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Food That’s in When School is Out

The Power Panther get the crowd “powered up” at the July 10th Boston SFSP Kickoff Event.

The Power Panther get the crowd “powered up” at the July 10th Boston SFSP Kickoff Event.

On a sunny July afternoon, a long line of students, ranging in ages from 4-18, listened eagerly as Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and representatives from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and Boston Public School System kicked off for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Cafeteria staff from Lila Frederick School in Dorchester, Mass. cooked and served a BBQ lunch for about 100 eligible SFSP students from the local neighborhood. On the menu: turkey hot dogs, grilled chicken, corn on the cob, fresh slices of watermelon, grape juice and fat free milk. Read more »

USDA Partners with Local Pennsylvania Producer to Support Feds Feed Families Summer Food Drive

Pennsylvania USDA officials and retirees recently partnered with a local producer to donate huge boxes of cantaloupes and fresh-picked sweet corn as part of the 4th Annual 2012 Feds Feed Families Summer Food Drive. The food drive is a voluntary effort undertaken by federal employees around the country to collect and donate perishable and non-perishable goods to food pantries and banks in their communities.

Locally, USDA agencies are partnering with Henry and Brett Stehr, brothers who own and operate Kenny Stehr & Sons Fresh Fruits and Vegetables of Pitman, Schuylkill County. The brothers can be found every Tuesday and Friday with fresh, local produce at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex Farmer’s Market in Harrisburg. The Stehr brothers donated a box of fresh cantaloupe to the USDA food drive’s donation to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, and current USDA directors purchased an additional box from Stehr & Sons to add to the donation.  On hand for the occasion were Terry Stehr (former Schuylkill County Farm Service Agency (FSA) County Director); Bill Foose (former Program Director for FSA); Thomas Williams, USDA Rural Development State Director; Tim Kinney, representing USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); Kevin Pautler, National Agricultural Statistics Service; Brett Stehr of Kenny Stehr &Sons Fresh Fruits & Vegetables and Bill Wehry, USDA Farm Service Agency State Executive Director. Read more »

Protecting Agriculture, One Hive at a Time

When startled by a swarm of flying and buzzing insects, complete with stingers, the common response may be to grab an aerosol can of insecticide; but appreciating the vital importance of honey bees to agriculture and knowing something of various difficulties currently faced by bees, alternative actions are warranted.

Recently my staff noticed a huddled mass of what turned out to be bees in the lot by our office and shop.  We looked for a queen but left the swarm alone.  It later became apparent the bees had created a home under flashing at the building’s roof line, which seemed an inopportune location both for the bees and my staff.

We encouraged our landlord to consider relocation of the hive and were amazed to watch the process when Charlie Reffitt showed up one May morning.  In shorts and T-shirt, he climbed 20 feet up a ladder, with bees swirling around.  He inserted a funnel-like device into the hive under the flashing, caulking all other entrances.   He secured a cardboard box on the roof, populated with a queen and initial colony. Read more »

Independence Day Festival Helps U.S. Food Products Sparkle in India

Chef Sachin Subbaiah of India prepares a grilled chicken salad during a live cooking demonstration  at SPAR Hypermarket in Bangalore, India, as part of the U.S. Food and Beverage Independence Festival. The festival was the first multi-retailer U.S. food and beverage promotional campaign held throughout cities in India from June 29 to July 22.

Chef Sachin Subbaiah of India prepares a salad during a live cooking demonstration at SPAR Hypermarket in Bangalore, India, as part of the U.S. Food and Beverage Independence Festival. The festival was the first multi-retailer U.S. food and beverage promotional campaign held throughout cities in India from June 29 to July 22.

While many Americans enjoyed time with family and friends grilling and preparing their favorite foods this past Independence Day, Indian consumers were learning about some of those same U.S. foods during a month-long promotional campaign. Read more »

Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 8/14/12

U.S. Soybean Coinditions, August 12, 2012. Data obtailed from preliminary National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) weekly crop progress and condition tables.

U.S. Soybean Conditions, August 12, 2012. Data obtained from preliminary National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) weekly crop progress and condition tables.

Cooler weather and recent rain showers have largely stabilized crop conditions in the Midwest.  Rainfall has been heaviest in the eastern Corn Belt, including Michigan and Ohio, although nearly all of the Midwest has received some precipitation.  Still, U.S. corn and soybean conditions remain at levels unseen since the Drought of 1988, according to USDA/NASS.  During the week ending August 12, corn rated very poor to poor rose slightly to 51%, just two percentage points shy of the August 1988 peak.  Soybeans rated very poor to poor reached a record-high 39% last week, but improved one percentage point during the week ending August 12.

This year’s U.S. corn crop is developing so rapidly that August rainfall will provide only limited drought relief.  By August 12, nearly half (42%) of the corn had dented, while 10% was fully mature.  Five-year averages for those two categories are 16 and 3%, respectively.  In contrast, soybeans seem to be benefiting from the turn toward cooler, wetter weather.  In Ohio, for example, the portion of the soybean crop rated very poor to poor fell from 42 to 34% during the week ending August 12.

Typically, rangeland and pastures are slow to recover from a devastating drought.  Complete recovery often requires not only the change of seasons, but also many soaking rainfall events.  Currently, the amount of U.S. rangeland and pastures rated in very poor to poor condition remains steady at 59%.  Nearly all of the rangeland and pastures are rated very poor to poor in Missouri (98%), Illinois (94%), Nebraska (92%), and Kansas (90%).  At least half of the rangeland and pastures are rated very poor to poor in 22 of the 48 contiguous United States.

Weather Update and Outlook:  Currently, a cold front is traversing the eastern Corn Belt.  A second cold front will arrive in the upper Midwest on August 15 and reach the South and East by August 17.  Both fronts combined will produce as much as 1 to 2 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts, mainly across the South, East, and lower Midwest.  Somewhat lighter amounts of rain can be expected across the northern and central Plains and the upper Midwest.  In the wake of the second cold front, unusually cool air will blanket the Plains and the Midwest.  In fact, an extended period of near- to below-normal temperatures can be expected east of the Rockies starting later this week and extending at least into next week.