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All That Glitters Is Not Gold ….

Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week  is May 19-25. David Cappaert, Michigan State University.

Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week is May 19-25. David Cappaert, Michigan State University.

In this case it is green, a brilliant emerald green, and it is chomping its way through America’s forests. The emerald ash borer (EAB), Agrilus planipennis, may look pretty, but it is killing our ash trees in our forests and backyards.

This is Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week (May 19-25) and the time of year when you might see adult beetles flitting about among your ash trees. It is also the time of year you may unknowingly move this pest if you pack firewood when you kick off the summer camping season.  Read more »

Connecting Healthcare and Nutrition through the Summer Food Service Program

A child at a summer meals site enjoys a tasty and nutritious meal.

A child at a summer meals site enjoys a tasty and nutritious meal.

“Two is better than one.”  Holding true to this timeless adage, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is teaming up with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to expand the reach of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).  FNS strives to increase food security and reduce hunger by providing children and low-income people access to food, while HRSA is the primary Federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable.  There is an intrinsic mission overlap between FNS and HRSA given that their services target similar populations, and they have found a way to collaborate by rallying around SFSP. Read more »

Pennsylvania Lakeside Community Sewer Extension Has Minimal Impact

Nuangola lakeside homes, surrounding roads and outbuildings, are experiencing little impact during the sewer extension construction project.

Nuangola lakeside homes, surrounding roads and outbuildings, are experiencing little impact during the sewer extension construction project.

As a sewer extension project winds through the lakeside community portion of Nuangola, Pennsylvania, residents are experiencing minimal impact.  Last year, Nuangola Borough received $4.4 million in USDA Rural Development Water and Environmental Program (WEP) loans and $3.9 million in WEP grants to fund the installation of a low pressure wastewater collection system for the borough. Treatment of the wastewater collected will be done by the neighboring authority’s existing sewage treatment facility. The system will serve an estimated 420 homes. Read more »

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 »