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Secretary’s Column: A Food Farm and Jobs Bill to Grow Local and Regional Markets

This week, the U.S. Senate acted in bipartisan spirit to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act – a balanced, comprehensive bill that will drive continued growth in rural America.  The House of Representatives now has another important opportunity to stand with rural America and pass their version of a bill.

People often call this the Farm Bill – but it’s much more than that. This is a conservation bill. It’s a trade promotion bill. It’s an innovation bill. It’s a jobs bill.

And it’s a bill that will help continue a tremendous increase in markets for locally-grown foods. This includes creating more farmers markets, building additional regional food hubs and strengthening farm-to-institution programs. Read more »

Buzz Over to the #PollinatorWeek Festival

 

Celebrate at the Pollinator Week Festival on June 21 at USDA Headquarters. (Photo credit: 2013 Pollinator Week logo courtesy of Pollinator Partnership)

Celebrate at the Pollinator Week Festival on June 21 at USDA Headquarters. (Photo credit: 2013 Pollinator Week logo courtesy of Pollinator Partnership)

How do pollinators affect your life? Well, if you’ve ever eaten a blueberry, chocolate bar or tomato, then you owe a big thank you to a small pollinator. Pollinators are birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees. They are responsible for pollinating one out of every three bites of food we eat. But these invaluable creatures are facing declines. That’s why USDA agencies, other federal departments and partners share knowledge and collaborate on efforts to help increase awareness and tackle challenges facing pollinators.  Read more »

Rooting Up History: Feral Swine Damage to Archaeological Sites

Feral swine are an invasive species well known for their ability to degrade native habitats, damage agricultural interests, and spread disease. However, until now, little was known about their impacts to archaeological sites.

USDA-APHIS scientists at the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) and colleagues from the Avon Park Air Force Range (Avon Park) recently measured the potential for feral swine to disturb and destroy archaeological sites in south-central Florida. The study was conducted at Avon Park, a base comprising more than 98,000 acres and containing hundreds of archaeological sites. Read more »

USDA Loans Scout to Ohio Military Museum

LOACH 990’s crew reunites at the dedication of the exhibit at the Motts Military Museum, Groveport, OH.

LOACH 990’s crew reunites at the dedication of the exhibit at the Motts Military Museum, Groveport, OH.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Wildlife Services (WS) program were privileged to assist in placing a light observation helicopter (LOH-6A), but affectionately called a LOACH by service members, on long-term loan at the Mott’s Military Museum in Groveport, Ohio.

Talking with the excited aircrew of Vietnam veterans, it’s clear a special relationship develops between an aircraft, its pilot, and crew, especially during war. Read more »

Your Wilderness Photo Could be Displayed at a Special Smithsonian Exhibition

South Warner Wilderness Area in northeastern California has about 79 miles of maintained trails suitable for horse or foot traffic. The diverse stretch of land includes the 9,892-foot Eagle Peak, mountain meadows, clear streams, ragged peaks and an abundance of wildflowers. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

South Warner Wilderness Area in northeastern California has about 79 miles of maintained trails suitable for horse or foot traffic. The diverse stretch of land includes the 9,892-foot Eagle Peak, mountain meadows, clear streams, ragged peaks and an abundance of wildflowers. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

The United States has 757 wilderness areas covering nearly 110 million acres of public land, but just one of your photographs could be among those displayed at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History as part of a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964.

“Wilderness Forever” is a professionally juried photo contest by the 50th Anniversary National Wilderness Planning Team, or Wilderness50. Approximately 50 winning contest entries will be chosen for display as large format prints at the Smithsonian. Professional, amateur and student photographers are encouraged to submit photographs accompanied by personal stories and memories of the scenes depicted. Read more »

Extra! Extra Samples Feed Families in Need!

“Thank you for the generous donations of produce that you have given to assist us with our outreach mission. With your help we are able to provide food for needy senior citizens,” said Denise Smartt Sears from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in New Rochelle, NY.

“Thank you for the generous donations of produce that you have given to assist us with our outreach mission. With your help we are able to provide food for needy senior citizens,” said Denise Smartt Sears from St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in New Rochelle, NY.

It is a simple idea. If you have more than you need, share with those who don’t have enough.  An estimated 50 million Americans do not have access to enough food. So what can be done? Amazing things can happen when you implement a simple idea by combining a love of agriculture and commitment to community with a government program.

For over 10 years, samplers working for the Pesticide Data Program, a part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, have been donating excess food from their samples to local organizations including food banks, homeless shelters, senior citizens centers, battered women shelters, and churches.  The Program requires samples of fruits, vegetables and other agricultural products at markets and chain store distribution centers throughout the country for testing and analysis of pesticide residues on agricultural commodities in the U.S. food supply. Read more »