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How Does Wildlife Respond When Forest Management Helps to Reduce Wildfire Risk?

Deer mice and chipmunks were among the dominant small mammals in the study area and were mostly unaffected by the fuel reduction treatments. (Photo by David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org)

Deer mice and chipmunks were among the dominant small mammals in the study area and were mostly unaffected by the fuel reduction treatments. (Photo by David Cappaert, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org)

Forest managers in the western United States often face difficult choices when it comes to reducing wildfire hazards while also maintaining wildlife habitat in forests that have changed dramatically in the last century.

The U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station and partners are working to find the balance between forest restoration and habitat conservation in a new era of forest management. Read more »

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Dr. Jewel Hairston

Dr. Jewel Hairston is Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University (VSU). As Dean, she leads in developing the strategic vision and plan for the college and develops and fosters partnership with other universities, as well as local, state and federal agencies and organizations across Virginia to offer competitive educational programs to students and diverse stakeholders.

Dr. Jewel Hairston is Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University (VSU). As Dean, she leads in developing the strategic vision and plan for the college and develops and fosters partnership with other universities, as well as local, state and federal agencies and organizations across Virginia to offer competitive educational programs to students and diverse stakeholders.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are taking a moment to talk with prominent women in agriculture about their lives, their ideas about leadership, and how their day gets off to a good start.

Dr. Jewel Hairston is currently the Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University. As Dean, she leads in developing the strategic vision and plan for the college and develops and fosters partnership with other universities, as well as local, state and federal agencies and organizations across the state of Virginia to offer competitive educational programs to students and diverse stakeholders. Read more »

Conifer Forum Arms Bi-state Sage-Grouse Supporters with Tools to Tackle Encroachment

An aerial view of mastication efforts to remove pinyon and juniper trees encroaching in bi-state sage grouse habitat on a Smith Valley rancher’s Bureau of Land Management grazing allotment, east of Minden, Nevada. The pinyon and juniper removal is part of an NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative project near the Conifer Forum field tour location. (Photo courtesy NRCS)

An aerial view of mastication efforts to remove pinyon and juniper trees encroaching in bi-state sage grouse habitat on a Smith Valley rancher’s Bureau of Land Management grazing allotment, east of Minden, Nevada. The pinyon and juniper removal is part of an NRCS Sage Grouse Initiative project near the Conifer Forum field tour location. (Photo courtesy NRCS)

Bi-state sage-grouse, a geographically distinct population of small game bird that lives along the border of Nevada and California, rely on a healthy sagebrush ecosystem. One of the largest habitat threats to the sage-grouse is the encroachment of pinyon and juniper trees.

Once pinyon and juniper trees move into a sagebrush-steppe area, they act simultaneously like straws and umbrellas — sucking out what little water hits the soil, while providing a canopy to catch rainfall so little moisture reaches the plants and shrubs below the trees. Little by little, the trees can close in on an area, squeezing out precious habitat for the sage-grouse. They also deter sage-grouse from landing in the area, as the birds are frightful of these tall, foreign objects that interrupt their flight path and provide a perch for predators. Read more »

Taking a Bite out of the Local Apple in the Windy City

The Chicago Public Schools System has incorporated locally-grown produce into school menus, providing students with fresh, healthy food. (Administrator Anne Alonzo, 4th from right) USDA Photo Courtesy of Peter Wood.

The Chicago Public Schools System has incorporated locally-grown produce into school menus, providing students with fresh, healthy food. (Administrator Anne Alonzo, 4th from right) USDA Photo Courtesy of Peter Wood.

March is National Nutrition Month, and local food plays an important role in providing Americans with fresh, healthy fuel for their bodies. From farmers to financiers to schools and hospitals, there is a lot of passion for sharing good food by supporting strong local and regional food systems. I experienced this firsthand during my trip to Chicago, Ill., where I spoke at last week’s Good Food Festival & Conference.

The trip came on the heels of a recent announcement that USDA is making $97 million available to expand access to healthy food and support rural economies.  Grants from my agency — the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – make up over $90 million of that funding.  AMS was a sponsor and exhibitor at the trade show, where we shared information with stakeholders about the many resources we have to support local and regional food systems. Through our Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (comprised of the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program), AMS supports producers, local food entrepreneurs, and rural and urban communities across the country. Read more »

Catfish Continues to Swim to the Top of U.S. Aquaculture and Mississippi Agriculture

Catfish farming has helped Mississippi agriculture’s bottom line.  Check back next week as we spotlight another state and look at more information from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Catfish farming has helped Mississippi agriculture’s bottom line. Check back next week as we spotlight another state and look at more information from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Mississippi, commonly called the “Magnolia State”, has long been one of the most rural states in the United States. However, agriculture makes significant contributions to all of Mississippi’s 82 counties. Agriculture is a leading industry in Mississippi. According to the latest Census of Agriculture, our farmers generated $6.4 billion in market value of agricultural products sold in 2012, a 32 percent increase from the last census.

The census counted almost 11 million acres of farmland, down 5 percent from the 2007 Census. The average farm size increased to 287 acres, up 5 percent from 2007. The highest concentration of cropland is located in the Delta Area of the State. Read more »

USDA Helps Plant a Seed for a Healthier Next Generation of Inner City Students

Miller Grove students inspecting the plants as they go into the soil. NRCS photo.

Miller Grove students inspecting the plants as they go into the soil. NRCS photo.

As teams of agriculturalists across America celebrated National Agricultural Day on March 18, a group of volunteers and professionals arrived at Miller Grove Middle School in Lithonia, Georgia.  They were there to give a hands-on outdoor lesson on how to build, plant and maintain a school garden to a group of Atlanta metro-area students who have likely never experienced what it’s like to grow their own food.

On this made-to-order, cool and clear morning, just two days before the official start to spring, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Dr. Joe Leonard was the first to share remarks.  He began by thanking Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for his commitment to providing community gardens to underserved communities. “Miller Grove School is a perfect example of how partnerships between the federal government (USDA’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Natural Resource Conservation Service), non-profit organizations (The Stewart Foundation and Two Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council) and the DeKalb County School District can work together on behalf of children.” Read more »