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Former Cop is a Smooth Negotiator

Bob Goodwin, a former California Highway Patrol officer, now works for the U.S. Forest Service as a Tribal relations advisor. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Bob Goodwin, a former California Highway Patrol officer, now works for the U.S. Forest Service as a Tribal relations advisor. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

During his 21 years as a California Highway Patrol officer, Bob Goodwin eased tensions during traffic accidents, issued verbal warnings and made arrests—all in a calm and cool way.

Now, as Tribal relations advisor for the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region, Goodwin is again relying on those valuable people and negotiating skills to build relations between Tribal entities and the federal government. Goodwin’s easy-going demeanor, “can do” attitude, and ability to resolve challenging issues make him perfect for the job. Read more »

Serving Summer Meals Requires Hard Work and a Big Heart

Before kids sit down to eat a nutritious summer food service meal, adults have to do important work behind the scenes.

Before kids sit down to eat a nutritious summer food service meal, adults have to do important work behind the scenes.

As a public affairs specialist, promoting and publishing information about federal nutrition assistance programs to partners, media and the public is a key part of the job. But I don’t often get to see the real day-to-day operation of these programs. I have attended summer program kick-off events and visited other program sites for special events. But, I recently got another perspective. I accepted an offer from our regional Special Nutrition Programs branch to participate in a Summer Food Service Program review.

This cross-training experience provided a first-hand look at how the program works from the inside. I learned how our regional staff and state partners monitor sponsors and sites to make sure they are in compliance with rules and regulations to ensure program integrity and healthy summer meals for kids. Regional Food and Nutrition Service staff is responsible for program oversight and must conduct reviews of new private, non-profit sponsors and sites, often alongside the state agency. At last count, there were 17 of these new sponsors approved in Texas, with 61 new sites. Read more »

Easement Ensures Family Farm Will Be Preserved

This 12-acre constructed wetland provides wildlife habitat for migrating waterfowl and a nesting area for animals.

This 12-acre constructed wetland provides wildlife habitat for migrating waterfowl and a nesting area for animals.

Editor’s Note: As USDA shares stories of program accomplishments from across the country, Secretary Vilsack continues to remind Americans of the importance of the Farm Bill to many of these efforts. The success of the Wetlands Reserve Program in Iowa and across the nation is another reminder of the importance of Farm Bill programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy – and Secretary Vilsack continues to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.

A unique wetland in northeastern Iowa is helping to filter out upland sediment and other agricultural runoff flowing into the Little Cedar River. The wetland, on a farm outside Charles City, is also preserving the land and providing a wildlife haven.

In 2009, landowner Carol Savage enrolled about 70 percent of the 200-acre farm in a permanent easement through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Wetlands Reserve Program, in the process expanding an already-present wetland on the property. Read more »

Feral Swine Removal Demonstration Project

Recently I traveled to New Mexico to meet with APHIS-Wildlife Services’ personnel for a firsthand view of their Feral Swine Removal Demonstration Project that aims to eliminate feral swine from the state.  Feral swine are an invasive species with a population that has grown from approximately 1 million in 17 states in the 1980s to more than 5 million across 38 states today.  If left unchecked, their numbers could exceed 10 million by 2018.  Feral swine carry more than 30 diseases that pose a potential threat to humans, livestock, and wildlife, and the total cost of feral swine damage to U.S. agriculture, livestock facilities, private property, and natural resources is estimated to be $1.5 billion annually.

Wildlife Services’ demonstration project is benefitting from tremendous cooperation with federal, state, tribal, and nongovernmental partners, including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, New Mexico State Land Office, and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, as well as with the Mescalero Apache Tribe, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, New Mexico Wool Growers’ Association, affected counties and private land owners, among others. Read more »

Healthy Incentives Pilot Shows Small Investment Leads to Big Impact

Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack announced the results of the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) , a pilot project designed to test the impact of incentivizing fruit and vegetable purchases among SNAP recipients. The pilot showed that an ongoing investment of less than 15 cents per person per day may result in a 25 percent increase in fruit and vegetable consumption among adults. Adults receiving the HIP incentive consumed, on average, an ounce more fruits and vegetables per day than non-participants.

These are promising and exciting results. But we know that there is no silver bullet that can solve the problems of poor diet and obesity among American children and families. Despite increased public awareness of the vital role of nutritious food choices and proper physical activity on our health, the habits of most Americans—SNAP recipients and non-recipients alike—fall short of the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And although research shows that healthy foods aren’t necessarily more expensive than less healthy options, many low income people face additional time and resource challenges when it comes to putting healthy food on the table that can make less healthy options seem more appealing. Read more »

Double Up Food Bucks Expands to Grocery Stores

The results of healthy incentives pilot released on July, 24, 2013 show that small investments can lead to increased fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients.

The results of healthy incentives pilot released on July, 24, 2013 show that small investments can lead to increased fruit and vegetable consumption among SNAP recipients.

Earlier today, USDA announced the results of the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) and additional efforts to empower low-income families with the knowledge and skills they need to purchase and prepare healthy foods using SNAP benefits. To make the announcement, Secretary Vilsack conducted a call with Dr. Oran Hesterman, President and CEO of Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Fair Food Network. Read more about Dr. Hesterman’s work and Fair Food Network’s project to improve SNAP recipients’ access to locally-grown fresh fruits and vegetables in metropolitan Detroit below. Read more »