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Planting a Holiday Tradition

One of the many celebrations and traditions that people still practice is the burning of the yule log and singing yuletide carols. Photo courtesy of Penny Stritch.

One of the many celebrations and traditions that people still practice is the burning of the yule log and singing yuletide carols. Photo courtesy of Penny Stritch.

Many holiday traditions are celebrated during the season surrounding the winter solstice, or the time when the sun is at its lowest point above the horizon.

For communities and families, plants play a central role in these traditions. Yet, most people are unaware of the origins of how plants like holly and yule logs became part of holidays and traditions. Read more »

First Generation Conservationist

Pat Maples works with Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist Mitchell Schroeder to identify new vegetation.

Pat Maples works with Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist Mitchell Schroeder to identify new vegetation.

It was 1993 when Pat Maples and her husband made a ranch outside of San Saba, Tex. their home.

With advice from a neighbor, the Maples’ purchased Angus cattle and leased out  land for hunting. But that was not enough to keep the ranch viable. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: An Update on Exports

The past four years have been tremendously positive for America’s efforts to export more agricultural goods and products around the world.

The brand of American agriculture is soaring worldwide. In fact, 2009 to 2012 represents the best four years in our nation’s history for agricultural exports. Exports have grown more than 50% over that period of time.

We have reason to believe that more good news is ahead. Recently, USDA economists forecast agricultural product exports for next year to exceed $145 billion. That would set yet another new record – and it would allow agricultural exports to continue supporting more than a million jobs. Read more »

The Smart Grid and Smart Growth

Smart grid technology, coupled with renewable energy production is increasing energy efficiency on America’s electric grid.”

Smart grid technology, coupled with renewable energy production is increasing energy efficiency on America’s electric grid.”

Two new smart grid projects in North Dakota and South Dakota will help improve electric service for consumers at Northern Electric Cooperative and West Central Electric Cooperative, Inc. by implementing advancements in communications technology.  A smarter electric grid can help improve service by increasing reliability and better managing costs. Read more »

Celebrating the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act Two Years Later

It’s been two years since President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 into law. The Act cleared the way for historic improvements to the child nutrition programs, such as school lunch and school breakfast, that serve millions of our nation’s children. We’ve already implemented many provisions of the Act, with many schools reporting success in meeting the new standards, and students finding the new school meals to be an improvement from the status quo. This coming year will be a busy one as we continue to make program updates that help us fight both child hunger and obesity.

Because of the Act, we’ve been able to improve standards for the content of school lunches—and soon school breakfasts— making them healthier than ever before. However, I know implementation is a process that takes time, and as the school year progresses we will continue listening and providing additional education, technical assistance, and flexibilities where appropriate. Throughout this first year, we are closely monitoring implementation and adapting the support we provide to States and schools based on challenges that arise.

We also made the first real reimbursement rate increase for those meals in 30 years to help schools adjust to the changes. Because we know how influential the school environment can be when it comes to encouraging kids to make healthy choices, USDA will propose new standards for other foods sold in schools including in vending machines. Read more »

Detallitos en inocuidad alimentaria para llenar las medias festivas de tus cocineros favoritos

Hoy en día, todo el mundo es un sabelotodo en alimentos, o proclama ser un experto en todo lo relacionado a la comida. Para agregar a la multitud de recomendaciones para regalos de cocina que muchas páginas cibernéticas han creado durante este mes, la Línea de Información sobre Carnes y Aves del USDA ha copilado una lista de productos de cocina que podrían ser my prácticos y esenciales, y muchos de ellos son lo suficientemente pequeños como para rellenar  medias festivas o canastas de regalo. Lo mejor es que estos aparatos aseguran que la persona le pueda devolver el detalle al cocinar esos asados (ahumados o merengues) adecuadamente durante las fiestas o por todo el año. Read more »