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Southern Landowners Want to Help At-Risk Wildlife Species

Red-cockaded woodpecker

The red-cockaded woodpecker is an at-risk species under pressure from a loss of forested habitat (Photo Credit: Mary Snieckus)

Amid rising numbers of at-risk wildlife in the South, a new report from the American Forest Foundation (AFF) revealed private and family landowners in the South offer a solution to help at-risk wildlife species.

Southern forests rank at the top in terms of biodiversity when measured by the number of wildlife and plant species. But, due to a variety of reasons, a significant number of the South’s wildlife species are at risk. The reasons include: forest conversion to non-forest uses such as strip malls and commercial expansion; fragmented waterways; natural fire suppression; and an influx of invasive species. Read more »

Nanostructured Biosensors Detect Pesticide, Help Preserve Environment

Artist conception of the creation of a biosensor that is created with graphene ink

Artist conception of the creation of a biosensor that is created with graphene ink. (Image reproduced by permission of Dr. Jonathan Claussen from Nanoscale, 2016, 8, 15870.)

When does too much of a good thing become a bad thing? That’s the question Dr. Jonathan Claussen, assistant professor at Iowa State University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and his team of researchers aim to help farmers answer when it comes to pesticide use. Underuse can harm farmers’ crops, while overuse can result in runoff into the soil or waterways.

Claussen and his team created a flexible, low cost and disposable biosensor that can detect pesticides in soil. This biosensor is made of graphene, a strong and stable nanoparticle, and provides instantaneous feedback, as opposed to the time and money it would otherwise take to send a sample to a lab and await results. Read more »

USDA’s FoodKeeper App Uses Open Data to Keep Consumers Safe and Food Fresh

The USDA FoodKeeper app

The USDA FoodKeeper app provides information about how to store food safely.

The FSIS FoodKeeper app is an easy way for consumers to keep their food safe by providing valuable advice on storing foods and beverages to maximize freshness and minimize food waste. By helping users understand food storage, the app empowers consumers to select methods that extend shelf life and keep items fresh longer than if they were not properly stored.  The app is available for Android and Apple devices. Read more »

Two NASS Surveys Critical for USDA Crop Programs for Farmers

Virginia farmers harvesting their corn

Virginia farmers harvest their corn. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service is conducting the December Agricultural Survey and the County Agricultural Production Survey for row crops to collect important data from producers about their harvest, yield and production.

When drought and flooding impact crop production, or even in a year with good yields, good data is crucial to the agriculture industry.

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts more than 400 surveys each year.  Two of our larger and more impactful surveys are the annual Row Crops County Agricultural Production Survey (CAPS) and December Agricultural Survey, the results of which are combined to set our county average yields. Read more »

Grants, Gardens and Green Beans: Charlottesville’s Growing Farm to School Program

Harvest of the Month Green Beans Poster

This green bean poster is part of the Harvest of the Month materials that City Schoolyard Garden developed for Charlottesville Public Schools.

In celebration of Virginia Farm to School Week, I recently visited Charlottesville Public Schools to learn about the district’s garden and Harvest of the Month efforts. Here’s a snapshot of what I observed that day.

We push a cart piled high with plates of green beans down the hallway stopping at each classroom. Noses press against the glass in the doors and teachers urge students to sit down, as the door cracks open to excited chatter. The green beans are passed off and we are on to the next classroom, getting to every class in just under 30 minutes. It’s only 9:30 in the morning on October 6 at Burnley-Moran Elementary School and the Harvest of the Month taste test is off to a great start! Read more »

A Reflection: Celebrating Eight Years of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director Norah Deluhery eating lunch with kids at a Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Nutritional Development Services (NDS) summer food service site.

USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director Norah Deluhery eats lunch with kids at a Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Nutritional Development Services (NDS) summer food service site.

Looking back at USDA’s efforts to help rural America thrive, I am truly proud of the impact our diverse partners, both from faith and secular communities, have had within their communities. On behalf of the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, I would like to say thank you to our partners these past eight years as well as reflect on a few notable highlights of the work we have achieved together.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans every day, whether they realize it or not. While our programs to reduce food insecurity are well known, our nation’s most vulnerable citizens can still be hard to reach. Faith-based and community partners have been especially helpful in this area, particularly when it comes to feeding children in summer months, when school is out of session. In collaboration with many partners, including Catholic Charities USA, the Church of God in Christ, Islamic Relief USA, the National Baptist Convention and the Salvation Army, USDA increased the number of summer meals served to kids by 16% between 2009 and 2015, a total of more than 1.2 billion summer meals served when school is out and food is scarce. Read more »