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Building the Bench for Agriculture in 2015 and Beyond

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden with The Women in Agriculture and Public Service delegates from sub-Saharan Africa after the round table discussion held at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra, Ghana

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden with The Women in Agriculture and Public Service delegates from sub-Saharan Africa after the round table discussion held at the Movenpick Ambassador Hotel in Accra, Ghana, on Nov. 15, 2015. USDA photo.

No matter where you’re from, no matter what you look like, no matter your background, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is here for you. It has been an exciting year at USDA, filled with growth and opportunity.  This year, I have traveled the country and the world to meet with farmers, ranchers and agriculture leaders who love the land and want to help the next generation succeed.

As 2015 comes to a close, I would like to share the top five things USDA has done this year to build a more diverse future for agriculture: Read more »

Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program – Developing Future Ag Leaders

Meat graders discussing the meat in front of them

Here at AMS, one of the many benefits of creating marketing opportunities for ag businesses is seeing first-hand how the industry supports 1 in 12 jobs all over the country.

For many years, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), through its Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program, has been actively involved in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program. The program serves as a tool to recruit and train future leaders in the meat and livestock industry.  Judging is a competitive event for youth through college students and it has a rich history in the U.S. meat industry – and here at AMS.

The program originally started in 1926 at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago, and was sponsored by the National Live Stock and Meat Board.  Contests have been held every year since 1926, with the exception of the war years. Read more »

High Five: NIFA-Funded Research Improves Agriculture

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.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invests in agricultural sciences that turn research into action by taking groundbreaking discoveries from laboratories to farms, communities, and classrooms.  Scientific advances that result from NIFA-funded research – more than $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2015 – enhance the competitiveness of American agriculture, ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply, improve the nutrition and health of communities, sustain the environment and natural resources, and bolster the economy.  The following blogs are examples of the thousands of NIFA projects that impact the lives of Americans every day. Read more »

2015: A Banner Year for School Meals and the Health of our Nation’s Schoolchildren

It’s been another outstanding year for healthier school meals programs and the millions of American students that benefit from them.  Today, more than 97 percent of schools nationwide report they are meeting the updated school meal standards, which are based on pediatricians’ and nutritionists’ recommendations. The new meals provide children more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium.  There are numerous examples of how schools are providing a healthier school environment with more nutritious options to students across the country, but below are just a few: Read more »

Soils in the Classroom: Celebrating the Discovery and Donation of a Historic Soils Collection

Susan Fugate, Head of Special Collections, NAL; Sally Schneider, ARS Deputy Administrator, Natural Resources & Sustainable Agricultural Systems; Stan Kosecki, Acting Director, NAL; Jill Guenther, Schoolteacher and others

The donation of Important Soils of the United States, Bureau of Soils, 1916, was highlighted in a ceremony hosted at the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Maryland. Pictured are (l to r): Susan Fugate, Head of Special Collections, NAL; Sally Schneider, ARS Deputy Administrator, Natural Resources & Sustainable Agricultural Systems; Stan Kosecki, Acting Director, NAL; Jill Guenther, Schoolteacher; Kirk Hanlin, USDA-NRCS Assistant Chief, and David Smith, USDA-NRCS Deputy Chief of Soil Science and Resource Assessment (SSRA). USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated science teacher from New Jersey, a valuable piece of soil science history is now available for viewing and research among the special collections at USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) in Beltsville, Maryland.

Jill Guenther, who has taught Earth and space science for 29 years, discovered the antique soils collection tucked away in a classroom cabinet. “I knew it was something special, and I wanted to use it as a display when teaching erosion and conservation issues,” she explained. Read more »

Shelter Dogs Given Better Life, New Mission at USDA

APHIS Wildlife Services program specialist Mario Eusi and his dog Cain at their graduation ceremony

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Wildlife Services program specialist Mario Eusi and his dog Cain at their graduation ceremony certifying them for Nutria Detection at the Blackwater National, Wildlife Refuge, MD.

Mya, Hektor and Cain are seated on the floor, next to their handlers and partners, waiting for their names to be called. It’s a big day for the three shelter dogs and their handlers.  You may be surprised to learn that many of the dogs trained at APHIS’ National Detector Dog Training Center are rescues.  Mya and Cain are from Maryland’s Montgomery County Animal Services & Adoption Center and Hektor is from the Fulton County Animal Shelter in Atlanta.  They are all officially graduating from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) detector dog training program, and will join two other rescue dogs trained last year and currently part of other detector dog teams as part of the effort to find and eliminate the last of the nutria from the Delmarva Peninsula.

Nutria are invasive, semi-aquatic rodents that live in marshes throughout the country. They weigh between 12 and 20 pounds and were brought to Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore from South America for their fur in 1943. However, their dark brown pelts were not profitable, and they were either released or escaped from fur farms. With no natural predators, the nutria population at Maryland’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge exploded. Read more »