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USDA Announces 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum Plenary Details

On February 20, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is expected to host two Future of Agriculture panels at the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum, “The Changing Face of Agriculture.” On the “Future of Agriculture: Building Markets Here & Abroad” panel are Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development; Paul Schickler, DuPont Pioneer President; Kellee James, Founder, CEO, Mercaris; and Cathy Burns, President, Produce Marketing Association.  Topics discussed will be import/export markets, market trends, food security, technology, and innovations in agriculture.

Secretary Vilsack also is slated to moderate a second panel, the “Future of Agriculture: Young Farmers – Unlimited Opportunities” to explore the challenges, sustainability, and achievements of today’s young farmers.  Panelists include: Joanna Carraway, Top Producer Horizon Award; Michael O’Gorman, Executive Director, Farmer Veteran Coalition; Greg Wegis, National Outstanding Young Farmer Award; and Emily Oakley, Interim Director, National Young Farmers Coalition. Read more »

Expanding SNAP Farmers Market Access through Innovative Partnerships

Customers scoop up a handful of the healthy, fresh produce available at one of the many farmers’ markets found in communities across America.

Customers scoop up a handful of the healthy, fresh produce available at one of the many farmers’ markets found in communities across America.

America’s farmers’ markets are a great source of fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods, and at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), we’ve made it a priority to expand healthy food access through farmers’ markets to those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It’s a win-win situation because, for farmers markets, the ability to accept SNAP benefits is a great way to build their customer base, which helps generate more sales and nourish the economy in our rural communities.

As Administrator of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, I place a high value on partnerships because, working together, we can achieve more toward shared goals than by working alone. The USDA recently contracted with the National Association of Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (NAFMNP), in an effort to enhance the participation of farmers and farmers markets in SNAP.  And out of that innovative partnership, I am excited to announce MarketLink, a new way for farmers’ markets and direct-marketing farmers to get authorized as SNAP vendors and get the equipment they need to accept SNAP benefits. Read more »

Sustainability and Profitability go Hand-in-Hand on a Nevada Ranch

Chuck Petersen, NRCS rangeland management specialist (left), and Reggie Premo, Shoshone-Paiute Tribal member, discuss future conservation plans on Premo’s ranch located on the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada. USDA photo.

Chuck Petersen, NRCS rangeland management specialist (left), and Reggie Premo, Shoshone-Paiute Tribal member, discuss future conservation plans on Premo’s ranch located on the Duck Valley Reservation in Nevada. USDA photo.

On the Duck Valley Reservation of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, alfalfa and cattle are the two major agricultural enterprises of the 289,000-acre reservation near the border of Idaho and Nevada.

Reggie Premo, a member of the Shoshone-Paiute, raises cattle and grows alfalfa on the same land where he grew up. Premo works with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to use water wisely.

When his father passed away in 2001, he took over the day-to-day ranching operations. He immediately began working to get all of the ranch’s acreage back into production. It’s taken a team effort. Read more »

Forest Service Celebrates Working Side-by-Side with Indian Tribes

Leech Lake Wildland Fire Crew members George Jacobs, Tim Bebeau, Charlie Blackwell and Daniel Wind. (Courtesy Leech Lake Wildland Fire Crew)

Leech Lake Wildland Fire Crew members George Jacobs, Tim Bebeau, Charlie Blackwell and Daniel Wind. (Courtesy Leech Lake Wildland Fire Crew)

Establishing trust and building relationships are key factors in working with Indian Tribes across the country. One of the most historic partnerships between the U.S. Forest Service and an Indian Tribe has been forged between the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and the Chippewa National Forest.

“This [partnership] essentially took more than 100 years to craft,” said Fred Clark, director of Office Tribal Relations for the Forest Service. “It allows the Forest Service and the Tribe to move toward a positive future, while not forgetting the history that brought us all this far.”

The Chippewa National Forest and the Tribe have worked together on road maintenance, non-native species control, fuels treatments, tree planting and prescribed fire support since 2010. Read more »

USDA Researchers Study Hydromulches with Guar Gum Substitutes

ARS scientists are studying alternative, less expensive binders for hydromulch, a mixture of seed, mulch, water and other ingredients sprayed on bare soil. The binder helps the hydromulch stick together. (ARS photo)

ARS scientists are studying alternative, less expensive binders for hydromulch, a mixture of seed, mulch, water and other ingredients sprayed on bare soil. The binder helps the hydromulch stick together. (ARS photo)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

In the depths of winter, planting grass seed isn’t at the top of one’s to-do list. But soon, spring will arrive and landscaping companies will be out, spraying that green mixture of seed and mulch on patches of bare ground.

Hydromulch, a temporary, porous layer that can help protect newly sown seeds, contains water, dye, a mulching material, and a binder, which keeps the mulch intact. Typically the binder is made from guar gum, made by grinding beans of the guar plant into powder. When water is added, the powder forms a viscous gum. Read more »

Where the Moon Trees Grow

Official NASA portrait of Stuart Roosa (Courtesy NASA)

Official NASA portrait of Stuart Roosa (Courtesy NASA)

Many space enthusiasts know that one of the U.S. Forest Service’s most famous former employees was astronaut Stuart Roosa. The smokejumper circled the moon as part of NASA’s Apollo 14 mission more than 40 years ago.

However, what most folks don’t know is that Roosa brought a group of tiny travelers along for the ride. After all these years, they’re still among us today, living quietly across the United States. Their names – Douglas fir, sequoia and loblolly pine – are familiar to most everyone because they were seeds from these and other well-known tree species. Read more »