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Hands-On Ag Education at the USA Science and Engineering Festival

How do you get tent caterpillars and termites to follow a circle on a piece of paper? Paint the circle with pheromones.

This was one of the many cool facts that kids and adults learned perusing the USDA exhibits at the USA Science & Engineering Festival this past weekend.   I joined thousands of people during this three-day event designed to revive interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and promote careers in those fields. Read more »

FNS Celebrates USDA’s 150 Years of Service

A Bureau of Printing and Engraving employee examines a run of food stamps for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for errors in May 1974. Photo courtesy National Archives and Records Administration.

A Bureau of Printing and Engraving employee examines a run of food stamps for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for errors in May 1974. Photo courtesy National Archives and Records Administration.

Happy Birthday USDA!!  We are 150 years strong, serving as federal department bettering the lives of the American people.  For over 40 years USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has served as the federal agency in USDA that administers the Nation’s domestic nutrition assistance programs.  Our 15 programs comprise the Nation’s food safety net, serving 1 in 4 Americans. They include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp Program), National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and The Emergency Food Assistance Program, among others. Read more »

In USDA’s 150th Year, the REA’s Successor Continues to Have Impact on Rural South Dakota Communities

Farm in Taylor County, IA, July 28, 1958.

Farm in Taylor County, IA, July 28, 1958.

As USDA celebrates its 150 year anniversary; we remember many milestones such as the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) establishment in 1935.  In the 1930’s, only about 10 percent of rural folks had electricity while people living in town had 90 percent coverage across the nation.  With the assistance of REA funding, by 1942, nearly 50 percent of US farms had electricity, and by 1952 almost all US farms had electricity. Read more »

Vice President Biden Tours Everglades

Vice President Joe Biden visits with Carlos Suarez of NRCS during a tour of wetland projects in the Everglades.

Vice President Joe Biden visits with Carlos Suarez of NRCS during a tour of wetland projects in the Everglades.

Vice President Joe Biden was in Florida this week touring the Everglades and touting the benefits of federally funded restoration projects to restore the historical flow of water from the Northern Everglades Watershed to Everglades National Park. He brought his granddaughter along on the airboat tour of the Everglades area, where they were joined by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson and U.S. Representative Alcee Hastings. I was honored to be asked to represent the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) at the event. Read more »

Make Cinco de Mayo a “Citrus de Mayo” Celebration

This year I am encouraging everyone to make the Cinco de Mayo celebration a “Citrus de Mayo” affair by celebrating citrus’ role in the holiday’s food and culture.  My goal is to raise awareness of the serious threat that diseases like citrus greening pose to United States citrus.

From the limes and oranges we use to marinate the carne asada, and the lime we squeeze over our guacamole and tacos to bring out the flavor, to the delicious margaritas and the lime wedges with which we top an ice-cold beer, citrus is at the center of the festive Cinco de Mayo event.

Cinco de Mayo is just not the same without citrus.  With multiple diseases affecting our citrus and the recent confirmation of citrus greening disease in California, our access to U.S.-grown citrus is under serious threat, and with it, many of the foods and festivities we enjoy. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A Hand Up for Homeowners

Today the American economy is continuing to heal from the great recession. Unemployment rates are falling, and we’ve added private sector jobs for two straight years. That means more than 4 million Americans are back on the job.

At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we’re focused on growing the economy in rural America and I am proud of what we’ve accomplished.

One important part of our work has been supporting homeowners who are getting back on their feet – and just recently, USDA was able to take a new step to help. Read more »