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World Water Day: Reflecting on the Importance of Water to the World

I care deeply about conserving our land, soil and water and know that farmers are incredible stewards of the land. Prior to coming to USDA, I served as CEO of the National Association of Conservation Districts.  I know firsthand that improving water conservation requires innovative technologies and partnerships.

In honor of World Water Day, I spoke to the U.S. Water Partnership on the critical role conservation plays in agriculture. According to the 2012 National Intelligence Community Assessment, about 70 percent of the global fresh water supply is devoted to agriculture. USDA and its partners play an important role in ensuring that producers have the water resources necessary to produce the food, fuel and fiber needed by Americans and our trading partners around the world. It’s an important part of our mission. Read more »

Conservation Easement Enables Landowners to Restore Wetland, Help Protect Fish

Oregon landowner Dave Budeau said he dreamed of protecting wetlands. An NRCS-led conservation partnership helped Budeau restore and enhance these wetlands, providing habitat for native fish and birds. NRCS photo.

Oregon landowner Dave Budeau said he dreamed of protecting wetlands. An NRCS-led conservation partnership helped Budeau restore and enhance these wetlands, providing habitat for native fish and birds. NRCS photo.

Through conservation easements, people like Dave Budeau are able to protect and restore important landscapes, like wetlands, grasslands and farmlands.

Budeau wanted to restore and protect a wetland. When the wildlife biologist searched for a new home in 2003, his passion for wildlife and nature led him to purchase what may have seemed to some as an unfriendly plot of land for wildlife. But a conservation program helped him change that.

The recently passed 2014 Farm Bill continues to provide financial and technical assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners wanting to put their land into easements. But rather than separate programs, the major easement programs offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service have been bundled into one – the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, or ACEP. One additional easement program, the Healthy Forests Reserve Program, remains separate. Read more »

A Wisconsin TV Crew Sees How Dairy Farmers May Soon Turn Manure into Money

U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Lab researcher John Hunt (front, right) shows panels made with manure to former USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman (front left).  Jim Jensen and Caleb Walker, representatives from Noble Environmental Technologies, an agency partner, look on. (U.S. Forest Service)

U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Lab researcher John Hunt (front, right) shows panels made with manure to former USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman (front left). Jim Jensen and Caleb Walker, representatives from Noble Environmental Technologies, an agency partner, look on. (U.S. Forest Service)

A film crew from Discover Wisconsin, a television program showcasing the many treasures of the Badger State, recently visited the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis., as part of their America’s Dairyland series. This series takes a look at Wisconsin’s largest and most important industry.

So, what does this have to do with forest products? Read more »

USDA Supports Schools in Implementing Updated Nutrition Standards

New foodservice equipment makes preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school food service professionals.

New foodservice equipment makes preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school food service professionals.

Each and every school day, over 30 million children participate in USDA’s school meals programs; many of these children consume two or more of their daily meals at school.  There’s no denying that school food plays a critical role in children’s diets, and USDA takes this responsibility very seriously.  We are committed to doing our part to ensure a healthier next generation!

Given public concern about our children’s current and future health, USDA has issued updated school meal standards stemming from the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. These science-based standards call for increasing fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains, while at the same time limiting less healthy fats, sugar, sodium and excess calories.  Schools across the country are stepping up to the plate.  In fact, about 90% of schools across the country are already meeting the updated standards!  That’s not to say that their work is done.  Some schools have found that they lack the necessary equipment or tools to prepare healthy meals for all students. Read more »

Forest Service Applauds the United Nations’ Second Annual International Day of Forests

The forests that cling to the steep slopes and cliffs of New Zealand’s Milford Sound are an example of the many pristine forest lands protected throughout the world (U.S. Forest Service/Robert Westover)

The forests that cling to the steep slopes and cliffs of New Zealand’s Milford Sound are an example of the many pristine forest lands protected throughout the world (U.S. Forest Service/Robert Westover)

A world without forests would be pretty bleak. Life as we know it couldn’t exist. In fact it would, more than likely, be a dead planet. That’s because everything we take for granted; clean air and water, abundant wildlife and nearly every product we use in our daily lives, from the roof above our heads to pencils, wouldn’t exist.

It would be a challenge just to live one day without using a product derived from a tree. Aside from paper, you might not even be able to sit in a chair or desk at school or work. These things are part of our everyday existence because of forests.

Since trees are important for everyone around the world, the United Nations (U.N.) has designated every March 21 as the International Day of Forests. Read more »

The Power of Women in Agriculture

Cross-posted on the White House Council on Women and Girls blog:

Agriculture touches our lives each and every day—whether actively farming and ranching, conducting research, or shopping at the grocery store—and women leaders play an increasingly pivotal role across the board.

The number of farms operated by women has more than doubled since 1978. Across the country, nearly 300,000 women serve as principal operators on 62.7 million acres of farm and ranchland, accounting for $12.9 billion in farm products in 2012. Countless more women live, work and raise families in rural America. At USDA, we support projects designed to help women in agriculture improve production, develop good business and risk management practices and transfer knowledge to other women agricultural leaders. Read more »