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Bison are back and here to stay at the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Bison on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Bison on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Photo credit: Gary Chancey, US Forest Service.

Guest Post by Hannah Ettema of the National Forest Foundation.

It was like stepping back through time on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Some 200 years ago, when bison prominently roamed the Illinois landscape, kicking up dust as they ran in the herd before settling against a back-drop of tall prairie grasses.

That scene from the past is actually part of the Midewin’s future as four bulls and 23 cows were introduced to their new 1,200 acre enclosure. The first to arrive were the bulls, one 2-year-old and three 3-year-olds, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo. Read more »

Seventy Years Could Not Erase the Memory of a Wildfire Hero

Deidra McGee holding the award she was given by the Triple Nickles Association

Deidra McGee holds the award she was given by the Triple Nickles Association. Photo credit: US Forest Service

It’s been a busy few months for the Triple Nickles, the U.S. Forest Service’s first African-American smoke jumping crew. On Aug. 6 of this year a member of the crew who was the first recorded death of a hot shot wildland firefighter was posthumously honored at his gravesite that was recently found after a long search.

Seventy years ago, Pfc. Malvin L. Brown of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion known as the Triple Nickles, died while serving his country. Because of the racism prevalent in the segregated U.S military of the 1940s, Brown wasn’t given a burial with the honors he had earned. Read more »

Collaboration and Innovation are Keys to Organic Success

USDA Certified Organic Operations graphic

With 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and nearly 28,000 certified organic operations from more than 120 countries around the globe, organic agriculture has seen enormous growth and success over the last two years.

For years, the organic industry has experienced enormous growth, defying expectations and creating exciting opportunities for producers and entrepreneurs around the world. 2014 was another record year for the organic community, with 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and nearly 28,000 certified organic operations from more than 120 countries around the globe.

The retail market for organic products is now valued at more than $39 billion in the U.S. and over $75 billion worldwide. With its rapidly growing market and high consumer interest, USDA is focused on helping this area of agriculture achieve even greater success. In May 2013, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued guidance that identified organic priorities for the Department, including training and outreach, growing the organic sector, reducing paperwork, improving research, and gathering data. Read more »

Urban Gardens Promote Education, Nutrition and More

Students and teachers at Ready School, Prosperity Garden’s staff and volunteers tending the gardens to provide fresh produce to the surrounding community

Students and teachers at Ready School, Prosperity Garden’s staff and volunteers tend the gardens to provide fresh produce to the surrounding community.

On a small parcel of land in the heart of the City of Champaign, Illinois, are two gardens that offer opportunities for neighbors and the community to learn about growing food, eating nutritious food and earning a living. The Prosperity Gardens are educational, bringing at-risk students to work the ground, grow the plants and sell the produce at local farmer’s markets.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was able to help support this important endeavor through The People’s Garden, USDA’s collaborative community garden initiative with more than 1,300 local and national organizations all working together to establish community and school gardens across the country. Read more »

USDA Foods: From American Farms to American Tables

Food Purchasing Infographic

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) infographic highlighting food purchases and programs that help feed those in need. Click to view a larger version.

USDA has programs and services that bring the bounty of American agriculture to people and communities across the country. One of the most impactful ways my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), fulfills its mission is through our USDA Foods purchase programs.  Our food purchases begin with American farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, and end their journey on the tables of our nation’s schools, food banks, and communities.

AMS plays a central role in this supply chain that delivers about 2 billion pounds of domestically-grown and -processed food each year. That equates to about 52,000 semi-trucks full of food every year—enough trucks to stretch the length of Florida tip to tip! Read more »

Sound and Sensible Initiative Projects Simplify Organic Certification

Sound and Sensible Infographic

The Sound and Sensible projects educate producers and provide them with the tools and information resources needed to streamline certification, inspections, recordkeeping, and compliance. (Click to enlarge)

USDA’s National Organic Program is the bedrock regulatory program responsible for developing national standards for organically-produced agricultural products. These standards assure consumers that products with the USDA organic seal meet consistent, uniform standards. In addition to protecting the integrity of the organic seal through a rigorous certification process and oversight, we are committed to connecting organic farmers and businesses with USDA resources, including conservation assistance, access to loans and grants, funding for organic research and education, and mitigation of pest emergencies.

The USDA organic seal and the NOP program itself have helped organic producers and businesses achieve unprecedented levels of growth for organically produced goods. The retail market for organic products has nearly doubled in value since 2009 while USDA certified organic operations continue to grow year to year. USDA’s National Organic Program is a leading global standard and major factor in this success. Read more »