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Rebuilding Lives: Celebrating Homeownership Month

USDA Works with Families to Realize Their Dreams of Homeownership infographic

USDA Works with Families to Realize Their Dreams of Homeownership infographic. Click to enlarge

Five years ago, Christy Carr seemed like a long shot as a future homeowner.  She was a newly divorced, unemployed mom of five, and her credit score was in the 300’s. The home she shared with her children had no heat, no electricity and no running water. A neighbor let Christy run an extension cord to his garage outlet just so that the family could keep the lights on. Since they had no car and only a cooler to keep their food cold, they walked to the store three times a day.

In order to rebuild her life, Christy had to find work and clean up her credit score.  After many interviews, Christy was offered a good job at a marketing company. She was able to move into an apartment but it was too small to house all of her children, and her older sons had to stay with another family member. At the same time, Christy brought her student loans out of default and paid off old marital debts. After 18 months, her credit score had risen by 300 points, and she was able to open a credit card secured through her bank. Read more »

Ripe for Trade – GIPSA Helps It Happen

Different varieties of wheat

Wheat is one of the grains that GIPSA helps move through the marketplace.

There’s certainly a lot of talk about trade this month at USDA.  As the U.S. looks to expand connections with Asian nations, American ranchers, growers, and producers are also keeping an eye on potential economic dealings in the Caribbean.

I’m joining the discussion to shed light on how the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) plays a role in facilitating American grain sales into foreign markets and assuring those markets are maintained through its world-class service of weighing and inspection.  First let me set the stage about recent events. Read more »

Reversing Pollinator Decline is Key to Feeding the Future

Bees in a bee hive

About 44 percent of managed honey bee colonies have been lost over the past year. (iStock image)

Without pollinators, we don’t eat—it’s simple as that—and, at the moment, large numbers of pollinators are dying.  With the world’s population projected to exceed 9 billion in just the next 30 years or so, that is not a good position for us to be in.

More than 90 species of U.S. specialty crops require pollination, and various animals, including bees, butterflies, moths, bats, and birds are a critical part of the pollinator-plant ecosystem.  Despite the myriad species of pollinators available, American farmers rely on one species of honey bee, Apis mellifera, for most of the pollinator services to pollinate their crops. Wild and managed bees together add $15 billion in crop value each year. Read more »

Wildlife Underpass to Benefit Animals, Drivers

Members of the Highway 89 Stewardship Team

Members of the Highway 89 Stewardship Team ceremonially broke ground in early May to begin construction on two wildlife underpasses in northeast California. Photo credit: Sagehen Creek Field Station

Every year in the U.S. roughly 200 people are killed in as many as 2 million wildlife-vehicle collisions and at a cost of more than $8 billion, according to the Western Transportation Institute.

But the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station scientists, along with their collaborators in the Highway 89 Stewardship Team, are paving the way to reduce those statistics with their latest project. The team broke ground last May on its second and third wildlife underpasses along a 25-mile stretch of Highway 89 between Truckee and Sierraville, California. Read more »

FAS Tariff Tracker Tool Now Includes TPP Data

USDA Agricultural Tariff Tracker screenshot

USDA’s Agricultural Tariff Tracker shows producers the benefits of TPP, including tariff eliminations, tariff reductions and more.

The United States has free trade agreements (FTAs) with 20 countries around the world and those agreements have expanded export opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural producers. The pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, between the United States and 11 other nations, will provide even greater opportunities for exporters by reducing or eliminating tariffs on a host of food and farm products.

How can exporters learn more about those tariff reductions and the opportunities they create? Through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s online Agricultural Tariff Tracker.  FAS initially developed the tracker in response to requests from those in the agricultural export community who wanted to obtain more detailed information about export opportunities resulting from FTAs. The tracker has already proven to be a valuable tool, but it just got even better – because now it includes TPP data. Read more »

Sustainably Growing Vegetables in a Changing Climate: It’s about Working Together

Soils protected from the impact of intense rainstorms by a layer of mulch between rows of lettuce growing at Harvest Valley Farm in Valencia, PA

Soils protected from the impact of intense rainstorms by a layer of mulch between rows of lettuce growing at Harvest Valley Farm in Valencia, PA. Photo credit: Franklin Egan, Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Director of Educational Programs, a USDA partner

The Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) sponsored a field day on June 2 to talk about growing vegetables in a changing climate.  The discussion focused on climate change, its impacts on the farming system, and strategies to effectively adapt through increasing biodiversity on the farm.

PASA’s Director of Educational Programs, Franklin Egan, provided an overview of climate change trends and projections.  Dave King and others who farm 160 acres of vegetables and small fruit all sold within 25 miles of the farm, talked about their challenges and sustainable farming practices.  Among them, high tunnel beds have more aphids and pill bugs in the winter, downy mildew appears earlier in the summer, weeds are not any easier to manage especially without degrading soil health,  irrigation costs are rising, and deer pressure rises during droughts.  Practices being continuously adapted to respond to changing conditions include a highly diversified crop production system, use of beneficial insects, crop rotations, cover cropping, and rye straw mulch. Read more »