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USDA’s Commitment to Quality Foods

USDA Specialty Crops Inspection team outside

“We create opportunities for American ag businesses,” said Casey Wong-Buehler, AMS Commodity Procurement Program Specialist. “Trips like this help us ensure that our procurement requirements provide a realistic framework for our vendors to successfully supply quality food.”

Across the country, schools are back in session. Here at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), our inspectors and procurement specialists work hard to make sure that quality, domestically-produced foods are delivered to students and other recipients for our federal food purchasing programs. As students are getting used to their new schedules, we would like to highlight how our own little field trip shed some light on a typical day for some of our employees.

A team of AMS employees recently traveled to Knouse Foods, a grower-owned cooperative that supplies apple and cranberry products for federal food purchasing programs. The employees saw first-hand how USDA inspectors help Knouse and other companies verify the quality of their products. As the apple sauce traveled through the facility, USDA inspectors pulled random samples to make sure that they met product quality and condition requirements. All USDA Foods are required to be inspected, and in this case, inspectors pulled samples of apple sauce to evaluate traits like its color, flavor, and consistency. As an independent third-party, the inspections help suppliers meet USDA Foods requirements but they also can help them meet requirements from other buyers. Read more »

Land-Marking: Returning to 9/11 Living Memorials Projects and to the People who Continue to Shape, Create and Attend to their Meaning

G.R.A.C.E Memorial in Glen Rock, New Jersey

G.R.A.C.E Memorial in Glen Rock, New Jersey, is in Veterans Park directly across from the town's commuter train station. The site was chosen by the Glen Rock Assistance Council and Endowment after input of family members in the community directly affected by 9/11. (Courtesy Living Memorials Project National Registry)

Living memorials serve as a reminder of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends—but also of the power of community to reflect, rebuild and renew. Our research suggests that living memorials demonstrate the role of nature in contemporary times not only as a symbol, but as an innate and purposeful response to loss that calls forth a common humanity and compassion for others.

In other words, they demonstrate how people use nature to be resilient to loss. Read more »

Helping our Returning Heroes Find Opportunities in Agriculture: Join us for a Google+ Hangout!

A man holding plant seedlings with the USA flag behind him

Helping our Returning Heroes find Opportunities in Agriculture: Join us for a Google+ Hangout with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. Tune in live on Thursday, September 17, 11AM ET at

On Thursday, September 17, at 11 a.m. Eastern, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will sit down with a panel of veteran farmers and veteran training organizations for a live Google+ Hangout to discuss opportunities available through USDA for returning service members who are looking for long-term careers in farming, ranching and agriculture. Use the USDA Google+ page or to join us.

If you are a military veteran living in rural America, you are not alone. Today, more than five million veterans live in rural areas, a higher concentration than in any other part of the country. Many veterans show interest in agriculture because they feel that working on the land helps them successfully transition to civilian life and provides them with a way to continue serving their community. As part of the beginning farmer community, many veterans are eligible for a wide variety of USDA programs and resources that include access to capital through our beginning farmer loan program, farm ownership loans or microloans. Read more »

Conserving Water, Soil and Habitat on Private Lands

Two men looking at plans on a truck in front of farmland

NRCS works with private landowners to develop conservation plans that benefit the environment and farm productivity.

For 80 years, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has worked with agricultural producers to make conservation improvements to their farms, ranches and forests. These improvements help clean and conserve water, boost soil quality and restore habitat, and also make their agricultural operations more resilient.

Born amid the Dust Bowl, when persistent drought and dust storms swept through the nation, NRCS worked with stewardship-minded producers to heal the land. That work continues today, as producers voluntarily step forward to conserve natural resources, having tremendous positive impacts across the country. Read more »

Being Fire Wise is an Easy Way to Prepare for Fire Season

A wildland fire burning in front of houses and trees

Wildland fires burn intensely and creating a defensible space around your home can be the difference between a close call and destruction. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

We’ve all seen the heart-wrenching images on TV: lives and property destroyed by wildland fire.  And, this fire season, with over eight million acres burned, we are seeing these images more frequently.

Most of us think nothing can be done to protect a home from the onslaught of a raging wildland fire. Don’t be fooled, there is a way to protect your home.  The U.S. Forest Service calls it Fire Wise. Read more »

Child Nutrition: The Key to Creating the Healthiest Nation

The following guest blog highlights the important work of our partner the American Public Health Association (APHA). The association is a tireless advocate working to create the healthiest nation. APHA strives to reach that goal through science-based research, and education.

By Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association

As kids across the country begin a new school year, they’ll be hitting the books to learn important skills to be successful later in life. They’ll also be visiting cafeterias, vending machines and school stores for the foods and beverages they need to fuel their growing bodies and for achieving academic success. With nearly one in three children overweight or obese, it’s critical that healthy meals are available to them throughout the school environment. Read more »