Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Secretary’s Column: New Farm Bill is an Investment in Rural America

The 2014 Farm Bill, passed by Congress and signed last week by President Obama, strengthens the farm safety net and ensures vital nutrition assistance for hardworking children and families during tough times. It closes loopholes and achieves much-needed reform, saving billions of taxpayer dollars.

Those accomplishments are significant and should be commended, particularly at a time when bipartisan victories in Washington are so rare.

We have already started work on a plan to implement the new Farm Bill. However, many of its provisions are new and complex. As we have done every step of the way in helping to craft this legislation, we will work to keep Congress and our stakeholders informed as we identify and prioritize everything—new regulations, guidance and other activities—that will be required so that we can implement the legislation in an efficient, timely and responsible manner. Read more »

Sweet Valentine Treats from the US Forest Service

Volunteer snow ranger Conradt Fredell shares his love of skiing and the beautiful landscape of the Arapaho National Forest by taking Loveland Ski Area visitors on an educational tour. The ski area is entirely on Forest Service land. (U.S. Forest Service)

Volunteer snow ranger Conradt Fredell shares his love of skiing and the beautiful landscape of the Arapaho National Forest by taking Loveland Ski Area visitors on an educational tour. The ski area is entirely on Forest Service land. (U.S. Forest Service)

Forget the high-priced dinner, artificial moon glow and hurried wait staff this Valentine’s Day.

Try, instead, something very different from the tried and true red roses that wilt away or those earrings that she really had hoped would be a ring. Plan a visit to a national forest or grassland. Let a photograph or video be the record of your everlasting love. Please do not carve your names into a tree or other object or in another way deface the beauty of our national forests and grasslands.

And if the weather for the recreational activity you would like to pursue makes a Valentine’s Day visit out of the question, consider designing and printing a “Let’s Love the Outdoors Together” coupon with a promise for a hike, bike or other activity during a more heart-warming time of year. Read more »

Southwestern Climate Hub Helps Producers Cope with an Uncertain and Changing Climate

The Thompson Ridge Fire in the Sante Fe National Forest approximately 10 miles north of Jemez, NM consumed over 29,903 acres. Photo by Valess Calera Trust Kristin Honig.

The Thompson Ridge Fire in the Sante Fe National Forest approximately 10 miles north of Jemez, NM consumed over 29,903 acres. Photo by Valess Calera Trust Kristin Honig.

Those of us living and working in the Southwestern U.S. have recently experienced a prolonged, extreme drought persisting over several years. We have witnessed large, destructive and catastrophic wildfires that have taken both lives and property, observed expansive areas of forest tree death as a result of massive insect outbreaks, and seen our water supplies in reservoirs and dams across the region decline to previously unseen levels. Yet, what can we realistically do in the face of these climatically driven changes that will likely continue and intensify into the future?

Changing climatic conditions in the southwest that impact temperatures, alter growing seasons, increase plant moisture stress, and trigger extreme events directly contribute to these recent regional catastrophes and water scarcities.  Recently, a highly respected, third generation public land cattle rancher in our region put it this way: “I believe that the climate is changing.  But I can’t accept it.  If I do I would just go out of business.  I have to cope and go on.”  So we are left to look around us and ask what information, tools, and technology can we reach for when it gets tough? Read more »

USDA Innovation Improves Rice Grading

Broken kernels are indicated above.

Broken kernels are indicated above.

With a little help from USDA, consumer-grade photo scanners could revolutionize rice grading.

Consumers much prefer whole kernels of milled rice over broken pieces.  Whole kernels offer more consistent cooking qualities and are in many cases considered more visually appealing.  As a result, the price paid to a rice producer for a load of rough rice can be impacted by the percentage of broken kernels within a sample of rice after it has been milled.

USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration is developing software for use with consumer-grade photo scanners to measure the percent of broken kernels in milled rice quickly and accurately.   When rough rice is graded in accordance with USDA’s Rice Grading Standards, the percentage of broken kernels within a sample is determined by a trained grader’s visual inspection. Read more »

When Forests are Under Attack

Mountain pine beetle has damaged more than 2 million acres of lodgepole pine forest. This shows tree loss on the Klamath National Forest in California. (U.S. Forest Service/Zachary Heath)

Mountain pine beetle has damaged more than 2 million acres of lodgepole pine forest. This shows tree loss on the Klamath National Forest in California. (U.S. Forest Service/Zachary Heath)

Sometimes, heroes aren’t who we expect.

With more than 750 million acres classified as forest land and millions more acres with trees in urban areas, the U.S. population receives a wide array of services and commodities from forests, such as wood and other forest products, recreation, wildlife, clean water, energy and jobs. Read more »

Happy Valentine’s Day from MyPlate!

MyPlate Tips for Valentine’s Day!

MyPlate Tips for Valentine’s Day!

This Valentine’s Day, give something for the heart. Sharing a heart healthy gift is a great way to let the people in your life know you care.  Instead of offering an over-sized piece of cake or a box of sweets, give something that takes care of the heart.

For Your Spouse or Partner:  Make a healthy meal together.  Cooking a meal can help you to control portion sizes and the ingredients in your food. Find a healthy recipe to make at home or attend a cooking class at your local mall or community college.  For healthy recipe ideas, visit the FNCS Recipe Box. Read more »