Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Conservation Work Has a Place in Your Backyard

This backyard pond in Palm Beach, Fla. features a variety of wetland plants.

This backyard pond in Palm Beach, Fla. features a variety of wetland plants.

Whether you live in the country, on an average-sized suburban yard, or on a tiny plot in the city you can help protect the environment and add beauty and interest to your surroundings with backyard conservation.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service works with farmers and ranchers to make conservation improvements to their land, resulting in cleaner water and air, healthier soil and better habitat for wildlife.

But conservation work is not just for farmers or ranchers. You can help protect natural resources, whether your place is measured in acres, feet or flower pots. Read more »

The US Forest Service Wants You to See Fall Colors – No Matter Where You Live

A surreal blend of colors harkens at winter yet provides peaceful warmth to fall on the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho. While some may feel fall colors signals the end of summer, others see it as the beginning of the rebirth of spring. (U.S. Forest Service)

A surreal blend of colors harkens at winter yet provides peaceful warmth to fall on the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho. While some may feel fall colors signals the end of summer, others see it as the beginning of the rebirth of spring. (U.S. Forest Service)

What to see, when to see it, and where to see it is what the U.S. Forest Service 2013 Fall Colors web pages are all about — making the colors of fall that much easier to find, appreciate and understand.

The glorious colors that come with autumn across our nation should not be missed. From New Hampshire to Arkansas and from Alaska to Virginia, and nearly every state in between, the changing shades of leaves from green to brilliant reds, vibrant oranges and golden yellows is a must see. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Why a Farm Bill Extension Won’t Work

In just a few days, Congress will come back to Washington, D.C. and Rural America is counting on passage of a comprehensive, multiyear Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible.

In January, Congress extended some of the 2008 Farm Bill programs for nine months. This didn’t include important disaster assistance programs for farmers and ranchers. On September 30, many of these programs will expire, leaving producers and rural communities without a wide variety of Farm Bill programs.

While Congress has already extended these programs once, another extension of current law isn’t common sense and it won’t solve this challenge. Read more »

USDA Rural Development Supports New York Water Quality Improvement Effort

Water Quality Agreement:  From left, Liz Van Buren, Saputo Dairy Foods; Richard Maxey, Delhi mayor; James Thompson, Delaware County; SUNY Delhi President Candace Vancko and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. USDA Photo.

Water Quality Agreement: From left, Liz Van Buren, Saputo Dairy Foods; Richard Maxey, Delhi mayor; James Thompson, Delaware County; SUNY Delhi President Candace Vancko and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. USDA Photo.

Late last month, I had the privilege of joining New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Delhi College President Candace Vancko, Chairman James Thomson of Delaware County and Saputo Dairy Foods USA Manager Liz Van Buren to discuss the Center of Excellence in Watershed Applications and Technology Based Economic Revitalization (COE in WATER) Initiative.

The COE in WATER is an innovative partnership with the State University of New York (SUNY), the local business community as well as federal, state and local governments who are committed to stimulating economic development and creating jobs in rural upstate NY. Read more »

Thanks to USDA, Rural Arkansas Residents and Businesses Have Safer Water

Administrator Padalino speaking at the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority Treatment Plant in Arkansas. The opening marked completion of the 500th water and environmental project completed by USDA through the Recovery Act. USDA photo.

Administrator Padalino speaking at the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority Treatment Plant in Arkansas. The opening marked completion of the 500th water and environmental project completed by USDA through the Recovery Act. USDA photo.

USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator John Padalino recently visited the 500th water and wastewater project completed under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. “The Recovery Act has brought improved water and wastewater services to nearly 1.7 million rural residents,” said the Administrator.

Administrator Padalino made his remarks at the Ozark Mountain Regional Public Water Authority Treatment Plant in Arkansas.

Most people in the U.S. take for granted the fact that safe drinking water is readily available for use by simply turning on a tap, or pushing a button on a fountain.  However, many rural communities within the U.S. must deal with negative impacts associated with contaminated water sources at their homes and schools. Read more »

Partnering with Cooperative Extension to Support Farm to School

Adam McCurry, Agricultural Technician for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Yancey County conducts a lesson about local apple varieties before taking students outside to plant an apple tree at Bald Creek Elementary School in Burnsville, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Asheville, North Carolina)

Adam McCurry, Agricultural Technician for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Yancey County conducts a lesson about local apple varieties before taking students outside to plant an apple tree at Bald Creek Elementary School in Burnsville, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Asheville, North Carolina)

Kids are headed back to school and so are county Extension agents.

As schools continue to teach kids where their food comes from and bring local and regional products into the school cafeteria, one group they may want to partner with on their farm to school activities is their local or regional Cooperative Extension office. Cooperative Extension Systems are administered by each state’s Land-Grant University System. Programs are available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. and most states have local or regional Extension offices that are staffed by one or more experts, often referred to as Extension agents or Extension educators.

Nationally, more and more Cooperative Extension Systems are devoting key resources to supporting farm to school activities. Of the 68 fiscal year 2013 USDA Farm to School Grants distributed, 25 percent included partners from Cooperative Extension. State Extension Systems such as Ohio, Minnesota, and Illinois have already dedicated resources and personnel to leading their states farm to school programs. And at the upcoming national Extension conference, farm to school and local foods are sure to be a major themes discussed. Read more »