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Let Me Be Clear: Plain Writing Matters

“Clear, direct and easy to understand” may not be the first words most Americans associate with government publications and documents, but that is changing. Thanks to the Plain Writing Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2010, all federal agencies must now put their readers first when writing new documents or revising old ones.  That means before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, we must first think hard about how our language connects with customers and helps them get the most from USDA’s services and programs.

Secretary Vilsack has asked us at USDA to improve our writing to better serve the public.  He believes we cannot carry out our mission effectively if we cannot communicate clearly with those whom we serve. He has made plain writing a cornerstone of his efforts to transform USDA’s culture. Now all of us—even our lawyers—are making our writing easier for the public to read and understand.

This is good news for the American people whose lives are affected every day by USDA’s  leadership on issues from agriculture, to nutrition, trade, and energy. The public uses the information in our documents to build strong rural communities, to protect the environment, and to produce our safe and abundant food supply.  Read more »

U.S. Dairy Industry: Leading the Way in Sustainable Innovation

Secretary Vilsack renewed an historic agreement to accelerate the adoption of innovative waste-to-energy projects & energy efficiency improvements on U.S. dairy farms

Secretary Vilsack renewed an historic agreement to accelerate the adoption of innovative waste-to-energy projects & energy efficiency improvements on U.S. dairy farms

Cross posted from The Huffington Post:

U.S. dairy producers are leading the way in productivity and innovation when it comes to sustainable practices. Earlier this afternoon, I joined Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy CEO Tom Gallagher to renew an historic agreement with the dairy industry to lower greenhouse gas emissions and to accelerate the adoption of innovative waste-to-energy projects on U.S. dairy farms which help producers diversify revenues and reduce utility expenses on their operations. Today’s extension of the Memorandum of Understanding is an acknowledgement of the dairy industry’s legacy of stewardship and its ongoing commitment to improve our farms. Read more »

Saving the Government Money, Ecologist Also Helps With Complex Wetland Restoration

Paul Rutledge provides scale by standing near a large Yellow Birch found on the Trapp Farm Nature Preserve Wetland Reserve Program project. (NRCS photo/Kathy Ryan)

Paul Rutledge provides scale by standing near a large Yellow Birch found on the Trapp Farm Nature Preserve Wetland Reserve Program project. (NRCS photo/Kathy Ryan)

Dr. Paul Rutledge was recently honored with a National Individual Volunteer Award for his contributions to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Earth Team.

Earth Team is a volunteer workforce that helps NRCS maintain and improve natural resources on private lands. Out of the 19,075 Earth Team volunteers across the nation, only four individuals received this award this year. Read more »

USDA Serving Military Aviation in Afghanistan

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History Research Scientist and Manger in the Feather Identification Lab Dr. Carla Dove, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Biologists Keel Price and George Graves look over a sample of the birds in the Smithsonian collection on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History Research Scientist and Manger in the Feather Identification Lab Dr. Carla Dove, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Biologists Keel Price and George Graves look over a sample of the birds in the Smithsonian collection on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

In March, I enjoyed welcoming home two USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service employees from 18-week tours of duty in Afghanistan. There they devoted long days using their wildlife expertise to reduce aircraft hazards to American and coalition aircraft at Bagram Airbase and Kandahar Airfield.  It was my honor to help recognize them for their service from November 2012 to March 2013. Read more »

National Volunteer Week: Arkansas Student Volunteer Finds Career, Wins Award

Amanda Carrell holds a deep tillage radish, which is used as a conservation cover crop. The radishes help break up soil compaction and increases water infiltration. (NRCS photo)

Amanda Carrell holds a deep tillage radish, which is used as a conservation cover crop. The radishes help break up soil compaction and increases water infiltration. (NRCS photo)

Amanda Carrell’s two passions in life are volunteering and agriculture.

Luckily, as a student in a soil and water conservation course at Arkansas State University, Carrell was introduced to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Earth Team program, which allowed her to combine the two. Read more »

Can We Eradicate the Asian Longhorned Beetle?

Asian longhorned beetle and "exit hole." Credit: R. Anson Eaglin, USDA-APHIS

Asian longhorned beetle and "egg site." Credit: R. Anson Eaglin, USDA-APHIS

This past March, almost 11 years after being found in New Jersey, federal and state agriculture officials are finally able to say that the state’s long-running battle against the non-native Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) is over.

New Jersey is the second state to declare itself free from the invasive tree-killing insect.  The beetle was successfully eradicated from Illinois in 2008, and the ALB-regulated area of Islip, New York, also achieved eradication in 2011.  So, getting rid of this “hungry pest” is possible.  That’s good news, because, depending on where you live, 70 percent of your community’s tree canopy could be lost to ALB. Read more »