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New Campaign – Water: You Are What You Drink

The ‘Water: You Are What You Drink’ campaign symbol.

The ‘Water: You Are What You Drink’ campaign symbol.

Today the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) along with their Honorary Chair, First Lady Michelle Obama, launched a campaign encouraging Americans to drink more water more often. The ‘Water: You Are What You Drink’ campaign is a collaboration between PHA and stakeholders across the public and private sectors. The initiative brings together leaders from industry, government and Hollywood with a shared goal: to excite, inspire and engage people in drinking more water.

This nationwide effort comes during National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, when much attention is already focused on the impact diet plays on the health of our nation. USDA works to educate consumers on the importance of making healthy dietary choices. Choosing healthful beverages is one part of that equation and drinking more water is something that all Americans can benefit from.  Increasing water intake, “drinking up”, is an easy change every one of us can make every day. Tap, filtered, bottled, carbonated- it all counts! Read more »

Our Forests and Climate Change

Americans know the importance of forests to our communities and our economy.  They provide jobs and recreational opportunities, filter our air and water, and make up essential habitat for wildlife and natural resources.  But increasingly, we’re also recognizing that forests play an important role in mitigating climate change.

Recently, President Obama announced a Climate Action Plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare for the impacts of climate change on our communities and economy, and lead international efforts to combat global climate change. This plan recognizes that America’s forests play a critical role in addressing carbon pollution, absorbing as much as 14 percent of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions each year.  Over the last several decades, forest regrowth on former farm lands, reforestation, and maturing forests have kept our forest growth rates high, helping us absorb even more carbon. Read more »

USDA is Composting, You Can Too!

As part of the Food Waste Challenge USDA employees are working together to reduce the amount of food waste at our Headquarters office in Washington, DC. Currently 2,400 pounds of food and paper waste is recycled from our cafeteria each week. Our goal is to increase that by 5% to at least 2,520 pounds of waste by the end of Fiscal Year 2014.

Food is the single largest component of municipal solid waste going to landfills, accounting for over 20% by weight. USDA headquarters employees are reducing food waste every time they eat in the cafeteria. Many of the items they use, such as plates, bowls, trays, paper cups, napkins, utensils and clamshells, are compostable.  The headquarters cafeteria and hallways are equipped with compost bins that are specially designed for all food waste, including meat and dairy products. The bins are emptied several times each day and the waste is transported to a waste pulping system in the basement. Read more »

USDA Researchers Working Together to Conserve Our Nation’s Resources

A blue heron on the Choptank River in Maryland, one of the benchmark watersheds that USDA researchers are evaluating as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project.

A blue heron on the Choptank River in Maryland, one of the benchmark watersheds that USDA researchers are evaluating as part of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project.

USDA researchers are working together to protect and conserve our beautiful nation and all of its majestic natural resources for generations to come.  As part of USDA’s Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP), more than 60 USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are working together to gain a better understanding of the role that agricultural conservation programs and practices play in achieving our nation’s environmental objectives of clean air and water, healthy soils and flourishing natural habitats.

USDA began the CEAP program in 2003 to study the environmental benefits of conservation practices implemented through 2002 Farm Bill programs.  As part of CEAP, ARS scientists are evaluating 14 watersheds across 12 ARS locations to provide the additional scientific basis for the CEAP National Assessment being led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Those watersheds were selected in part to address specific concerns, like manure management on animal feeding operations, water use on irrigated cropland, drainage water management, wildlife habitat and riparian restoration. These watershed studies also should help develop performance measures for estimating soil, water and air quality, and perhaps other potential benefits for specific conservation practices. Read more »

USDA Provides Funds to Conserve Agricultural Lands

The Wilds’ 60-acre demonstration site showcases a variety of native grasses.

The Wilds’ 60-acre demonstration site showcases a variety of native grasses.

Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Natural Resources Conservation Chief Jason Weller announced 33 Conservation Innovation Grants awarded to entities across the nation to develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to accelerate private lands conservation.

As the chief said during a media call with the secretary, “The Conservation Innovation Grant program brings together the strength and innovation of the private and non-profit sectors, academia, producers and others to develop and test cutting-edge conservation tools and technologies and work side-by-side with producers to demonstrate how solutions work on the land.” Read more »

After September 11th, A U.S. Forester in Afghanistan

Alberto Moreno, a U.S. Forest Service supervisory forester, stands in the Spin Ghar Mountain range at the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan by the Khyber Pass. (Photo courtesy Alberto Moreno)

Alberto Moreno, a U.S. Forest Service supervisory forester, stands in the Spin Ghar Mountain range at the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan by the Khyber Pass. (Photo courtesy Alberto Moreno)

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, sitting in a small Cessna about to go airborne, the pilot suddenly slowed the plane and aborted the takeoff. He said he had received orders that all flights had been grounded and that any airplanes that did not comply would be shot down by the Air Force.

The United States was under attack.

At the time, my job had been with the Arkansas Forest Inventory and Analysis survey program monitoring plots on the Mississippi Delta. I spent the rest of that day tracking my crews working in the field, and like the rest of the world, tried to comprehend the events as they unfolded. Read more »