out the White House following their meeting.

As part of their 2012 annual 4-H National Conference approximately 300 high school student leaders from across the United States, U.S. territories, and Canada gathered in the greater Washington, DC area.  4-H seeks to promote positive youth development, facilitate learning, and engage young people in the efforts of the USDA to produce “real results for real people.”  The conference aims to empower and mobilize the 4-H students to create positive, meaningful change in their communities. Read more »