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Making Moves in Maryland

Last week, I met up with Washington Redskins linebacker Darryl Tapp to help kick off Fuel Up to Play 60’s new Make Your Move effort and see how kids at Kenilworth Elementary School in Bowie, Maryland are eating healthier and getting active at school and at home. Fuel up to Play 60 is a partnership between the National Football League (NFL) and the National Dairy Council.

Tapp and I challenged students to “Make Your Move” by having fun and playing hard while fueling their bodies with healthy foods. My favorite part? Hearing a resounding chorus of “YES!” when I asked students if they liked the healthier breakfasts and lunches served in their cafeteria. Read more »

USDA Partners with FoodCorps to Grow Healthy Eaters

FoodCorps service member Dennis Lackey gardening with children in Flint, MI. (Photo credit: Robyn Wardell)

FoodCorps service member Dennis Lackey gardening with children in Flint, MI. (Photo credit: Robyn Wardell)

They are t-shirted and tilling up soil in schools across the country. And this year, thanks to a new partnership, FoodCorps service members have USDA at their side.

FoodCorps is a national service organization that places emerging leaders in schools across the country to teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from, build and tend school gardens, and bring high-quality local food into schools participating in the National School Lunch and/or School Breakfast Programs.

USDA is pleased to support the FoodCorps model; their recipe for success includes three main ingredients: Read more »

High Tunnel Gives Kentucky Farmers Advantage with Berries and Other Produce

Chris and Tracy Adams with their daughters Ashley and Abigail.

Chris and Tracy Adams with their daughters Ashley and Abigail.

Similar to the old adage, when Chris Adams married the wife, he married the family – and the family farm. Lucky for him, he loves farming and enjoys working with his in-laws to manage the 4,000-acre farm of soybeans, wheat and corn.  Now it’s his full-time job, working with his brother-in-law to raise fields of commodity crops each year. But recently, Chris and Tracy Adams, and the rest of the family, began experimenting with farming at a much smaller scale.

They built a seasonal high tunnel, a greenhouse-like structure that produces a plentiful supply of strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes and peppers. High tunnels are made of plastic or metal pipe and covered with sheeting, typically made of plastic. Unlike greenhouses, they require no energy to heat, instead relying on natural sunlight to create favorable conditions for growing vegetables and other specialty crops. Read more »

Partnering for the Success of the Agriculture Industry

Confidential Assistant to the AMS Administrator Karen Comfort tours the AMS Cotton and Tobacco Programs Headquarters. Comfort learns how cotton samples are graded using the new Cotton Acquisition and Tracking System (CATS). This system improves the efficiency of cotton sampling process by automating much of the sample delivery process.

Confidential Assistant to the AMS Administrator Karen Comfort tours the AMS Cotton and Tobacco Programs Headquarters. Comfort learns how cotton samples are graded using the new Cotton Acquisition and Tracking System (CATS). This system improves the efficiency of cotton sampling process by automating much of the sample delivery process.

As the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” This certainly holds true when it comes to the critical partnership between public and private sectors. Several times a year the Commodity Roundtable brings together leaders from many of USDA’s national research and promotion programs and marketing orders, which play a vital role in helping our nation maintain one of the strongest agricultural sectors in the world.

At the most recent Commodity Roundtable meeting in Memphis, TN, I was impressed by the open dialog and the leaders’ deep commitment to supporting America’s farmers and ranchers. Members discussed best practices and strategic plans that will help their respective industries succeed and grow, thanks in part to a commitment to diverse leadership, viewpoints and opinions. Read more »

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, a Gift from the People, Headed Toward Washington, D.C.

The 88-foot Engelmann spruce selected as the 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree is hoisted onto a flatbed truck, where it will be secured for the 5,000-mile journey across the country. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

The 88-foot Engelmann spruce selected as the 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree is hoisted onto a flatbed truck, where it will be secured for the 5,000-mile journey across the country. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

More than 300 people gathered on in 25-degree weather to witness the harvesting of the 88-foot 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree from the Colville National Forest, the first step in its 5,000 mile journey from Washington State to the U. S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

More than a dozen spotters and equipment operators manipulated the tree into position as the Mack Truck pushed the trailer underneath. The enormity of the Engelmann spruce became apparent as the tree floated above the trailer while a few extra feet from the trunk had to be removed.

Every December, the Speaker of the House hosts a lighting ceremony on the U.S. Capitol grounds. With a simple flip of a switch roughly 10,000 lights bring the tree to life. But first it has to make the journey. Read more »

The President’s New Executive Order on Climate Preparedness: Another Step to Support American Agriculture

Today, President Obama established a Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience to advise the Administration on how the Federal Government can respond to the needs of communities facing the impacts of climate change. This is an important step in our shared effort to respond to climate change – and like the President’s broader Climate Action Plan, it will help American agriculture mitigate and adapt to the impacts of a changing climate.

America’s farmers, ranchers and landowners have long been tremendous stewards of our environment. At USDA, we have worked with a record number of producers and landowners over the course of the Obama Administration to help conserve the soil and water, and clean our air – more than half a million over the past four and a half years. Meanwhile, in support of the Climate Action Plan, USDA put forward a series of new policies in June to help agriculture develop new climate solutions in the months and years to come. We have taken steps to create seven new regional climate hubs that will aid in sharing climate information for farmers and ranchers. We released the results of the Rapid Carbon Assessment – the largest-ever survey of soil carbon to help improve research efforts. And our new COMET-Farm tool provides a way for producers to see the impacts conservation practices could have on their land. Read more »