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Congrats to the Student Diversity Program Winners, See You at the 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum

A group of 30 university students, announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, will get a head start to a career in agriculture as winners of USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program.  Twenty university juniors and seniors were chosen based their essays on “Agriculture as a Career.”  Additionally, 10 graduate students were chosen in response to “The Greatest Challenge Facing Agriculture over the Next Five Years.” Read more »

Western Water Threatened by Wildfire

The Negative Effects of High Intensity Wildfire on Forested Land infographic

Catastrophic wildfire affects forests by baking the ground below, causing it to become a hard-packed layer that will not absorb moisture. Photo credit: American Forest Foundation

By Tom Fry, Western Conservation Director, American Forest Foundation

Tom Fry is the Western Conservation Director of the American Forest Foundation (AFF). AFF and the U.S. Forest Service hold a long-standing partnership in pursuit of protecting and conserving the important forest benefits that come from family and individually owned forest lands across the United States and ensuring the next generation of Americans understands and value forests for all the benefits they provide.

As we get ready for the 2016 wildfire season, a recent report from the American Forest Foundation (AFF) looks at one of the most important, but often overlooked, issues related to forest health: the relationship between water supply and the risk of fire to our forests. Read more »

A High Five for Farmers and the Conservation Stewardship Program

At USDA this month, we’re taking some time to focus on the work of farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to conserve our planet and our resources for the future. They know, like we do, that cleaner air, water, soil and habitat are not only good for our planet, but also contribute to healthy and productive working farmlands.

At USDA we have a wide range of tools and support available to help farmers voluntarily implement conservation practices to improve the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands. Since 2009, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has provided more than $4 billion in assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to enhance conservation on more than 70 million acres. And this year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the rolls. Read more »

Organic Sound and Sensible Resources: Expanding Organic Education through Others

A group of people in front of high tunnels

The NCAT sound and sensible project focused on educating farmers and ranchers in the Gulf States region about organic production, as well as helping facilitate organic certification.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP) is continuing to launch new resources resulting from our Sound and Sensible Initiative, which is making organic certification more accessible, affordable, and attainable. Today, we are launching resources that help those who help others – guides and resources that help organizations reach out to and educate potential organic farmers. These resources were produced by our partners in the organic community, all of whom have on-the-ground experience teaching producers about the organic option. Read more »

A Proactive Approach to Investing in Employee Security

USDA Rural Development staff listening as Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans and Bangor Police Sergeant Rob Angelo discuss what to do in case of an active shooter

USDA Rural Development staff listens as Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans and Bangor Police Sergeant Rob Angelo discuss what to do in case of an active shooter at the USDA Rural Development State Office in Bangor, Maine.

Employee safety and security have always been at the top of my list of responsibilities as State Director of USDA Rural Development in Maine.  Our 58 employees in Maine work directly with the public to deliver essential programs that impact individuals, businesses, lenders, and communities; my staff’s personal security is something that the USDA and I take very seriously.

This past November, our staff welcomed Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans from the Department of Homeland Security to provide training in Bangor and Lewiston, Maine.  Talis is an Active Firearms Instructor, a National Weapons Detection Training Program Inspector, and a Field Training Evaluation Program Instructor. Read more »

Investing in Our Public Lands: The President’s Proposal to Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Land and Water Conservation Fund, Land Acquisition Budget Proposal FY2017 map

Land and Water Conservation Fund, Land Acquisition Budget Proposal FY2017 map. (Click for a larger version)

Over 50 years ago, a visionary Congress established an innovative program to bring communities together to invest in open spaces and recreational opportunities that are an essential part of our nation’s heritage and economy. Since then, the highly successful Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped to protect working forests and ranches, preserve our public lands — parks, refuges,  forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife habitats — and provide access to outdoor recreation across the nation for use and enjoyment by all Americans.

President Obama is committed to passing on America’s public lands and waters to future generations in better shape than we found them. That’s why he is proposing full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, and pursuing permanent authorization in annual mandatory funding for the Fund’s programs beginning in 2018. Read more »