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Trees Give Roads a Breath of Fresh Air

Roadside vegetation, such as that on Interstate 40 near Mebane, N.C., has shown to improve air quality in surrounding communities. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

Roadside vegetation, such as that on Interstate 40 near Mebane, N.C., has shown to improve air quality in surrounding communities. (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

It’s Clean Air Month, and roadside trees are cleaning the air and helping us feel better.

If you live in an area where there’s a lot of people and traffic, air quality may have crossed your mind at one point or another—and rightly so. In recent years, the health of people living, working or going to school near roads with high traffic volume has been a quickly rising national concern. All over the world, studies are finding air pollution levels especially elevated in these areas.

A multidisciplinary group of researchers, planners and policymakers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service and other organizations found that strategically planting trees near busy roadways may significantly enhance air quality. Their findings were published last year in the Transportation Research Board magazine. Read more »

Helping Honey Bees’ Health

The black dot on this honey bee is a varroa mite--a parasite that sucks vital fluids like a tick, although it also acts like a mosquito transmitting viruses and other pathogens to the bee.

The black dot on this honey bee is a varroa mite--a parasite that sucks vital fluids like a tick, although it also acts like a mosquito transmitting viruses and other pathogens to the bee.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

You’ve probably heard that the honey bees in this country are in trouble, with about one-third of our managed colonies dying off every winter. Later this week, we will learn how the honey bees survived this winter. With severe weather in a number of areas in the U.S. this winter, a number of us concerned about bees will be closely watching the results.

While scientists continue work to identify all the factors that have lead to honey bee losses, it is clear that there are biological and environmental stresses that have created a complex challenge that will take a complex, multi-faceted approach to solve.  Parasites, diseases, pesticides, narrow genetic diversity in honey bee colonies, and less access to diverse forage all play a role in colony declines.  To confront this diverse mix of challenges, we require a mix of solutions – the odds are that we won’t find one magic fix to help our honey bees. Read more »

Texas Women Share Love of Land & Wildlife

Garry Stephens, NRCS wildlife biologist, discusses plant identification and habitat evaluation at Women of the Land. NRCS photo.

Garry Stephens, NRCS wildlife biologist, discusses plant identification and habitat evaluation at Women of the Land. NRCS photo.

They came from all walks of life: nurses, doctors, teachers, students, retirees and real estate brokers. But they all had one thing in common – a love of the land and wildlife.

Twenty four women from across Texas attended the 2014 Women of the Land event at Falcon Point Ranch in Seadrift, Texas. They came to learn more about how to manage their land, but they left with much more.

Staff from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other agencies volunteered their time to teach at the weekend event. The Texas Wildlife Association hosts the event each year that engages women landowners on a variety of conservation issues. Read more »

U.S. Companies Explore Trade Opportunities in China

Under Secretary Scuse speaks with Jiisan Soybean Crusher General Manager Wang Yumin in Dalian, China.

Under Secretary Scuse speaks with Jiisan Soybean Crusher General Manager Wang Yumin in Dalian, China.

Northeast China has been a difficult market for U.S. companies to crack in the past. The region is traditionally an area of farming and manufacturing, making it difficult to find a place for U.S. agricultural exports. But recent economic growth and development have sent the region’s agricultural imports soaring, steadily outpacing the rest of China, and American companies are taking notice. Last week, representatives from nine state departments of agriculture and 28 U.S. companies participated in a USDA trade mission to learn and explore the opportunities for trade in the region.

Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse led the agricultural trade mission to Dalian, Shenyang and Changchun to learn about China’s rapidly evolving market conditions and business environment. China is the largest market for U.S. food and farm products – U.S. agricultural exports to the country tripled over the last decade, now accounting for nearly 20 percent of all foreign sales of U.S. agricultural products. USDA’s trade mission to China during World Trade Month will open new doors and help farmers and ranchers capitalize on the tremendous export potential for American agricultural products. Read more »

USDA Celebrates Rural Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs During National Small Business Week

National Small Business Week began yesterday with a proclamation from President Obama recognizing the small businesses across the Nation which, especially in our rural and small-town communities, making vital contributions to communities and the American economy.

Individually, the impact of a small business may seem minor in comparison with conglomerates. The Small Business Administration (SBA), however, estimates that more than half of our American workforce either owns or is employed by a small business, and two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year is created by–you guessed it–a small business. It’s clear this portion of economy is significant, but in rural towns and areas where each job and transaction has an effect on the community, small business is essential.  In rural America, the entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops, agri-businesses, small-scale manufacturers, and other enterprises are the local economy. Read more »