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Did YOU Know that the USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program Helps Families Affected by Disasters?

FNS Southeast Regional Administrator Donald Arnette (far left) pitches in with West Alabama Food Bank workers at a make-shift food bank on May 11, handing out disaster food assistance in a Publix parking lot in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after tornadoes hit the area. Food banks can work with FNS to supply food to victims of disasters. USDA Photo by Debbie Smoot.

FNS Southeast Regional Administrator Donald Arnette (far left) pitches in with West Alabama Food Bank workers at a make-shift food bank on May 11, handing out disaster food assistance in a Publix parking lot in Tuscaloosa, Ala., after tornadoes hit the area. Food banks can work with FNS to supply food to victims of disasters. USDA Photo by Debbie Smoot.

September is National Preparedness Month, a time to evaluate the many ways that we can prepare our families and communities before, during, and after a disaster or emergency. Whether they come in the form of a hurricane, earthquake or drought, being prepared is the best defense against long-term, negative impacts. One of the ways USDA supports disaster victims is by supplying food for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). These purchases not only help those unfortunate enough to be affected by the disaster, they also put to use the abundance of foods produced by American farmers and processors.

Through our Commodity Procurement Program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) makes purchases for household federal food programs like TEFAP. Some of the food that supplies this program, which is administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), comes from the AMS bonus buy program. Read more »

HACU Empowers the Next Generation

The Lincoln National Forest served as the in-field experience location for HACU intern, Jewel Graw.

The Lincoln National Forest served as the in-field experience location for HACU intern, Jewel Graw.

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.

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area will highlight those who are making significant contributions to American agriculture.

Have you ever dreamed of having a beautiful, picturesque landscape as your “office” environment?  Ever thought of learning the full spectrum of a potential career in public service?  Students working with USDA’s Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) National Internship Program have that chance.

From every corner of the United States, HACU interns are experiencing the full range of opportunities USDA has to offer.  The HACU National Internship provides students with paid internship opportunities at federal agencies, corporations, and non-profit organizations.  These internships, 15 weeks in the Fall or Spring, and 10 weeks in the Summer, provide students with unique work experience and the host agencies with a valuable recruitment resource. Read more »

USDA Initiative Helps Farmers Keep Water Clean in Chesapeake Bay

A district conservationist with NRCS (right) works with a Maryland farmer to discuss conservation options for his farm that include improving water quality in the Chesapeake watershed. NRCS photo.

A district conservationist with NRCS (right) works with a Maryland farmer to discuss conservation options for his farm that include improving water quality in the Chesapeake watershed. NRCS photo.

You don’t have to dig too deep to understand the connection of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to clean water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. For nearly 80 years, conservationists with this USDA agency have built a stellar reputation of helping producers save their soil and improve water quality nationwide with the use of technical expertise and financial assistance.

Conservationists have used this expertise to help farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed achieve similar goals.  Wise land management is one significant way to prevent the erosion and nutrient runoff that threatens the Bay. Read more »

Do YOU Have a Plan to Keep Food Safe during Severe Weather?

This year has been an important reminder that disaster can strike anytime and anyplace.  Nearly every region of the country experienced some form of extreme weather event, including wildfires in California, extreme cold and snow through the Midwest and East, and destructive tornadoes in the South and Central Plains.

All of these events resulted in the loss of power for hundreds of thousands, and without power comes food safety challenges.  The temperature and sanitation of food storage areas is crucial to preventing bacterial growth, and severe weather and other emergencies can compromise this.  Knowing what to do in these instances can minimize the need to throw away food and the risk of getting sick. Read more »

Farming is a Business

The new Farm Bill has created many new tools and resources for beginning farmers and ranchers – and questions about which programs are right for their operations.

That is why I took to Google+ this month to talk about how the new Farm Bill can help new and beginning farmers and ranchers.

For the hangout, I was joined by Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Deputy Under Secretary Karis Gutter, Agriculture Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo and Natural Resources Conservation Service Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin. Together, we shared with new and beginning farmers information about the programs and services offered by USDA through the new Farm Bill – including support for beginning farmers and ranchers by increasing funding for beginning farmer development, facilitating farmland transition to the next generation of farmers, and improving outreach and communication to military veterans about farming and ranching opportunities. Read more »

Big Help for Small Producers

A USDA pilot program is helping small producers reach more retail markets by making Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification more accessible and affordable.  Under the pilot, cooperatives, food hubs and other groups of small producers can pool resources to implement food safety training programs, perform internal inspections and share the cost of GAP certification.

A USDA pilot program is helping small producers reach more retail markets by making Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification more accessible and affordable. Under the pilot, cooperatives, food hubs and other groups of small producers can pool resources to implement food safety training programs, perform internal inspections and share the cost of GAP certification.

For their communities, small farmers are anything but small. Their contributions are quite large – not only do they provide food for local residents – they also create jobs and economic opportunities.  However, retailer requirements and the cost of marketing can make it difficult for small producers to scale up and reach larger markets. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is working to remove those barriers by offering a number of services that help small and local producers grow and sustain their businesses.

In the produce industry, more and more retailers require suppliers to have Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, which verifies that the operation is following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration.  For small farmers, getting GAP certified can be difficult and expensive. To help offset some of these costs, the AMS Specialty Crops Inspection Division and Transportation and Marketing Program are partnering with the Wallace Center at Winrock International to implement a Group GAP Pilot Project. Read more »