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Six Baltimore Teens Part of Carson National Forest Student Conservation Project

The Student Conservation Association hiked into the Cruces Basin Wilderness this summer to do some basic trail maintenance.  This involved lifting and moving rocks and breaking ground to make the trail easier to hike.

The Student Conservation Association hiked into the Cruces Basin Wilderness this summer to do some basic trail maintenance. This involved lifting and moving rocks and breaking ground to make the trail easier to hike.

Imagine traveling 2,000 miles from home for the first time to trade high-rise buildings for towering trees, city lights for twinkling stars, and an urban cacophony for the melodies of songbirds.

For most of us, this would be a vacation.  For six Baltimore teenagers, it was a journey to work long, hard days to restore the wilderness character of the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. Read more »

A WINS-ing Summer at APHIS

Every summer Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian college students from across the nation come to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) as participants in the program Washington Internships for Native Students (WINS); I am one of them.  For some of us, interning at APHIS is the first time we have ever lived off our tribal lands.  For others, coming to Washington, D.C. is but another experience living in a big city.  All of us, however, are linked in some way to the tribal communities we represent: the Omaha, Chippewa, Mohawk, Lumbee, Quechan, Laguna and Isleta nations.

WINS interns contribute more than just our skills and time; we add our voices.  We speak as individuals from communities that are often underrepresented in government settings.  We come to APHIS from states such as California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and New Mexico and carry with us the unique perspectives of peoples from distant lands. Our respective cultures and histories, stories and languages are irrevocably parts of who we are and contribute to the way we view the world.  WINS interns help bridge the gap between Washington’s governmental agencies and the people for whom they work.  In the “People’s Department,” this bridge is priceless. Read more »

1 Million People Using USDA SuperTracker to Monitor Diet and Physical Activity Goals

One of the SuperTracker team members, Sarah Chang, nutritionist, enthusiastically demos the SuperTracker site. Photo by Sasha Bard

One of the SuperTracker team members, Sarah Chang, nutritionist, enthusiastically demos the SuperTracker site. Photo by Sasha Bard

The Agriculture Department announced this week that SuperTracker, an interactive diet and activity tracking tool, reached one million registered users. SuperTracker, maintained by the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), is a free online application. Users can choose from a wide variety of features ranging from quickly looking up the nutrient information for a food to in-depth diet and activity tracking.  For example, users can track their vegetable intake, estimate how many calories they burn in their aerobics class, and track their weight loss over time. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Research Strengthening Agriculture’s Resilience

Today, President Obama and I continue doing all we can to help farmers and ranchers impacted by the drought. As Congress comes back to Washington in September we will continue to encourage passage of a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible – to give USDA tools to help those who have been impacted by drought, while giving more certainty for farmers and ranchers.

While the drought has taken a toll on agriculture this year, we also know that America’s history of agricultural innovation and research advancement means farmers and ranchers are better-prepared than ever before to mitigate its effects.

USDA scientists and research partners have helped to provide these important new tools for decades – and their work continues today. Read more »

Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture Adds USDA Mural to Collection

The USDA mural displayed at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

The USDA mural displayed at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

The Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture (NCTA) has a new mural added to its collection at its new Nebraska Agriculture Industry Education Center.  The USDA mural depicts the various projects that can be accomplished through the programs and funding offered through the USDA Mission Areas.

USDA Rural Development State Director Maxine Moul was in Curtis last week with the Dean of NCTA, Dr. Weldon Sleight, who gave her a tour of the mural and the Education Center.  Moul serves as the chair of the Nebraska Food and Agriculture Council, whose membership includes the USDA agencies located in Nebraska.  Coordinating the creation and installation of the mural were the USDA Agencies of Farm Service Agency (FSA), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Rural Development. Read more »

On Drought, USDA is There

USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse and Cass County FSA committeeman and farmer Trent Smith discuss the drought’s impact on this year’s soybean crop. Smith’s farm was one stop on the Undersecretary’s tour assessing Missouri’s drought.

USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse and Cass County FSA committeeman and farmer Trent Smith discuss the drought’s impact on this year’s soybean crop. Smith’s farm was one stop on the Undersecretary’s tour assessing Missouri’s drought.

Last week, USDA Undersecretary Michael Scuse visited with farmers and ranchers in Missouri and Kansas. Scuse is just one of several USDA officials to fan out to more than a dozen drought-affected states in the past two months as part of President Obama’s commitment to get help to producers impacted by the nation’s worst drought in a generation. Over the past eight weeks, USDA has helped to lead these efforts by opening conservation acres to emergency haying and grazing, lowering the interest rate for emergency loans, working with crop insurance companies to provide flexibility to farmers, and offering other forms of assistance meant to bring relief in the short and long term. Read more »