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New Vision Means Better Inspection Services for Fruits and Vegetables

U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) inspectors Geno DeSanto and Bob Schofield examine bananas at the Philadelphia Food Distribution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 21, 2008.USDA photo.

U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) inspectors Geno DeSanto and Bob Schofield examine bananas at the Philadelphia Food Distribution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 21, 2008.USDA photo.

Exceptional grading, standardization and auditing services are the benchmarks that were set by USDA’s Fresh and Processed Products Divisions.  The two organizations within USDA supported the produce industry for nearly a century, providing quality grading and auditing services that businesses and consumers could trust.

Now, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has merged the two divisions into one unit that provides the same excellent service.  The new Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division offers voluntary, audit-based inspection programs – utilizing Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices (GAP/GHP).  We will also perform uniform, quality grading services based on the U.S. standards for fresh, frozen and processed products. Read more »

USDA Teams up to Provide Environmental Stewardship to Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed extends across 64,000 square miles. (Graphic courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Program)

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed extends across 64,000 square miles. (Graphic courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Program)

Urban and community forests, agroforestry, fish and wildlife habitat, mining areas and contaminated lands are the targets of a restoration strategy aimed to help the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S.

The final Chesapeake Restoration Strategy, a multi-agency effort released this month by the Forest Service, relies heavily on collaboration among partners in federal, state and local governments, watershed and community organizations and private partners. Read more »

Agriculture Weather Update – 1/9/13

Agricultural Weather Assessment chat of United States cattle areas located in drought.

Agricultural Weather Assessment chat of United States cattle areas located in drought. Click to enlarge image.

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

Recent rains have dented drought in the Southeast, but southwestern and central portions of the U.S. have experienced little overall change in drought coverage.  By January 1, 2013, the portion of the contiguous U.S. in drought stood at 61.09%, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, down from a September 2012 peak of 65.45%.  Despite the slight decline in overall U.S. drought coverage, the portion of the nation experiencing the worst drought category – D4, or exceptional drought – has been slowly rising.  Exceptional drought covered 6.75% of the nation on January 1, the greatest U.S. coverage since November 2011. Read more »

Arizona Community Garden Feeds Body and Soul

There has been little in Ruben Herrera’s life of late to celebrate. The past few years have been marred by drugs, prison, and homelessness.

A military vet who was raised on a farm in Gilbert, Arizona, Ruben remembered the sweetness of his childhood rural lifestyle even as he struggled with the realities of life on the streets of America’s sixth largest city.

In October, Ruben’s Veterans Administration counselor directed him to the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix where he is now finding renewed hope and purpose.

The Human Services Campus houses several social service agencies—St. Vincent de Paul, Central Arizona Shelter Services, Lodestar, NOVA Safe Haven, Maricopa County Health Services and St. Joseph the Worker employment counseling. But for Ruben, the Community Garden, rooted out of a parking lot next to the campus, has become his sanctuary. Read more »