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Easement Ensures Family Farm Will Be Preserved

This 12-acre constructed wetland provides wildlife habitat for migrating waterfowl and a nesting area for animals.

This 12-acre constructed wetland provides wildlife habitat for migrating waterfowl and a nesting area for animals.

Editor’s Note: As USDA shares stories of program accomplishments from across the country, Secretary Vilsack continues to remind Americans of the importance of the Farm Bill to many of these efforts. The success of the Wetlands Reserve Program in Iowa and across the nation is another reminder of the importance of Farm Bill programs for rural America. A comprehensive new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill would further expand the rural economy – and Secretary Vilsack continues to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill done as soon as possible.

A unique wetland in northeastern Iowa is helping to filter out upland sediment and other agricultural runoff flowing into the Little Cedar River. The wetland, on a farm outside Charles City, is also preserving the land and providing a wildlife haven.

In 2009, landowner Carol Savage enrolled about 70 percent of the 200-acre farm in a permanent easement through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Wetlands Reserve Program, in the process expanding an already-present wetland on the property. Read more »

Feral Swine Removal Demonstration Project

Recently I traveled to New Mexico to meet with APHIS-Wildlife Services’ personnel for a firsthand view of their Feral Swine Removal Demonstration Project that aims to eliminate feral swine from the state.  Feral swine are an invasive species with a population that has grown from approximately 1 million in 17 states in the 1980s to more than 5 million across 38 states today.  If left unchecked, their numbers could exceed 10 million by 2018.  Feral swine carry more than 30 diseases that pose a potential threat to humans, livestock, and wildlife, and the total cost of feral swine damage to U.S. agriculture, livestock facilities, private property, and natural resources is estimated to be $1.5 billion annually.

Wildlife Services’ demonstration project is benefitting from tremendous cooperation with federal, state, tribal, and nongovernmental partners, including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Department of Agriculture, New Mexico State Land Office, and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, as well as with the Mescalero Apache Tribe, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, New Mexico Wool Growers’ Association, affected counties and private land owners, among others. Read more »

Healthy Incentives Pilot Shows Small Investment Leads to Big Impact

Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack announced the results of the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) , a pilot project designed to test the impact of incentivizing fruit and vegetable purchases among SNAP recipients. The pilot showed that an ongoing investment of less than 15 cents per person per day may result in a 25 percent increase in fruit and vegetable consumption among adults. Adults receiving the HIP incentive consumed, on average, an ounce more fruits and vegetables per day than non-participants.

These are promising and exciting results. But we know that there is no silver bullet that can solve the problems of poor diet and obesity among American children and families. Despite increased public awareness of the vital role of nutritious food choices and proper physical activity on our health, the habits of most Americans—SNAP recipients and non-recipients alike—fall short of the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And although research shows that healthy foods aren’t necessarily more expensive than less healthy options, many low income people face additional time and resource challenges when it comes to putting healthy food on the table that can make less healthy options seem more appealing. Read more »

They’re Back! Web Cam Catches Sockeye Salmon Returning to Tongass Spawning Grounds

Through the end of August, you will get the chance to be entertained as sockeye salmon swim along Alaska’s Steep Creek as the adults spawn before swimming to their final deaths.

The Forest Service has placed the salmon cam in the creek on the Tongass National Forest so viewers world-wide have the opportunity to view fish in their natural setting. The ability to watch salmon in the wild is a treat for many people, but the underwater camera gives you a more intimate, unique look. Read more »

USDA Grant Recipient Featured as “America’s Best Ice Cream” on ABC’s Good Morning America

Twins Katrina and Will Edwards, both age 5, and their father Tim dig into ice cream at the Kelley's Country Creamery in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  The creamery started operations with assistance from two USDA Value Added Producer grants. USDA photo.

Twins Katrina and Will Edwards, both age 5, and their father Tim dig into ice cream at the Kelley's Country Creamery in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The creamery started operations with assistance from two USDA Value Added Producer grants. USDA photo.

What is your favorite thing about summer? Is it the longer days, trips to the lake, outings to a local amusement park, or family trips to get ice cream?

For my family, one of our favorite things is taking a family outing to a local farm and creamery, Kelley’s, for some homemade ice cream and making it a point to try a different flavor each time.

The national early morning show, Good Morning America (GMA) wanted to know what America’s favorite thing about summer is, so they asked viewers and the overwhelming response was – getting ice cream with family and friends.

Since July is National Ice Cream Month, GMA decided to find and showcase America’s Best Ice Cream. Read more »

NRCS Works with Tribe to Revive Deep-rooted Ag Practices

NRCS Soil Conservationist Rob Pearce collecting nahavita corms. Photo by Ken Lair, NRCS.

NRCS Soil Conservationist Rob Pearce collecting nahavita corms. Photo by Ken Lair, NRCS.

Native American agriculture techniques once dominated the continent, but after the arrival of Europeans, many of those traditions were nearly lost. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with tribal communities and ethnobotanists to restore some of these techniques and crops.

NRCS Earth Team volunteer Ken Lair is working with the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley in California to test a cultivation technique to stimulate growth of the plant nahavita, or blue dicks.

Traditionally, when native people harvested geophytes through digging, they did more than just retrieve the largest bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes for eating—they also replanted the smaller ones so that they could grow into new plants. Lair is testing this cultivation technique by growing nahavita at the Big Pine Indian Reservation. Read more »