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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 »

Forest Service Program Introduces Kids to Natural Resource Careers

Two students with the Youth Forest Monitoring Program monitor the impact of weeds in a meadow near Webb Lake in the Scapegoat Wilderness. Forest Service photo.

Two students with the Youth Forest Monitoring Program monitor the impact of weeds in a meadow near Webb Lake in the Scapegoat Wilderness. Forest Service photo.

In an age where technology tends to focus the attention of youth indoors, getting kids outdoors and interested in natural resource careers is even more vital today.

Since 1998, an innovative U.S. Forest Service seven-week summer program in central Montana has been achieving that goal by immersing high school students in forest management. They gather data and present findings to Forest Service officials and other representatives in their local communities.

Students involved with the Youth Forest Monitoring Program spend the summer monitoring the health of the national forests at a variety of different locations in the area, but one of the high points is their three-day trip into the Scapegoat Wilderness on the Helena National Forest northwest of Lincoln, Mont. Though the area isn’t far from where many of these students have grown up, the trip gives them the opportunity to experience a protected area many had never visited before. Earlier this year, 13 students along with four field instructors were there to gather data on recreation impacts, water quality and document the spread of invasive weeds. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: As Conferees Convene, Priorities for a Farm Bill

While rural Americans have already waited too long for passage of a new Food, Farm and Jobs bill, this week brought a promising new development. Conferees from the Senate and House met to begin work on the creation of a bipartisan, long-term Farm Bill. Their work could not be more timely – and they are in the spotlight now more than ever before.

The Farm Bill is crucial to America’s farmers, ranchers and producers. It provides a necessary safety net for producers centered around a strong crop insurance program and a dependable set of disaster assistance programs. The last two years of drought and other weather-related disasters underscores how important that safety net is to keeping producers in business.

The Farm Bill’s importance extends beyond the farm safety net. Read more »

Philadelphia Fights Hunger Through Academic, Faith and Community Partnerships

The Director of USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Norah Deluhery, eats lunch with kids at a Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Nutritional Development Services (NDS) summer food service site.  The Center maintains integral relationships with partners like NDS to ensure disadvantaged children don’t go hungry when school is out.

The Director of USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Norah Deluhery, eats lunch with kids at a Philadelphia Archdiocese’s Nutritional Development Services (NDS) summer food service site. The Center maintains integral relationships with partners like NDS to ensure disadvantaged children don’t go hungry when school is out.

The City of Brotherly Love puts its motto into practice. I saw this firsthand when I travelled to Philadelphia to meet with a network of community leaders who partner with USDA through its Summer Food Service Program. With this program, USDA subsidizes nutritious summer lunches for students who need them and works with community partners to deliver those meals.

In Philadelphia, about 22% of children live in households that have trouble putting enough food on the table for every member of the family. That means when school is out, and school meals are not available, many kids are vulnerable. The Summer Food Service Program plays a critical role in making sure kids have access to nutritious meals so that they can begin the school year well nourished and alert.  My friend and former director of the White House’s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives during the George W. Bush Administration, Professor John DiIulio, invited me to Philadelphia where he currently works at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fox Leadership Program. Read more »