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USDA Deputy Under Secretary Hosts Rural Business Leaders at a White House Rural Council Regional Innovation Event

One of the best things about working for USDA as a deputy under secretary for Rural Development is the ability to meet with so many brilliant business leaders from around the country.  Last week, at the White House, I met with dozens of folks to discuss economic development and community renewal efforts.

We talked about Regional Innovation, one of several topics the Obama Administration is emphasizing to revitalize rural areas. Improving access to capital, building out broadband, developing renewable energy and establishing regional food systems will increase productivity and economic growth in rural America. Read more »

An Unusual Job with USDA

Painting by Taina Litwak of a new species of tiny parasitic wasp in the genus Perischus.  Done in 2011 for Dr. Matt Buffington.  The painting starts with a pencil drawing done through the microscope of a dead pinned specimen.  Details for this painting were included which only are visible in scanning electron microphotographs, as the species is so very small.  The painting itself is done digitally in Adobe Photoshop.  The species was first collected in South America in 2010 and is involved with parasitizing a species complex of flies which lay eggs in cucurbit plants (melon, cucumber and squash family).

Painting by Taina Litwak of a new species of tiny parasitic wasp in the genus Perischus. Done in 2011 for Dr. Matt Buffington. The painting starts with a pencil drawing done through the microscope of a dead pinned specimen. Details for this painting were included which only are visible in scanning electron microphotographs, as the species is so very small. The painting itself is done digitally in Adobe Photoshop. The species was first collected in South America in 2010 and is involved with parasitizing a species complex of flies which lay eggs in cucurbit plants (melon, cucumber and squash family).

I am a scientific illustrator on staff with the Systematic Entomology Lab, in the Plant Sciences Institute, ARS, located in the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of Natural History. Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Secretary Vilsack, who was interested in several of my paintings of newly described species of insects that I entered in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2012 Employee Art Exhibit.  As I answered his questions, it occurred to me that people may not associate USDA with artistry or illustration and that my job as “Scientific Illustrator” may in fact seem unusual to many. Read more »

#AskUSDA Rural Economic Development and Housing

On June 19, 2012, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien led the Department’s third monthly Virtual Office Hours on USDA’s role in economic development in our nation’s rural communities, including the great strides that have been made in agricultural economy and the important role housing plays in creating jobs, maintaining viable rural communities, and contributing to the economy. Read more »

Remembering Dr. Charles E. Kellogg, Soil Scientist and Chief of USDA’s Bureau of Chemistry and Soils

Ann Mills and Stephen Kellogg, grandson of the late Dr. Charles E. Kellogg, unveiling plaque dedicating the Dr. Charles E. Kellogg Soil Survey Laboratory in Lincoln, Neb. USDA photo.

Ann Mills and Stephen Kellogg, grandson of the late Dr. Charles E. Kellogg, unveiling plaque dedicating the Dr. Charles E. Kellogg Soil Survey Laboratory in Lincoln, Neb. USDA photo.

Recently, I had the honor of presiding at the Dedication of the Dr. Charles E. Kellogg Soil Survey Laboratory in Lincoln, Neb.  The laboratory is part of the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) National Soil Survey Center and serves as the primary source for the Nation’s soil information. With the recent celebration of the 150th Anniversary of the US Department of Agriculture, it struck me as a perfect place and a perfect time to honor both the work and the larger than life soil scientist, Dr. Charles E. Kellogg. His vision was one that was ahead of its time and the opportunity to revisit his ideas and remind everyone just how great a man and scientist he was, gave me great pride and enjoyment. Read more »

Data Dashboards: Bringing More Market Information to Life

A screenshot of the Boxed Beef Dashboard. The livestock dashboards allow you to see weekly volume and price information presented in graphs and tables that can be customized for viewing and downloaded for use in reports and presentations.

A screenshot of the Boxed Beef Dashboard. The livestock dashboards allow you to see weekly volume and price information presented in graphs and tables that can be customized for viewing and downloaded for use in reports and presentations.

It has been said that the most successful person in life (and in business) is often the one who has the best information.  For almost a century USDA Market News has been providing farmers, ranchers and businesses with the best market and pricing information.  Our real-time commodity reports, produced by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), provide quick and easy access to volume and price information for boxed beef, cattle, hogs, and sheep.

Over the years, our reports have evolved to better meet the changing demands of the farmers and ranchers who rely on our data to remain competitive.  In the summer of 2010, we launched the first of our livestock data dashboards, providing a highly customized experience for our data consumers.

The Boxed Beef Dashboard, the newest addition to the Livestock and Grain Market News dashboards, includes a lot of the same great tools that have made our other dashboards so popular—interactive features for querying and viewing information, like navigation tabs, slide bars, graphs, tables, and daily market tickers.

A unique feature on the new Boxed Beef Dashboard displays a diagram of a steer that dynamically illustrates the area of the animal the cut of meat comes from. It also shows a color photograph and brief description of the wholesale beef cut, providing quick visual cues to help sort and sift the information more quickly.

Like all of our dashboards, it also offers a range of options to download and export custom datasets, giving you only the datapoints that are most meaningful to you.  The users’ guide provides a feature-by-feature overview of the dashboard and is a great place to start if you’re new to the datasets.

USDA Market News has been providing market information on cotton, dairy, livestock and grains, poultry and eggs, and fruits and vegetables for over 90 years. By visiting USDA Market News you can view hundreds of pre-made commodity reports—including the livestock dashboards—or create a custom report to see only the information you need.

Get the same insight as other industry insiders—visit the livestock dashboards.

USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager Visits Maine Community Development Projects

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager had a unique opportunity to see the many dynamic things happening in rural Maine communities during his visit earlier this month. Each of the projects he visited represented a different way in which USDA Rural Development’s Programs are playing valuable roles, providing a multitude of benefits, including renewable energy, business sustainability, job creation and retention, distance learning, and telemedicine.

USDA Officials tour a new USDA-funded wind project that meets much of the power needs of a Maine island.

USDA Officials tour a new USDA-funded wind project that meets much of the power needs of a Maine island.

For example, I joined the Under Secretary and the Northeast Region State Directors on a ferry to Vinalhaven, a remote island community 12 miles off the coast of Maine. Once there, we were greeted by Town Manager Marjorie Stratton, and led on tours of the Fox Islands Wind site by Fox Islands Wind CEO George Baker, and COO Bill Alcorn. The three immense wind turbines will generate about as much clean renewable wind power as the Fox Islands use, which is between 10 and 10.5 million kilowatt hours per year. USDA Rural Development provided funding support to make possible the total $14 million wind turbine project. Read more »