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Packing the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree for Ride ‘Home’ is no Easy Feat

In a staging area, workers carefully begin the process of wrapping the tree to protect it during the 5,000-mile journey from Colville National Forest to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

In a staging area, workers carefully begin the process of wrapping the tree to protect it during the 5,000-mile journey from Colville National Forest to the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

The 88-foot Engelmann spruce tree that will grace the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol as a gift from the people must first get from Colville National Forest in Washington State to Washington, D.C.

That means careful packing with special attention paid to cocooning the 2013 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree so the thick branches stay intact and nothing hangs over the side of the trailer it is placed on.

“What does it take to wrap an 88-foot-tall Engelmann spruce?” said Franklin Pemberton of the Colville National Forest. “Also a lot of hard-working volunteers, 4,000 feet of parachute cord with a 550-pound breaking strength and a huge building.” Read more »

USDA Rural Development Celebrates New Tribal Administration Building

Retiring of colors at the end of the ceremony by the Sisseton-Wahpeton Vietnam Veterans Kit Fox Society honor guard.

Retiring of colors at the end of the ceremony by the Sisseton-Wahpeton Vietnam Veterans Kit Fox Society honor guard.

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh recently joined Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribal and community members for the dedication of the Tribe’s new administration building, which was constructed with a $31.2 million Community Facilities loan from USDA. The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe resides on the Lake Traverse Reservation in northeastern South Dakota and southeastern North Dakota, primarily in Roberts County.

“This impressive building is the result of the largest Community Facilities loan that Rural Development in South Dakota has ever made,” Kunesh said. “The building will serve as a central hub to help Tribal members with their social, educational, and housing needs.” Read more »

Range of Bull Trout in Oregon’s McKenzie River Indicates Improved River Health

Bull trout spawn in a spring of the Middle Fork Willamette River. They were transferred from the McKenzie River to historic habitats in the Middle Fork. (U.S. Forest Service)

Bull trout spawn in a spring of the Middle Fork Willamette River. They were transferred from the McKenzie River to historic habitats in the Middle Fork. (U.S. Forest Service)

The bull trout in the McKenzie River on the Willamette National Forest have a survival story to tell, thanks to U.S. Forest Service stewardship of local rivers and fresh, healthy sources of groundwater.

“We’re reintroducing the top predator back into the river ecosystem,” said Ray Rivera, the district fisheries biologist on the forest’s McKenzie River Ranger District. “Their presence means two things to us. First, because bull trout are very sensitive to environmental changes compared to other salmonid fishes, their existence means the river’s water quality is excellent and the physical quality of their habitat is also good. Second, since bull trout are the top predator and they are doing well this means the overall ecosystem is doing well. Their presence is an excellent barometer of a river’s health.” Read more »

Made in Rural America: Value-added Agriculture Takes Oregon Wool from Ranch to Runway and, Now, to the Olympics

Dan and Jeanne Carver, owners of Imperial Stock Ranch, have implemented a number of value-added strategies in order to keep the history and culture of Western ranching alive and thriving. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

Dan and Jeanne Carver, owners of Imperial Stock Ranch, have implemented a number of value-added strategies in order to keep the history and culture of Western ranching alive and thriving. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

I am thrilled to share with you some very good news from Oregon’s high desert. Ralph Lauren, the iconic American brand and U.S. Olympic team sponsor, recently announced they will be using wool produced by one of our Value Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) participants, Imperial Stock Ranch, to make sweaters for Team USA to wear at the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

The news would be big for any small rural business. For one working tirelessly to find new ways to profitably preserve Central Oregon’s nearly extinct–yet very American–tradition of raising sheep for fiber, this is especially gratifying.

Imperial Yarn is the value-added business offshoot of Jeanne and Dan Carver’s family owned and operated Imperial Stock Ranch, which produces sheep, cattle, grains, hay and grasses on more than 30,000 acres of stunning Central Oregon rangeland. Read more »

‘Ag in Action’ Lab on Wheels Brings the Farm to Alabama Schools

Many partners, including NRCS, helped create the Ag in Action, a traveling environmental education tool in Alabama. NRCS photo.

Many partners, including NRCS, helped create the Ag in Action, a traveling environmental education tool in Alabama. NRCS photo.

A new 26-foot learning lab on wheels enables Alabama’s elementary and middle school students to experience farming through hands-on activities and audio visual technology. The “Ag in Action” lab is the first of its kind in Alabama and one of only four in the nation.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency partnered with seven soil and water conservation districts and other groups to create this education tool.

“Ag in Action is an amazing way to bring agriculture to life and teach students about agriculture,” said the lab’s coordinator, Sarah Butterworth. “Using the lab, students will learn where their food and fiber grows and how it is produced.” Read more »

Absence Makes the Market Grow Fonder

USDA Market News reporter Holly Mozal teaches a Cochran Fellowship group from Haiti about our Market News database.  We capture data for everything from cotton, fruits, vegetables and specialty crops, livestock, meats, poultry, eggs, grain and hay, to milk and dairy, and tobacco.

USDA Market News reporter Holly Mozal teaches a Cochran Fellowship group from Haiti about our Market News database. We capture data for everything from cotton, fruits, vegetables and specialty crops, livestock, meats, poultry, eggs, grain and hay, to milk and dairy, and tobacco.

At some point in our lives, we all wonder what it would be like if we didn’t exist.  How would things be different?  Last month, American farmers and businesses experienced what it was like to live without USDA Market News.  While the markets continued to operate, we received several phone calls and heard stories of how so many small and mid-sized producers struggled without the valuable information we provide.

In the 100-year history of Market News, this was only the second time that the data reports were not available.  The reports give farmers, producers and other agricultural businesses the information they need to evaluate market conditions, identify trends, make purchasing decisions, monitor price patterns, evaluate transportation equipment needs and accurately assess movement.  The information, gathered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and provided for free,  captures data for everything from cotton, fruits, vegetables and specialty crops, livestock, meats, poultry, eggs, grain and hay, to milk and dairy, and tobacco. Read more »