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What is Your Citrus Tree Hiding?

Check Your Tree graphic

If you have citrus trees growing near you, check them out and help Save Our Citrus!

Do you have a citrus tree in your backyard? From afar it may look fine, but when was the last time you took a close look? Your tree could be hiding all kinds of clues about its health. Here are a few resources to hone your citrus sleuth skills!

Checking your citrus tree regularly is extremely important to prevent the spread of citrus disease. Four serious citrus diseases found in the United States include: Huanglongbing (also known as citrus greening or HLB for short), citrus canker, citrus black spot and sweet orange scab. These diseases are a threat to the health of U.S. citrus, and finding them early is critical. That’s why we need your help! Read more »

Restoring Appalachian Soils to Restore the Forests

An American chestnut seedling being planted on the Wayne National Forest in Ohio

An American chestnut seedling being planted on the Wayne National Forest in Ohio. Photo credit: Jared M. Dort, US Forest Service

The land of forest-covered hills, mountain music and coal has a lesson for restoration: healthy forests require healthy soils.

The forests of Appalachia, a region that extends from southern New York to Georgia, are considered to be among the most diverse temperate deciduous forests in the world, with as many as 30 different tree species growing together.  Coal has played an important role in the development of Appalachian culture, but mining for coal has also created a need for restoration in extensive areas of the 13 states that make up the Appalachian region. Read more »

School Meals Seasoned with Cultural Flavors

Stir-fried ginger chicken with locally grown kale

A students’ favorite: stir-fried ginger chicken with locally grown kale.

The things that make our country so great and special can be found in the diversity of the people, their ideas, and their culture. One of the ways culture is expressed is through the foods we eat. Our nation’s school meals should be no exception. More than 30 million children receive at least one nutritious meal every school day through the USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

My commitment is to make sure these children have access to healthy, nutritious meals while they learn. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) has helped raise the nutritional value of the foods our children eat with meal standards that promote health during the years most critical for growing kids. The meal standards have been developed to not only offer healthy meal options, but to allow schools the flexibility to prepare meals that are familiar to kids from culturally diverse backgrounds. Read more »

Living up to our Creed: Commemorating 50 Years of the Voting Rights Act

Secretary Tom Vilsack, Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Selma Mayor George Evans along with USDA State Directors and local officials at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala

Secretary Tom Vilsack, Congresswoman Terri Sewell and Selma Mayor George Evans along with USDA State Directors and local officials at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.

Over the course of the Administration, we’ve observed many significant anniversaries in the fight for equality across this great nation. We commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic I Have a Dream speech. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s War on Poverty and our continued commitment to addressing poverty and income inequality across America, as well as fifty years since the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act. This year, we mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

Earlier this week, I spent some time with Congresswoman Terri Sewell in Alabama. I had the opportunity to walk across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, where, 50 years ago, the men and women of the civil rights movement etched out their place in history as they faced intense hostility and hatred with love and nonviolence. Read more »

USDA Agencies Lead Local Food Discussion in Omaha

USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives

A team of USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives participated in the first ever Local Foods for Local Tables conference. The group got together with the common goal of promoting local foods. USDA Photo.

I was thrilled to join USDA colleagues at the first-of-its-kind “Local Foods for Local Tables” conference in Omaha, Neb., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015.  USDA Rural Development (RD) State Director Maxine Moul and the office of Congressman Brad Ashford led the effort to bring together groups and community members with the common goal of promoting local foods. Along with RD state leadership, the event featured Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Dan Steinkruger and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Craig Derickson, all of whom serve on the Nebraska State Food and Agriculture Council (SFAC).  They brought together a panel of public servants who are experts in their field, as well as community leaders who are on the front lines of bringing fresh, healthy food to the American table. 

With more than 150 people in attendance, there was tremendous energy in the room. The discussions were lively and the ideas inspired! For everyone sitting in the room – whether a volunteer gardener or a state conservationist – it was a great opportunity to learn about programs and initiatives right in their backyard that are supporting local and regional food systems.  I had the privilege of serving as the keynote speaker during the luncheon, which was prepared using delicious, locally-sourced foods. I shared how my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a key role in providing technical assistance, awarding grants, and conducting research that contribute to ongoing efforts in Nebraska and across the country to strengthen local and regional food systems.  Elanor Starmer from the Office of the Secretary also attended and talked about the Department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to support local food. Read more »

Community Eligibility: A Win-Win for Schools and Families in the Fight against Childhood Hunger

Students waiting to enjoy a delicious lunch

Students waiting to enjoy a delicious lunch.

Every day, millions of students across the U.S. walk into school with stomachs growling because they haven’t had enough to eat either that morning or the night before and eagerly anticipate getting a school breakfast.  Hours later, when the lunch bell rings, the same students jet to the front of the line to make sure they get enough food to tide them over until their next meal. For many students, school meals are not a luxury or a backup in case they forget to pack a meal; they are a lifeline. 

At a time when 8.6 million U.S. children lack consistent access to food at home, the availability of nutritious meals at school is more important than ever. The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) provides an opportunity for schools to not only feed more kids, but can help with the bottom line. Read more »