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Secretary’s Column: A Farm, Food and Jobs Bill This Year

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee took a first look at a proposed version of the Farm Bill – or, as I call it – the farm, food and jobs bill. This is an important first step in the process to write the legislation and get it passed into law.

Farmers, ranchers, and the men and women who live in rural communities deserve to know what the rules will be moving forward.

With the current law expiring, we cannot wait any longer to reauthorize this essential law for rural America. It needs to happen this year. Read more »

Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest Helps Reestablish the Eastern Indigo Snake

A partnership of federal, state and private organizations are working together to re-establish a population of eastern indigo snakes in Alabama.

Alabama conservationists are closer to regenerating a population of the threatened eastern indigo snake in the Conecuh National Forest through the release of numerous juvenile snakes on the forest. The indigo snake is North America’s largest native snake, and plays an important ecological role in Alabama’s wildlife diversity.  Read more »

Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth School Pilot Program: Training Teachers Coast to Coast

A classroom floor becomes a garden as 2nd graders at Hiawatha Elementary in Webster, Iowa decide which of their favorite fruits and vegetables will be planted in their school garden. Gathered in anticipation around a rectangle that represents the actual size of the garden bed, their teacher skillfully guides the planning, helping them consider which plants will thrive in Iowa’s climate, which plants require more or less sun, and which plants will be compatible neighbors.

Along the way, the teacher introduces math concepts – deftly integrating her classroom lessons into a real world experience. Soon the students will be planting this garden for real – just as they have planned it – as will 4,000 other youth in 57 schools in Iowa, Arkansas, New York and Washington participating in Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth (HGHY), a project of the People’s Garden School Pilot Project. Read more »

Organic 101: The Lifecycle of Organic Food Production

This is the fifth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Through defined farming practices, organic principles promote ecological balance, foster the cycling of resources, and conserve biodiversity. To understand what that means when it comes to the label on your food, those principles require some more explanation.

Let’s take a closer look at a snapshot of sustainable food production, using the lifecycle of organic cheddar to get a fuller picture. Read more »

Prague’s People’s Garden Expands Beyond U.S. Embassy Grounds

Shown in the first Czech People’s Garden, planted on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Prague, is Jana Mikulasova, an agricultural specialist with the Foreign Agricultural Service. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy, Prague)

Shown in the first Czech People’s Garden, planted on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Prague, is Jana Mikulasova, an agricultural specialist with the Foreign Agricultural Service. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy, Prague)

The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) office in Prague, Czech Republic, joined the People’s Garden initiative in the summer of 2009, when employees started planning their project, researching potential garden sites, and identifying input suppliers and partners. Their effort bore fruit in summer 2010 with the first Czech People’s Garden planted at the U.S. Embassy compound in Prague. Read more »

USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer on the Recent BSE Case (aka Mad Cow)

On April 24, USDA confirmed the nation’s 4th case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in an animal that was sampled for the disease at a rendering facility in central California.  This animal was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food and milk supply, or to human health in the United States.

We have a longstanding system of interlocking safeguards against BSE that protects public and animal health in the United States.  The most important is the removal of specified risk materials – or the parts of an animal that would contain BSE should an animal have the disease – from all animals presented for slaughter in the United States. USDA inspectors at slaughter facilities also prevent cattle that are nonambulatory or are displaying signs of neurological disease or central nervous system disorders from entering the human food supply. Read more »