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In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Joyce Hunter

Joyce Hunter, USDA Deputy Chief Information Officer for Policy and Planning

Joyce Hunter, USDA Deputy Chief Information Officer for Policy and Planning, speaking at FCW.

In an effort to lift up the opportunities available for women in the agricultural field, USDA shares stories of women who are leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. In this post, USDA Deputy Chief Information Officer for Policy and Planning Joyce Hunter shares her perspective as a woman in the technology field and how she puts her unique experience and skills to work at USDA.

Ms. Hunter oversees the Department’s strategic technology planning initiatives, establishes policy framework, and lays the track for the future. With over 30 years’ experience in the information technology industry, Ms. Hunter has a strong ability to build and sustain relationships with public/private stakeholders and lead innovative projects and inter-agency initiatives.  Earlier this year, she was selected by the editors of FedScoop as one of “D.C.’s Top 50 Women in Technology.” Read more »

Summer Meal Programs Fight Hunger with Nutritious Food and Innovation

Smiling group of diverse children

Summer meals help close the nutrition gap children face when schools let out for summer — when children no longer receive school meals they relied on throughout the school year.

The following guest blog discusses the importance of USDA Summer Meals Programs, which provide children with healthy food during the summer, when the school meals they depend on disappear.  Childhood memories shared by the writer demonstrate how critical healthy meals are to the growth and development of children.  USDA’s approaches to making summer meals accessible are also highlighted.

By Jesus Garcia, Special Assistant, Office of Communications, Administration for Children and Families (HHS)

When I was young, summers seemed to last forever. Days were long and hot in rural South Texas.

One thing I looked forward to after riding my bicycle all over the neighborhood was a nice lunch prepared by my grandmother Angelita. Meals like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) or carne guisada (stewed meat) with a side of beans provided the energy I needed to keep up with an adventurous summer.

Good food not only helps your body climb hills when you’re a kid, but it helps your brain develop in order to learn new stuff.  For some children in our communities, though, not enough healthy food is available for them to enjoy and help them grow. Luckily, a very helpful program exists that communities can use to tackle this problem: USDA’s Summer Meal Programs. Read more »

USDA Celebrates National Small Business Week

Grand Union Hotel owner Cheryl Gagnon giving Under Secretary Lisa Mensah a tour of the renovated historic hotel in Fort Benton, Montana

Grand Union Hotel owner Cheryl Gagnon gives Under Secretary Lisa Mensah a tour of the renovated historic hotel in Fort Benton, Montana. The Gagnons used a Business & Industry Loan Guarantee to finance the rehabilitation, along with financing from a revolving loan through Bear Paw Development funded by USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program. Just another example of how USDA Rural Development helps America's rural small businesses.

America’s economy rides on the wheels of small businesses.

The U.S. Small Business Administration says more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. The contributions of these firms will be honored May 1-7 during National Small Business Week — #DreamSmallBiz — and USDA Rural Development is proud to join in the celebration.

As the leading federal agency working exclusively to foster economic opportunity in rural America, Rural Development knows Main Street businesses drive the rural economy. Money earned and spent at a small town “mom-and-pop” store, or a small-scale manufacturer gets re-invested locally. Read more »

Rabies and Vampire Bats

A vampire bat in Mexico

A vampire bat in Mexico. Photo by Luis Lecuna, USDA APHIS, International Services, Mexico.

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. For APHIS, changes in environmental conditions will increase the likelihood of shifts in the distribution and nature of current domestic diseases, invasive species and agricultural pests.  These changes will likely influence the dynamics of invasion and establishment of these diseases and pests, and therefore much of APHIS’ work. Understanding and adapting to these changes is therefore critical to meeting our mission.

Vampire bats rank high on the list of animals that scare us the most. Spooky Halloween tales of their blood-sucking, nocturnal, and secretive habits have likely led to their bad reputation. The fact that some also carry and spread the deadly rabies virus doesn’t help.

The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of Central and South American wildlife and livestock. They also sometimes bite and feed on the blood of people. Recently, vampire bats have been documented within 35 miles of the Texas border. This has caused concern and speculation about the potential movement of vampire bats to areas within the United States as a result of rising global temperatures. To gain a better understanding of the likelihood of such movement, USDA-APHIS geneticist Dr. Toni Piaggio with the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center partnered with U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Mark Hayes to analyze and map the potential distribution of vampire bats under various climate scenarios. Read more »

Sharing the Costs Helps Farmers and Businesses Explore Organic Options

A variety of dried ingredients

The organic community needs more farmers, ranchers and handlers to produce everything from organic vegetables to organic grains to organic meats. The organic cost share programs make organic certification more affordable for producers and handlers across the country. USDA photo

The organic community needs more farmers, ranchers and handlers to produce everything from organic vegetables to organic grains to organic meats. Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow, with retail sales hitting over $39 billion in the United States in 2014 and over $75 billion worldwide.

USDA’s National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has overseen the organic sector since 2002. Since that time, the number of certified organic operations in the U.S. has increased to more than 21,700 — nearly a 300 percent increase. Read more »

Public Service Recognition Week: Thank You, AMS!

Associate Deputy Administrator Melissa Bailey (center) with staff from Fort Worth, Texas PACA division

Associate Deputy Administrator Melissa Bailey (center) with staff from our Fort Worth, Texas PACA division. Since implementation, over 3,700 claims worth more than $66 million have been resolved by our Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) division, which helps protect the American produce industry.

At USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), our 4,000 employees work hard every day to support the country’s diverse agricultural operations. Whether it’s individual farmers or international businesses, we have a long tradition of collaborating, innovating, and evolving to keep American agriculture competitive in the global marketplace.

As part of Public Service Recognition Week, I would like to introduce you to some of our employees and tell you about the remarkable work they do each and every day. Read more »