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Summer Adventure in Statistics

Ben Bellman is a University of Colorado student who interned at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service through the Joint Program in Statistical Methodology during the 2013 summer.

Ben Bellman is a University of Colorado student who interned at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service through the Joint Program in Statistical Methodology during the 2013 summer.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

2013 is the International Year of Statistics. As part of this global event, every month this year USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will profile careers of individuals who are making significant contributions to improve agricultural statistics in the United States.

When I first walked through the doors to the USDA South Building in our nation’s capital, I was a newcomer, and in more ways than one. I had never worked in an office before. I had never lived in a big city. And to be honest, I didn’t know anything about agriculture. I was placed as an intern in the Public Affairs Section of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) because of my studies in Statistics and English, and I was very nervous about what I would find. As foolish as it seems now, I was flying blind my first day, completely unaware of what was waiting for me in the coming hours, let alone the next ten weeks.

What I found was a corps of statisticians committed to collecting data and calculating accurate numbers on American farming, and releasing them on a strict schedule. I quickly became aware of how important this job really is. Thousands of people in all parts of the agriculture industry, from commodity traders to policy makers to everyday farmers, depend on information from NASS to inform their decisions. It’s a huge undertaking, requiring cooperation among survey design teams, survey administration teams, data collectors, statisticians, commodity experts, and IT specialists, all spread across the country. As I joined their ranks, I was able to see many aspects of NASS operations and learn about its complexities and relevance. Read more »

Woodpecker Condos Bring Endangered Bird Back from the Brink in South Carolina

A Red-cockaded woodpecker flies from its natural nest cavity on the Francis Marion National Forest in September, 2009. (Photo credit: Martjan Lammertink)

A Red-cockaded woodpecker flies from its natural nest cavity on the Francis Marion National Forest in September, 2009. (Photo credit: Martjan Lammertink)

Many stories emerging from the Francis Marion National Forest share a common genesis in Hurricane Hugo, the massive storm estimated to have knocked down nearly a billion board feet of timber on the coastal South Carolina forest in 1989.

But in a comeback success story, there was no knock-out for the red-cockaded woodpecker.

Before Hugo, the Francis Marion had the densest, second-largest, and only known, naturally increasing population of red-cockaded woodpeckers in the country. Prior to 1989, an estimated 475 breeding pairs lived on the forest. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Immigration Reform Also an Important Labor Issue

Each year on Labor Day, we take time to reflect on the productivity of America’s workers and our responsibility as a nation to support their efforts.

This year, as we gather to celebrate, Congress has a timely opportunity to create an even stronger American workforce for generations to come. They can do so by fixing America’s broken immigration system.

The broad impacts that immigration reform would have for our economy are well documented. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and Social Security Office of the Chief Actuary, the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill would boost our economy by 3.3 percent, reduce the deficit by a projected $850 billion and add nearly $300 billion to our Social Security system by the end of the decade. Read more »

Go Outside, Play This Labor Day Weekend

Family of four reading on the grass in front of a tent with tree in background. Photo courtesy of ThinkStock.

Family of four reading on the grass in front of a tent with tree in background. Photo courtesy of ThinkStock.

What better way to spend a three-day weekend than outside with friends and family? America’s national forests and grasslands offer a wide variety of recreation opportunities ranging from backcountry camping far from civilization to developed picnic areas with all the facilities you need for the perfect end-of-summer barbecue with family and friends.

Of course, there are still fires burning in some areas of the country so check the status of your destination before heading out. Safety is key.

Here are a few ideas to help you plan your weekend: Read more »

Tackling a Tailgate, Food Safety Wins!

Grill It Safe Infographic. Click on the image to download a PDF version of the infographic.

Grill It Safe Infographic. Click on the image to download a PDF version of the infographic.

Cross posted from the FoodSafety.gov blog:

It’s tailgate season, are you ready for the kick off? Planning is the key to keeping your food safe during a tailgate so get your gear ready now. Do you have enough coolers, and all the tools you need to cook? In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking make sure you don’t forget your most valuable player, the food thermometer. It’s the only way you can be sure your meat or poultry has reached a safe temperature. Read more »

Reach Your Goals: Start with a Healthy Breakfast

At a very early age, I learned about the value of healthy eating. By the time I was 11 years old and training daily as a gymnast, I knew that eating right would help me achieve my goals. The goals I had for health, athletics, and academic performance were all tied to eating nutritious foods, and that started with breakfast. As an adult, I’ve maintained goals for fitness and health and that’s why I make sure to start each morning with a healthy breakfast.

As a young athlete it was critical to give my body the nutrients it needed to compete at a high level in the gym and in school. I learned about healthy eating by going grocery shopping with my parents and then helping to prepare meals with my family. I was also influenced by the food around me at school. Now with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s expanded School Breakfast Program beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, our nation’s youth will now have more options for starting their day off right. Read more »