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Oregon School Children, USDA “Energize” Earth Day

At the USDA Earth Day outdoor classroom in Boardman, Oregon, last month,  USDA program technician Renee Robinson tests the children on what they’ve learned about saving energy at home. USDA photo.

At the USDA Earth Day outdoor classroom in Boardman, Oregon, last month, USDA program technician Renee Robinson tests the children on what they’ve learned about saving energy at home. USDA photo.

Last month, USDA Rural Development employees and several partner organizations donated their Saturday to celebrate Earth Day with elementary and middle school-aged children at the Castle Rock farm worker housing complex in Boardman, Oregon.

Volunteers from Energy Trust of Oregon, CASA of Oregon, Sustainable Agriculture and Energy (SAGE) Center, Wind Turbine Industries Corporation, and Kardon Construction joined USDA to lead a variety of interactive educational activities about energy conservation and renewable energy alternatives. Read more »

Full Speed Ahead for Open Ag Data

Participants in the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, including US Chief Technology Todd Park, listen to opening remarks by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Apr. 29, 2013. (USDA photo by Bob Nichols).

Participants in the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, including US Chief Technology Todd Park, listen to opening remarks by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Apr. 29, 2013. (USDA photo by Bob Nichols).

Cross posted from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy blog:

Last week, hundreds of innovators gathered at the World Bank IFC Center to brainstorm about how Open Data can be harnessed to help meet the challenge of sustainably feeding nine billion people by 2050.  The group included delegates from the G-8 group of nations, US Government officials, private sector partners, Open Data advocates, technology experts, and nonprofit leaders – all participants in the first-of-its-kind G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture. Read more »

USDA Support Helps Foundry Workers Save their Jobs

It has been nine years since the employees of the Mereen-Johnson Foundry banded together and risked their retirement savings in order to keep their jobs and secure a future for themselves and their families by buying the foundry.  Dakota Foundry, Inc. is a manufacturer of gray and ductile iron castings, located in Webster, South Dakota, and it was on the brink of closure until the employees stepped up to the plate. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Ready to Help Pass a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill

In recent months, the Federal budget has dominated the conversation here in Washington.  At the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we have been working hard on mission critical priorities, even as we implement mandatory across-the-board budget cuts.

The good news is that our proactive efforts to cut costs have saved more than $828 million in recent years, putting us in a better position to deliver important programs.

But we also have not lost sight of a key requirement for these programs to continue: passage of a comprehensive, multiyear Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Read more »

Conservation Makes a Difference in Drought-Stricken Areas

Rancher Willie Utley of Benavides, Texas and Sammy Guerra, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist in Benavides, Tex., discuss the successful drilling of the water well they’re standing behind. (NRCS photo/Beverly Moseley)

Rancher Willie Utley of Benavides, Texas and Sammy Guerra, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist in Benavides, Tex., discuss the successful drilling of the water well they’re standing behind. (NRCS photo/Beverly Moseley)

For months, South Texas ranchers have been struggling to keep cattle fed and watered through extraordinary drought conditions. Water wells and stock tanks have run dry, and some ranchers are left with no alternative but to truck water in to cattle. Read more »

SNAP: New Rules Aim to Expand Access to Farmers’ Markets!

USDA is working hard to expand access to farmers’ markets for those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (used with permission)

USDA is working hard to expand access to farmers’ markets for those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (used with permission)

As USDA Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, I can tell you that there are few things I enjoy more than visiting one of the many thousands of farmers’ markets in communities across our verdant country. There’s just no better opportunity to sample the bounty of American agriculture.

The fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods you can find at farmers’ markets are the foundation of sound nutrition. Which is why USDA is working hard to expand access to farmers’ markets for those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Read more »