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Missouri Makes Summer Meals Work!

Rowe with kids and the Power Panther at the PowerHouse Ministries site in Marshall, MO.

Rowe with kids and the Power Panther at the PowerHouse Ministries site in Marshall, MO.

This spring I had the opportunity to visit several summer feeding sites to witness the efforts of local organizations and states agencies so instrumental in the success of USDA’s Summer Food Service Program.  I had the chance to join our essential partners during summer meals kick-off events throughout the state of Missouri.  It was especially gratifying to meet so many members of highly-engaged communities and the children and teens that benefit from their support.

During my May visit, I was honored to participate in a roundtable discussion at the St. Louis Area Food Bank while a new partnership was being forged.  The lively conversation about successes and challenges of feeding kids nutritious summer meals included representatives from local, state and federal organizations.  St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and some of his staff attended to voice the city’s support of the summer feeding programs and offer ideas for feeding site activities, including creating butterfly gardens. Read more »

Conservation as a Source of Innovative Partnerships for All

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden tours rice fields in the Sacramento Valley at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on Jun. 24, 2014. Rice grower Mike DeWit has a cooperative arrangement to provide habitat for wildlife while growing rice. Photo courtesy California Rice Commission.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden tours rice fields in the Sacramento Valley at the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area on Jun. 24, 2014. Rice grower Mike DeWit has a cooperative arrangement to provide habitat for wildlife while growing rice. Photo courtesy California Rice Commission.

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories at #RuralPartners.

My passion and commitment for conservation started on the farm learning from our first and finest conservationists:  American farmers. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers care deeply about the land, which is why they are incredible environmental stewards. Earlier this month, I visited the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, a popular wildlife refuge just minutes from downtown Sacramento. Here, farmers like the DeWit family are growing rice and providing some of the best wildlife habitat in North America.

Mike DeWit and his father, Jack, brought me right into the middle of the Sacramento Valley rice fields, where more than a half million acres are used as a source of America’s sushi rice. Equally valuable is the role these rice fields play as a habitat for nearly 230 wildlife species, including providing nearly sixty percent of the winter diet for millions of migrating ducks and geese. It was a thrill to walk on the levee of a shallow-flooded, brilliantly green field and observe several pairs of nesting American Avocets all around. When I noticed a nest with four small eggs, I knew that it represented a part of the future generation of wildlife. Read more »

The Global Exchange of Organic Products: Expanding Markets at Home and Abroad

This partnership will streamline access to the growing Korean organic market for American producers and businesses, benefiting the thriving organic industry and supporting jobs and businesses on a global scale. USDA Photo Courtesy of Miles McEvoy.

This partnership will streamline access to the growing Korean organic market for American producers and businesses, benefiting the thriving organic industry and supporting jobs and businesses on a global scale. USDA Photo Courtesy of Miles McEvoy.

Last week, we celebrated another victory for the global organic community – the announcement of an organic equivalency agreement between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea. We are thrilled with the outcome!

Beginning July 1, 2014, processed organic products certified in Korea or in the U.S. may be sold as organic in either country, eliminating significant barriers and creating opportunities for American businesses across the organic supply chain as well as setting the foundation for additional organic agricultural trade agreements. Consumers in Korea will now be able to enjoy a wide range of U.S. organic exports including condiments, cereal, baby food, frozen meals, milk, and other processed products. Read more »

At World Cup in Brazil, USDA Grasses Score Big

University of Georgia-licensed TifGrand turfgrass is installed in Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, one of three World Cup stadiums to use the turf this year. TifGrand was bred by UGA/USDA-ARS plant breeder Wayne Hanna and UGA entomologist Kris Braman. Photo Credit: University of Georgia

University of Georgia-licensed TifGrand turfgrass is installed in Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, Brazil, one of three World Cup stadiums to use the turf this year. TifGrand was bred by UGA/USDA-ARS plant breeder Wayne Hanna and UGA entomologist Kris Braman. Photo Credit: University of Georgia

Here’s something to kick around: About half of the soccer matches at the FIFA World Cup in Brazil have been played on turfgrass bred jointly by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the University of Georgia.

Turfgrass is a billion-dollar industry, creating jobs at nurseries, sod farms, golf courses and a variety of stadiums and other athletic facilities. ARS has been breeding warm-season turfgrasses since the 1950s, and has worked closely with scientists at the University of Georgia for decades. It’s been a particularly productive partnership and is responsible for producing turfgrasses that are used on some of the world’s top golf courses and athletic fields.

Of the 12 stadiums that are World Cup sites this year, three are using Tifway 419, a bermudagrass developed in Tifton, Ga., and released in 1960 by the late Glenn Burton, a pioneering ARS grass breeder. Three other stadiums are equipped with TifGrand, a shade-tolerant and extremely wear-resistant bermudagrass released jointly by ARS and the University of Georgia in 2008. Another Tifton-bred variety, TifSport, was used at the 2010 World Cup in Durban, South Africa. Read more »

Discovery Brings Wheat Flowering Mechanism to Light

Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of plant sciences at the University of California–Davis (pictured), and fellow UC Davis researcher Clark Lagarias uncovered a key determinant in the time it takes wheat to flower. Their discovery could lead to further research that would allow wheat growers to produce greater yields to feed the world’s growing population. Their work is published in this month’s edition of edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Photo courtesy of Jorge Dubcovsky.

Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of plant sciences at the University of California–Davis (pictured), and fellow UC Davis researcher Clark Lagarias uncovered a key determinant in the time it takes wheat to flower. Their discovery could lead to further research that would allow wheat growers to produce greater yields to feed the world’s growing population. Their work is published in this month’s edition of edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Photo courtesy of Jorge Dubcovsky.

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.

That handy chart on the back of seed packets tells backyard gardeners when it’s time to plant based on where they live.  Things get a bit more complicated, however, when your goal is to feed the world.

Researchers at the University of California–Davis have unlocked a long-held secret into how wheat determines when it’s time to flower.  This information is critical to wheat growers because flowering marks the transition between the plant’s growing period and the reproductive stage when the actual grain is created.  Equipped with this knowledge, breeders can develop better adapted varieties to help growers maximize yield. Read more »

Deputy Under Secretary Meets California Producers to Discuss Drought Resilience Measures

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills meets with producer Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California. USDA photo.

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills meets with producer Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California. USDA photo.

Recently I traveled to California to meet with farmers who are coping with the state’s historic drought.  This was my second trip to the Golden State in recent months to see first-hand how USDA’s disaster assistance and conservation programs are helping producers and rural communities, and to continue the conversation about how USDA and the federal government as a whole can support efforts to build long term resilience to drought.

My first visit was with Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California.  Rick practices land stewardship on the 4,000 acres he farms and through his leadership as a member of the area Resource Conservation District.  While he doesn’t face the exact same set of water shortage pressures experienced by California’s Central Valley farmers, Rick recognizes that the state’s drought may well extend into the foreseeable future and has a long-term plan to build resilience for his operation.  As he has done over the past several years, he continues to install drip irrigation in his tomato fields and is experimenting with drip irrigation for his alfalfa and corn crops.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides cost share assistance for some of these investments – but Rick pays for 100 percent of other investments because it makes good business sense.  He is able to reduce water use and input costs while increasing yields. Read more »