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Reducing Food Waste: It’s More Than Just Cleaning Your Plate

When you think of steps that can be taken to improve our environment and mitigate climate change, “reducing food waste” probably doesn’t come to mind right away.  But in fact, food waste is an important factor in climate change, because wasted food represents 20 percent by weight of the solid waste going to landfills. This decomposing food quickly generates methane, a greenhouse gas 21 percent more potent than carbon dioxide.

Wasted food also represents a drain on natural resources–after all, land and water are needed to produce that food.  That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture has collaborated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to launch the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, calling on producer groups and others to join in efforts to reduce food loss and waste, recover wholesome food for human consumption, and recycle discarded food to feed animals, produce compost or even generate energy. Read more »

USDA Town Meetings Draw Comments on Proposal to Help Utilities Finance Renewable Energy Projects

During a town hall meeting at USDA Headquarters, Administrator John Padalino explains a new proposed rule that opens the door to financing both smaller and renewable energy projects by USDA.  The rule could help utilities reduce costs to customers.  Comments are being accepted through July 30th. USDA Photo by Steve Thompson.

During a town hall meeting at USDA Headquarters, Administrator John Padalino explains a new proposed rule that opens the door to financing both smaller and renewable energy projects by USDA. The rule could help utilities reduce costs to customers. Comments are being accepted through July 30th. USDA Photo by Steve Thompson.

Earlier this month, Town Hall meetings at USDA headquarters attracted good commentary on a proposed rule that can serve as a way to transition to energy generation of the future. The Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) held the meetings to hear from rural electric program borrowers, potential borrowers, and financial institutions on proposing rules that clarify how RUS finances renewable energy projects for both rural and nonrural consumers.

This proposed rule has several benefits. First, it will allow USDA to finance projects that current regulations restrict. It will also open the door to financing both smaller and renewable projects. It can have a positive impact on rural communities by strengthening investment in new markets, which will bolster economic development and create jobs. This proposed rule can provide a path for rural utilities to expand their energy portfolios, and transition from our reliance on fossil fuels. Read more »

Plant Variety Protection Growing Faster, Better and Online

Potatoes are just one of the many plant varieties issued certificates of protection by PVPO. Photo credit: Scott Bauer

Potatoes are just one of the many plant varieties issued certificates of protection by PVPO. Photo credit: Scott Bauer

Plant breeders use certificates of intellectual property rights protection as an important marketing tool. The Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is a user fee funded program that grants these certificates after careful and detailed review. Breeders of new plant varieties hold the certificates exclusively for 20 years. That benefit creates an incentive for the plant and seed industry to develop new varieties. Since 1970, PVPO has issued more than 8,700 certificates.

Sometimes offering a great service can also create problems, such as customer requests stacking up. That is exactly what happened to PVPO which found itself with a backlog of pending applications. The program took the issue head on by initiating a business process review in 2011. Read more »