Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Play Ball! Forest Service Research Cracks Major League Baseball Problem

Testing and analyzing thousands of shattered Major League bats, U.S. Forest Service researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) developed changes in manufacturing that decreased the rate of shattered maple bats by more than 50 percent since 2008. While the popularity of maple bats is greater today than ever before, the number of shattered bats continues to decline. Photo Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media.

Testing and analyzing thousands of shattered Major League bats, U.S. Forest Service researchers at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) developed changes in manufacturing that decreased the rate of shattered maple bats by more than 50 percent since 2008. While the popularity of maple bats is greater today than ever before, the number of shattered bats continues to decline. Photo Courtesy of MLB Advanced Media.

Rate of shattered maple bats down 50 percent.

In 2008, Major League Baseball (MLB) came to the U.S. Forest Service, asking our Forest Products Laboratory to investigate why baseball bats were increasingly shattering into multiple pieces on contact.

The Forest Service team, led by David Kretschmann, dug in, swung for the fences and scored big time! Read more »

FAS Helps Small Biz Find ‘Out of This World’ Success

Carol Deeney (left), Stonewall Kitchen’s international marketing director, and Stephanie Miller, Stonewall’s social media and marketing coordinator, man a booth at the 2012 Gulfood Trade Show. The Foreign Agricultural Service’s Market Access Program helps the specialty foods company participate in trade shows, which helps increase its international exposure and exports. (Courtesy Photo)

Carol Deeney (left), Stonewall Kitchen’s international marketing director, and Stephanie Miller, Stonewall’s social media and marketing coordinator, man a booth at the 2012 Gulfood Trade Show. The Foreign Agricultural Service’s Market Access Program helps the specialty foods company participate in trade shows, which helps increase its international exposure and exports. (Courtesy Photo)

When the astronauts aboard the International Space Station received a shipment of food recently, it included jam from a company called Stonewall Kitchen. Jonathan King and Jim Stott started selling their homemade jams from a folding table at a local farmers’ market in Maine in 1991. Today, their company sells specialty food products that are enjoyed all over the world, literally.

Stonewall Kitchen participates in the Food Export USA – Northeast Branded Program, which is funded by the Foreign Agricultural Service’s Market Access Program. MAP helps U.S. producers, exporters and trade organizations finance promotional activities for U.S. agricultural products. Over the years, the financial assistance from the program has helped this small business successfully export its jams, condiments, sauces and baking mixes to more than 40 countries across Europe, the Middle East, Central America and Southeast Asia. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: New Progress Toward a Thriving Biobased Economy

Across the United States, the potential to use homegrown crops in new ways holds tremendous promise to revitalize the rural economy. Innovators across the country – from small businesses to global companies – are creating amazing new biobased products that we use every day. Everything from cleaning products to packaging materials are now made from crops grown right here at home by America’s farmers.

In recent years, USDA has taken steps to support these efforts through the “BioPreferred” program, designed to help companies market biobased products. Additionally, under President Obama, the Federal government has prioritized these biobased products for procurement and use. Read more »

USDA Housing Opportunities in New Mexico StrikeForce Targeted Counties

New Mexico USDA Rural Development  State Director Terry Brunner (r) presents a certificate of congratulations to Sandra and Miguel Duarte.  The presentation was made during National Homeownership Month event in Sunland Park to honor the Durate family for becoming new homeowners. USDA photo.

New Mexico USDA Rural Development State Director Terry Brunner (r) presents a certificate of congratulations to Sandra and Miguel Duarte. The presentation was made during National Homeownership Month event in Sunland Park to honor the Durate family for becoming new homeowners. USDA photo.

During their seven years of marriage, Miguel and Sandra Duarte and their two children became tired of living in an apartment. Then one hot summer day in 2012, Mr. Duarte, a surveyor, found himself working on a housing subdivision in Sunland Park, New Mexico on the Mexican border. That’s when he asked his boss, “I wonder if I could buy one of these homes?”

Soon he was in the Las Cruces, New Mexico USDA Rural Development office talking with housing staff about homeownership. After qualifying for a Rural Development direct home loan the construction of the Duarte home soon began.  As soon as the final electric connection is made to the house the Durate’s will move into their new home later this month. Read more »

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 »