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USDA Plans to ‘Turbo-Charge’ Telework Week 2013!

Last year USDA had 7,516 employees, Department-wide,  who pledged to Telework during Telework Week 2012, which resulted in more than $1 million saved in commuting costs alone.   Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration,  Oscar Gonzales, acknowledges  “USDA has high goals for widespread Telework adoption and this initiative gave many employees from smaller agencies and sub-organizations the opportunity to Telework, even if they do not regularly do so.  We pledge to once again support Telework Week and hope to increase our participation this year.”

As we count down to participate in Telework Week 2013, scheduled to take place March 4-8, 2013, now is the time to begin talking to your leadership and co-workers about your level of participation.  Eligible employees are encouraged to participate up to the entire week, and the goal is to increase the amount of Telework time you normally are accustomed to.  What better way to use this opportunity as an effective Continuity of Operations (COOP) Telework Drill for your workgroup!  Both employees and USDA alike will share in the benefits and savings of participating in a successful Telework Week at USDA. Read more »

NRCS Snow Surveyor Collects Vital Water Data, Lives Dream Job

Snow surveyors approach SNOTEL site on Mount Hood.

Snow surveyors approach SNOTEL site on Mount Hood.

Koeberle’s job carries her over mountains by helicopter and horse, snowshoes and skis. She has encountered grizzly bears, avalanches and wolves and visited ridges that few people have seen.

Koeberle is a hydrologist and snow surveyor for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and works on the agency’s snow survey team—a group of specially trained scientists who maintain snow gauges that are important to farmers, business owners and many other people in the West. Read more »

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 »