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Managing for Wildfires Every Single Day of the Year

Research Forester Mike Battaglia leading a field tour at the Manitou Experimental Forest

Research Forester Mike Battaglia leads a field tour at the Manitou Experimental Forest, in Colorado, describing research aimed at understanding how different tree densities influence growth rates and subsequent re-entry, in order to maintain longevity of restoration treatments. Photo credit: US Forest Service

On June 9, 2012, a lightning strike sparked a wildfire in the mountains west of Fort Collins, Colorado, burning into the Roosevelt National Forest. The High Park fire burned over 87,000 acres and remains the third largest fire in recorded Colorado history, with more than 250 homes destroyed.

Matt Champa, assistant prescribed fire specialist with the Canyon Lakes Ranger District of the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests, remembers clearly the two and a half weeks the High Park Fire burned. Matt was among the individuals actively working on the ground to suppress and contain the fire; at its height, more than 2,000 people were involved in the suppression effort. Read more »

Surf’s High for a Desert Plant

Guayule, a desert shrub

Guayule is a desert shrub. USDA-ARS photo.

When you hear “surf’s up,” the last thing you might think of is a desert shrub called “guayule” (pronounced “why-oo-lee”). But technology that began with a partnership between USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and a small Arizona-based company, Yulex Corporation, recently put wetsuits made with this daisy relative on the market that are more elastic and more comfortable than those made with conventional, petroleum-based neoprene.

The wetsuits were created with Yulex’s guayule natural rubber by Patagonia, a high-end outdoor clothing company, which currently produces and sells the wetsuits.  They are also available from other retailers. The wetsuit—with its 60/40 guayule and petroleum-based neoprene blend—is proving to be popular. Surfer Magazine said: “It’s the cashmere of wetsuit material.” Read more »

Summer Meal Programs Offer Nutrition, Combat Hunger for America’s Children and Teens

Cross-posted from the National Dairy Council blog:

Summer vacation is something all kids look forward to, but unfortunately hunger doesn’t take a vacation. More than 21 million American children and teens depend on free or reduced-price school meals during the school year, and when school cafeterias close, many of them lose their most important source of balanced nutrition and are at risk of going hungry.

That’s why the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and dedicated partners like National Dairy Council are working to provide nutritious meals to hungry kids throughout the summer. We know that children are particularly vulnerable to hunger and poor nutrition during this time. And our summer meals programs are well-poised to help fill this gap, serving as an important source of nutritious food for children and youth during the long summer break. Read more »

MyPlate Broadens its Reach

The English version of the MyPlate icon translated into Vietnamese

The English version of the MyPlate icon was translated into Vietnamese.

As part of Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) is pleased to announce the translation of the ChooseMyPlate 10 Tips resource and MyPlate icon from English into 18 additional languages. The Office of Minority Health, of the Department of Health and Human Services (OMH/HHS), and CNPP co-branded the translated tip sheet and are working together to promote these newly translated documents to ensure that individuals, nutrition and health professionals, and other community leaders have access to these helpful resources.

“Because the nation’s Asian American and Pacific Islander population is incredibly diverse, the new MyPlate resources will be useful tools to reach an even wider audience with easy-to-understand nutrition guidance,” said Capt. Samuel Wu, Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Health Policy Lead for the Office of Minority Health. Read more »

Using Open Data in Creative Ways to Solve Problems

Want to make better use of forest, park and trail datasets? Try a hackathon. A hackthon is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development and hardware development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects. Hackathons typically last between a day and a week. Some hackathons are intended simply for educational or social purposes, although in many cases the goal is to create usable software. This popular forum for collaborative innovation has become an important method for developing modern solutions for government interactions.  This particular hackathon occurred on April 11-12 in Washington, D.C., and involved the USDA and the Department of Interior (DOI) for the myAmerica Developers Summit. The summit is an initiative supporting the National Travel and Tourism Strategy by improving access to information about federal lands and waters so it’s easier for people to discover and experience America’s natural and national treasures. Read more »

Technology Helping us Follow the Food Path

Cattle at a farm

A 2011 FSMIP grant awarded Michigan State University matching funds to develop a pilot project to explore ways to improve local and regional beef production and marketing systems. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University.

It is amazing to see such an array of meats available in today’s grocery stores. Traveling across the country in my role at USDA, I hear from so many folks that want to know where their beef comes from, what the animal was fed or how was it raised.  I also know farmers have a real commitment to their crops and animals and are happy to share their stories with customers.

Farmers markets are one way for small producers to tell consumers directly where their products were grown or raised.  However, mid-sized farms face unique challenges as they are too large to dedicate the time and resources to participate in farmers markets, but too small to compete effectively in large commercial markets.  New technology could make connecting consumers to mid-sized farmers easier no matter where meat is purchased. Read more »