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Memphis Girl Wins National Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell talks about a drawing by Joyce Qin, the 11-year-old Memphis-area girl who became the 2014 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest winner. Looking on from left to right is Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl and Renee Green-Smith, National Information Center manager. (U.S. Forest Service/Dominic Cumberland)

U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell talks about a drawing by Joyce Qin, the 11-year-old Memphis-area girl who became the 2014 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest winner. Looking on from left to right is Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl and Renee Green-Smith, National Information Center manager. (U.S. Forest Service/Dominic Cumberland)

Joyce Qin has some pretty proud grandparents. They made their first trip from China to Washington, D.C., to watch U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell honor the 11-year-old Memphis-area student as the national winner of the 2014 Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl Poster Contest.

“Joyce competed against 30,000 contestants. This is quite an accomplishment,” Tidwell said as Qin’s grandparents, parents, brother and a host of Forest Service employees looked on. “We use this contest as a tool to convey our messages about preventing wildfires and caring for the land. Through artistry, we have another way to connect people to the importance of water, air and wildlife.” Read more »

USDA Working with Serbian Meat Industry to Facilitate Trade

Through USDA, the United States works with countries across the globe to ensure our Nation’s interests are represented in the international meat industry.

Through USDA, the United States works with countries across the globe to ensure our Nation’s interests are represented in the international meat industry.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has the vital mission helping market American agricultural products competitively in the marketplace.  One way AMS meets this mission is through our globally recognized meat standards.  AMS has participated in the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) for many years to help develop global agricultural quality standards that facilitate trade – essentially ensuring everyone speaks the same trade language.

Recently, AMS traveled to Serbia to provide technical assistance to the Serbian Government and meat industry.  In cooperation with the USDA’s Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS), AMS has worked with Serbia to help modernize their meat standards and specifications. Read more »

Addressing the Needs of Working Families in Rural America

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post:

Last Wednesday, I participated in a regional forum of the White House Working Families Summit that was held at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. Coming from a small town in Southwest Georgia myself, I can relate to the unique challenges that rural Americans face. Growing up, my father worked seven days a week on our peanut and cattle farm with help from my mother. To make sure our family had a constant source of income and health insurance, my mother also worked off the farm at the local independent bank. I am fortunate to be the product of hard working parents who provided my sister and me with the best opportunities possible.

All families have a right to have access to a good education system, affordable healthcare and jobs. Our rural families are concerned about creating strong prospects for their children, whether it is on or off the farm. But it is also essential that there are opportunities that will attract young people back to rural areas and help us secure the future of agriculture. Read more »

People’s Garden in Illinois Provides Food, Sanctuary for Pollinators

The volunteers worked four hours to get the 710 plants in the ground. NRCS photo.

The volunteers worked four hours to get the 710 plants in the ground. NRCS photo.

What’s the buzz going on in Princeton, Ill.? A food fest for our pollinator friends, that’s what.

This is a People’s Garden designed specifically for pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The idea came to Ellen Starr, area biologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, while walking her dog one day.

“Populations of many pollinators are in serious decline,” said Starr, a fan of pollinators. “So what better way to educate the public about the issue than create a garden?” Read more »

Small Loan Makes Big Difference for Family in Remote Area of Navajo Nation

Mark Snyder, Tony Hernandez and the Schulers check out the solar array.

Mark Snyder, Tony Hernandez and the Schulers check out the solar array.

Some mornings Nona Schuler would make the teeth-jarring drive along a washboard dirt road from her home on the Navajo Nation to her job in town only to discover when she got there that her earrings didn’t match. Without electricity and lighting, it was often difficult for her to see what she was doing in those early morning hours.

It was those small inconveniences that she spoke of most during a visit to her home on June 17 by USDA Rural Development Housing Administrator Tony Hernandez.

Hernandez, my staff, and I were at the Schulers to present the family with a certificate naming them as Homeownership Family of the Year for Arizona Rural Development. The designation was in honor of a solar PV system that was added to the Schuler home through a partnership with USDA, Grand Canyon Trust and Snyder Electric. Read more »

Exciting New Markets Open Up For Dairy Farmers Across the U.S.

U.S. dairy exports are currently valued at $6 billion and the country is the world’s leading exporter of skim milk powder, cheese, whey, and lactose products. USDA Photo Courtesy of Scott Bauer.

U.S. dairy exports are currently valued at $6 billion and the country is the world’s leading exporter of skim milk powder, cheese, whey, and lactose products. USDA Photo Courtesy of Scott Bauer.

Every June, USDA joins the rest of the country to celebrate Dairy Month. It is a time to thank our nation’s dairy producers and processors for their tireless work to produce quality dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Here at USDA, besides getting our fill of our favorite dairy products, we celebrate our nation’s dairy industry every day by finding new markets where people can enjoy their products. This often entails working with other countries’ governments to negotiate export and import requirements as well as helping businesses meet these requirements.

Our nation’s dairy exporters reach new markets with the help of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). Export certificates are often the critical piece in the trade puzzle. On this front, AMS offers certificates for more than 80% of the countries that accept U.S. dairy exports. Our Dairy Programs can verify that businesses’ dairy products meet export requirements. The AMS Dairy Grading Branch provides export certificates for products or conditions for which they have documentation for or from plants they inspect. Read more »