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Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 8/27/12

Tropical Storm Isaac - August 27, 2012 as of 2pm EDT

Tropical Storm Isaac - August 27, 2012 as of 2pm EDT. Click to enlarge image.

Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA’s Drought Disaster response and assistance.

In recent days, some of the weather focus has shifted from drought to the tropics. Indeed, Tropical Storm Isaac is bearing down on the central Gulf Coast of the United States, and hurricane warnings have been issued from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Destin, Florida.  According to the National Hurricane Center, a coastal storm surge of 6 to 12 feet can be expected in southeastern Louisiana and southern portions of Alabama and Mississippi, along and just east of Isaac’s expected path.  On its present course, Isaac should reach the central Gulf Coast late Tuesday.  The NHC indicates that further strengthening can be expected prior to landfall, and Isaac should reach the coast as a Category 1 hurricane – with sustained winds of 74 to 95 mph.  Another threat related to Isaac will be flooding rains.  Rainfall has already topped 10 inches in parts of southeastern Florida, where locally heavy squalls persist.  In the central Gulf Coast region, widespread 6- to 12-inch totals are forecast, with isolated amounts near 18 inches possible.  Crops potentially in the path of Isaac include cotton and sugarcane.  By August 26, cotton bolls open in the Delta States ranged from 32% in Missouri to 61% in Louisiana.  Cotton in the open-boll stage of development is especially vulnerable to damage when high winds and heavy rain occur.  In Louisiana, more than one-quarter (28%) of the new sugarcane crop had been planted by August 19.  Many other crops, including unharvested corn, rice, and soybeans, could be susceptible to lodging (i.e. being flattened or blown over) or quality degradation due to Isaac’s effects. Read more »

USDA Offers Tips to Coastal Residents Preparing for Isaac and other Tropical Storms

As Gulf Coast residents  prepare for the possible landfall of  Tropical Storm Isaac, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) urges everyone to make food safety a part of their preparation efforts. Power outages and flooding that often result from weather emergencies compromise the safety of stored food, and planning ahead can minimize the risk of foodborne illness.

Storing perishable food at proper temperatures is crucial to food safety but can become difficult if you lose electricity for your refrigerator and freezer. For those living in Tropical Storm Isaac’s projected path, USDA recommends stocking up on canned food, bottled water, batteries, and dry ice.

The publication “A Consumer’s Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes” is available at www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Severe_Storms_and_Hurricanes_Guide.pdf to print and keep for reference during a power outage. :  Florida residents can get timely food safety information on Twitter by following @FL_FSISAlert, Mississippi residents should follow @MS_FSISAlert, and Louisiana residents can follow @LA_FSISAlert. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service Scientist Joins NASA Project for Mars Exploration

Photo of Mars courtesy NASA

Photo of Mars courtesy NASA

Accurately measuring atmospheric gas swirls as they interact with the atmosphere and the ground is a complicated process on this planet — let alone Mars. But this is exactly what U.S. Forest Service scientist Bill Massman will be doing for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. Read more »

USDA Has Made Major Improvements to School Meals. Got a Question? #AskUSDA

Now that the school year has started, everyone is abuzz about the healthier meals being served at schools all over the country.  As a result of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, starting this fall, school meals are featuring more whole grains, both fruits and vegetables at every meal, and less sodium and trans fat.  Portion sizes are adjusted for age, among other improvements.

As a result, you may have questions like:

What kinds of new foods will my child’s school offer?

What prompted the changes?

What can I do to help my child eat healthier at home? Read more »

With USDA’s Help, a University in Pennsylvania is Making Big Changes to Student Housing

Acting USDA Rural Development Deputy Undersecretary Judith Canales (4th from left) and Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams (5th from left) broke ground recently with Mansfield University officials for Phase II of new student housing. Rural Development provided $35 million in Community Facilities loans toward the project which is slated for completion in fall 2013.

Acting USDA Rural Development Deputy Undersecretary Judith Canales (4th from left) and Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams (5th from left) broke ground recently with Mansfield University officials for Phase II of new student housing. Rural Development provided $35 million in Community Facilities loans toward the project which is slated for completion in fall 2013.

Mansfield University may be nestled in a tiny town in northern Pennsylvania, but they are moving ground on Phase II of a very big housing project. USDA Rural Development’s Acting Deputy Under Secretary, Judith Canalas and Pennsylvania Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams joined Mansfield University President Dr. Allan Golden and the Mansfield Auxiliary Corporation recently to break ground for Phase II of new suite style housing at the university that will offer students more space, create jobs in the community and help strengthen the economic vitality of the area. Read more »

FAS Partners With Nigeria for Food Safety

The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) is working with the Nigerian government to help the country ensure its exported and imported food stays safe from farm to fork.

The training is part of FAS capacity-building efforts that support the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) of 2000, which aims to boost sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth, spur development and reduce poverty.

At the invitation of the Nigerian government, FAS sent a team of experts to conduct an assessment of Nigeria’s food safety system. They discovered Nigeria needed help developing a program to enforce food safety standards. Read more »