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Bioenergy, Bioproducts Education Program Builds Student Confidence, Equips Educators

Morina Ricablanca

Morina Ricablanca teaches bioenergy and other subjects to special needs students at East Hoke Middle School in North Carolina. (Image courtesy of Morina Ricablanca)

Being an educator is in Morina Ricablanca’s blood. Growing up in a family of teachers in the Philippines, she knew she would someday pursue a career in education. Ricablanca participated in an outreach program assisting troubled youth while attending Manuel L. Quezon University Law School in Manila. She realized then it was time to join the family business of teaching.

Her decision has led her to a successful career working with special needs students at East Hoke Middle School in rural North Carolina. Ricablanca was named the “2014 Teacher of the Year” for her school district, partly due to her work helping three of her students win the school’s science fair. Read more »

Ensuring Program Integrity in the WIC Program

Two women looking at the mother's baby breastfeeding

FNS has taken a range of steps to ensure the highest level of integrity in WIC.

For more than 40 years, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) has provided supplemental foods and nutrition services vital to the health and nutrition of vulnerable moms, newborns and young children. And throughout those four decades, we’ve had a long-standing history of working with WIC state agencies to ensure program resources and taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently.

While a 2013 study found a relatively low rate of improper vendor payments, (representing less than 1.5 percent of WIC food expenses), FNS has and will continue to intervene when problems arise and to require state agencies to improve the integrity of their programs. Read more »

ARS Employee Volunteers Time, Expertise to Iowa Community Garden

Agricultural research science technician Fred Engstrom (left), a parent volunteer and two Central Elementary students measuring out lumber

Agricultural research science technician Fred Engstrom (left), a parent volunteer and two Central Elementary students measure out lumber for building raised beds at Noah’s Garden.

As an agricultural research science technician at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station in Ames, Iowa, Fred Engstrom’s responsibilities are wide-ranging. They include tasks from managing the station’s nursery and field plots to modifying research equipment and collecting yield data for critical projects such as the Germplasm Enhancement of Maize program.

But the ARS station isn’t the only beneficiary of Engstrom’s versatile contributions. His time and technical know-how have also been praised by members of Central Elementary in Nevada, Iowa, where Engstrom helped to build the raised beds and irrigation system for the school’s community garden, dubbed “Noah’s Garden.” Read more »

The Cost of Fighting Wildfires is Sapping Forest Service Budget

Heavy helicopter drops fire retardant

U.S. Forest Service photo by Kari Greer.

Cross-posted from the Seattle Times:

Wildfires are now burning in Washington and across the West, in a year that may become the hottest on record. As our forests go up in flames, so too does the budget of the U.S. Forest Service, putting at risk lives, property, clean air and water, and jobs for thousands.

The number of fires the Forest Service and its partners fight every year is staggering: There have been more than 36,000 fires this year alone. And although we are successful at suppressing or managing 98 percent of fires when they start, the 1 to 2 percent of fires that escape are expensive, constituting 30 percent of annual costs. Read more »

Cover Crops and No-Till Help South Dakota Lamb Farmer

NRCS employee works with farmer

NRCS helps farmers and ranchers to better understand and use soil data and analysis –from traditional soil testing to the new Haney Soil Test.

Demand for fresh lamb from ­five star restaurants drives Bob Corio’s use of cover crops and better forages that provide feed but also build organic matter in the ­fields he farms in Union County, South Dakota.

“We needed something else for our sheep to eat other than hay,” says Corio, who has a flock of Dorper sheep and a herd of Dexter heritage breed cattle on their farm outside of Jefferson.

“I’m always concerned about the animals. I want something for them to graze all of the time. And, I want my sheep to graze at least until the snow hits. They grazed all Winter last year, but I started supplementing with hay and baleage in mid-January,” says Corio. Read more »

Partnering with Faith-Based and Community Organizations to Better Serve People in Need

At USDA we work through partnerships to provide opportunities to people in need.  Through relationships with both faith-based and secular community organizations, we are able to achieve our shared goals representative of America’s core values of caring for each other, including making sure that every family and every child is healthy and hunger free. Our partners serve thousands of Americans each day, providing emergency food assistance to families and nutritious meals to kids in the summer when school is closed.

Partnerships with community organizations are critical; fidelity to constitutional principles is equally important.   So we have worked to develop regulations that will ensure that we can continue to partner with faith-based organizations in the delivery of USDA-supported services, while ensuring that the religious liberty of those organizations as well as families and taxpayers is respected. Read more »