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USDA Seeks Public Feedback on Policies with School Meals Charges

FNS works with states and school districts to ensure that schools are providing access to healthy meals to all children.

FNS works with states and school districts to ensure that schools are providing access to healthy meals to all children.

Ensuring access to nutritious food for America’s children is a top USDA priority. Our National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program (SBP) play vital roles to ensure healthy foods are available to our nation’s schoolchildren.  I have dedicated my career to these programs, and strongly believe in the power of their positive influence on public health.

Evidence shows that children who regularly eat balanced meals at school perform better in the classroom and are less likely to be overweight.  Their ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy, and reach their fullest potential depends on what we do right now to secure their future. Read more »

Wyoming Landowners Restore Riparian Areas in Big Horn Basin

While working for the city of Worland for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Rory Karhu, currently a NRCS district conservationist in Park County, spearheaded tamarisk removal along the Gooseberry Creek, a tributary to the Big Horn River. NRCS photo.

While working for the city of Worland for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Rory Karhu, currently a NRCS district conservationist in Park County, spearheaded tamarisk removal along the Gooseberry Creek, a tributary to the Big Horn River. NRCS photo.

It took Dee Hillberry six years before he could get a handle on encroaching and hardy invasive vegetation. Working on two separate properties, he removed tamarisk trees, or salt cedars, from 200 acres along Cottonwood Creek and Russian olive trees from 100 acres along the Big Horn River.

Despite Hillberry’s hard work in Hot Springs County, Wyoming, his efforts in restoring riparian areas were part of a larger endeavor that involved work done in phases over several years, over hundreds of miles, and with numerous partners in the Big Horn River basin. The basin is about 100 miles wide, and so far, more than 13,000 acres of invasive trees have been removed from the riparian area. Read more »

US Forest Service Entomologist Takes on Pesky Insects to Make a Difference in the Northeast

Ryan Hanavan, entomologist for the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry. (Courtesy Ryan Hanavan)

Ryan Hanavan, entomologist for the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry. (Courtesy Ryan Hanavan)

Ryan Hanavan is a multi-faceted individual who enjoys his work on the front lines of forest health as an entomologist for the Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry.

“I have always been fascinated by insects and this career has essentially allowed me to explore a lifelong curiosity,” Hanavan said. “I have also always been interested in using new technology to improve methods and techniques and the Forest Service has been extremely supportive in developing faster, better, and cheaper tools for detecting and monitoring forest pests.” Read more »

Farm to School: We Are Here to Help!

Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Since the official start of the USDA Farm to School Program, we’ve focused on making sure schools have the tools they need to bring local products into the lunchroom and teach children where their food comes from. As October is National Farm to School Month, it seems an opportune time to take stock of the many resources available from USDA to help bring the farm to school.

One of our newest resources, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, covers procurement basics — how to define local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. The guide is complemented by a twelve-part webinar series called Finding, Buying and Serving Local Foods. Our fact sheets cover topics that range from USDA grants and loans that support farm to school activities to working with Cooperative Extension professionals to grow your program, while a brand new Farm to School Planning Toolkit offers eleven distinct chapters on everything from school gardens to menu planning, marketing and more. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Family Farmers Do More Than Feed the World

Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack posted a guest column on the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations blog in honor of World Food Day. The UN General Assembly has designated 2014 “International Year of Family Farming.” This is a strong signal that the international community recognizes the important contribution of family farmers to world food security.

The headlines today can often seem bleak: worries of terrorism, global health, climate change, drought and hunger dominate the news cycle. These are extraordinarily complex and challenging issues that will impact and forever transform the lives of future generations.

Solving them is not simply about military or economic might. While they are not always fully appreciated and recognized for their capacity to address these challenges, I believe the role that agriculture and family farmers can play is significant. Read more »

Trade Show Helps Firms Capitalize on Growing Indian Appetite for U.S. Products

Bev Flaten, of JM Grain, shows Tom Vajda, the U.S. Consul General for Mumbai, products she is showcasing at the Annapoorna World of Food India trade show.

Bev Flaten, of JM Grain, shows Tom Vajda, the U.S. Consul General for Mumbai, products she is showcasing at the Annapoorna World of Food India trade show.

Breaking into a new market can be a challenge for a business – especially if that market is half a world away, with a different culture and language. But there is help available. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) has offices across the globe that assist American agricultural businesses with exporting and navigating international markets.

One goal of our office here in Mumbai is to help U.S. producers do business in India. For example, we help American exporters find reliable buyers, follow technical regulations, and negotiate cultural and business practices. We also provide them with research on market trends and other valuable market intelligence. Read more »