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Ensuring Modern, Timely Decisions for Infrastructure Projects

Today the Obama Administration announced a Presidential Memorandum that expands a government-wide effort to improve the Federal permitting and review process. This is a big step for USDA because it will help us ensure timely decision-making and review of infrastructure projects, while ensuring the environmental protections that stand at the heart of the review process.

It’s very important to President Obama and I that well-managed, beneficial projects aren’t held up by unnecessary delays. USDA is committed to the President’s goals of modernizing the permitting and review of infrastructure projects because our efforts are particularly important in rural America. By ensuring timely review of projects, we can better carry out our mission to strengthen community infrastructure and provide opportunities for rural America to create clean, renewable energy. By fostering greater transparency and predictability in the Federal permitting process, we’ll be able to deliver better value for the taxpayer while still avoiding negative impacts to our natural and cultural resources, which remain equally important drivers of economic opportunity. Read more »

Military Veterans Trained in Firefighting Techniques through Forest Service and California Conservation Corps

Firefighter trainees dig out a fire line during the Forest Service and California Conservation Corps joint training session.  (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Firefighter trainees dig out a fire line during the Forest Service and California Conservation Corps joint training session. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

The U.S. Forest Service has partnered with the California Conservation Corps to provide firefighter training for military veterans.

“Fire and Aviation Management is particularly appealing because of the significance of our mission and our well-defined organization,” said Robert Baird, deputy director of Fire and Aviation Management for the Forest Service. Read more »

Organic 101: Can GMOs Be Used in Organic Products?

This is the thirteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

The use of genetic engineering, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table.

Organic operations implement preventive practices based on site-specific risk factors, such as neighboring conventional farms or shared farm equipment or processing facilities.  For example, some farmers plant their seeds early or late to avoid organic and GMO crops flowering at the same time (which can cause cross-pollination). Others harvest crops prior to flowering or sign cooperative agreements with neighboring farms to avoid planting GMO crops next to organic ones. Farmers also designate the edges of their land as a buffer zone where the land is managed organically, but the crops aren’t sold as organic. Any shared farm or processing equipment must be thoroughly cleaned to prevent unintended exposure to GMOs or prohibited substances. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A Food, Farm and Jobs Bill: Helping Protect Our Natural Resources

This year, passage of a long-term, comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is critical to providing certainty for U.S. producers. This includes the continued availability of conservation programs that give our farmers, ranchers and private foresters the means to conserve the soil, protect our water and sustain America’s natural resources.

Thanks to programs provided by the Farm Bill, USDA has been able to enroll a record number of private lands in conservation practices. Over the past four years, we have worked with more than 500,000 producers, landowners and private foresters on projects that help the environment, while providing a new source of income.

From May 20 to June 14, USDA is holding the 45th General Signup under the Conservation Reserve Program – another important effort provided by a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Read more »

From the White House Kitchen: Healthy and Traditional Asian American and Pacific Islander Cuisine

Cross posted from the Let’s Move! Blog:

Growing up in the Philippines, my mother was my main source of inspiration for cooking. I came from a family of eleven kids, and as a child, I would constantly volunteer to help her in the kitchen. My mother would prepare such amazing authentic Filipino food, and cooking for her was almost second nature. She didn’t think about it, she just knew what ingredients to use, how much of each to use, and how to combine their flavors in ways that would satisfy everyone in the family. So Filipino food for me is much more than just adobo, longganisa, or tocino and fried rice – it represents a huge part of my culture, and most importantly, it is what connects me with my family. And that’s why it’s so important to me that we think about Filipino food not just in terms of what’s delicious, but in terms of what’s healthy and nourishing for our families.

That’s why I’ve teamed up with Chef Ming Tsai, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help promote healthy and traditional Asian American and Pacific Islander cuisine. Following a healthy cooking and eating lifestyle has always been important for me as a chef and a mom, and with the USDA’s MyPlate food icon, we have a powerful visual reminder about how to build healthy meals for our families. Read more »