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A ‘Tree-fecta’ with the Oldest, Biggest, Tallest Trees on Public Lands

Dave and Bethany trying to absorb the magnitude of a giant Sequoia.

Dave and Bethany trying to absorb the magnitude of a giant Sequoia.

For me, Take your Daughters and Sons to Work Day has a different meaning as an employee of the U.S. Forest Service.  With a passion for our nation’s natural resources and the great outdoors, I want Bethany Atkins, my daughter, to have the opportunity to explore America’s treasured public lands more often than visiting me at work one day a year. So we embarked on a summer family journey to explore some nearby national forests and parks. I am proud to share part of her journal from this experience and I encourage others to find a national forest or grassland near you to explore.

The grey winters of Portland, Ore., often prompt me to look simultaneously forward and backward. I look forward to what adventures I might plan for the lengthy days of the summer. I will always look back on recent trip to visit the oldest, the biggest and the tallest trees on earth; a trip my pun-friendly family quickly dubbed “The Tree-fecta.” Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Continuing the Fight Against Childhood Obesity

Ensuring the health and well-being of our nation’s children is a top priority for President Obama, and for all of us at USDA. We have focused in recent years on expanding access, affordability and availability of healthy foods for families and children.

Recently, we learned of some promising new results in the fight against obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of obesity among young, low-income children appears to be declining. In 19 states, the obesity rate among low-income preschoolers has dropped for the first time in decades – and in many other states the obesity rate has leveled off. Read more »

USDA and the HACU National Internship Program: A Recipe for Success

AMS Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst Keven Valentin, a former HACU intern at work. Valentin was an intern with AMS for two years through the HACU National Internship Program. Photo Courtesy of Hakim Fobia, AMS Public Affairs

AMS Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst Keven Valentin, a former HACU intern at work. Valentin was an intern with AMS for two years through the HACU National Internship Program. Photo Courtesy of Hakim Fobia, AMS Public Affairs

Reach one, teach one. That is the approach that USDA has taken in its partnership with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) National Internship Program. As a current employee with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and a former HACU intern, I am glad to help continue this tradition.

The HACU National Internship Program helps talented students in more than 400 colleges and universities gain valuable experience through paid internships at federal, private, and non-profit organizations. USDA has been a leading organization working with the program, hosting nearly 1900 HACU student interns since 1994. I am part of the nearly 46% of former HACU interns who earned the opportunity to stay on board with the federal government after finishing my degree. Read more »

Innovative Education and Public Safety through USDA Funding

Bear Creek Community Charter School in Bear Creek Township recently received USDA Rural Development Community Facility Loan funding to construct a new charter school to provide innovative education opportunities for K-8th grade. Photo is an interior architectural rendering of the central commons courtesy of Hemmler and Camayd Architects. USDA photo.

Bear Creek Community Charter School in Bear Creek Township recently received USDA Rural Development Community Facility Loan funding to construct a new charter school to provide innovative education opportunities for K-8th grade. Photo is an interior architectural rendering of the central commons courtesy of Hemmler and Camayd Architects. USDA photo.

Bear Creek Community Charter School has a history dating back to Civil War Brigadier General Paul Ambrose Oliver whose heirs donated the land for the school in 1929.  The original Oliver School was a traditional one-room school house, constructed as a project of the Works Progress Administration (instituted by presidential executive order under the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of April 1935, to generate public jobs for the unemployed). Read more »

Super Storm Sandy Whips Up Super Recovery Satisfaction

New Jersey farmer Liang Shao Hua listens to NRCS technical advisor Frank Wu provide advice in Chinese Mandarin, Liang’s native language. His limited English proficiency restricted his exposure to USDA farm programs until Tropical Storm Sandy made it necessary for Liang to connect with the department for assistance. He is now an FSA loan recipient and appreciates the cost-share benefits of the Emergency Conservation Program funds that assisted his family’s clean-up efforts.

New Jersey farmer Liang Shao Hua listens to NRCS technical advisor Frank Wu provide advice in Chinese Mandarin, Liang’s native language. His limited English proficiency restricted his exposure to USDA farm programs until Tropical Storm Sandy made it necessary for Liang to connect with the department for assistance. He is now an FSA loan recipient and appreciates the cost-share benefits of the Emergency Conservation Program funds that assisted his family’s clean-up efforts.

Disasters create pain.  And recovery from disasters creates partnerships and opportunity.

That is the lesson Liang Shao Hua learned in the past year after Tropical Storm Sandy, also known as Super Storm Sandy, destroyed his New Jersey high-tunnel farming operation and left him wondering how to manage his loss.

Liang, a Chinese American with very limited English proficiency, relied first on his American-born son, Peter, a 21-year-old college student studying at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York. Peter obtained USDA paperwork from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) that helped his father apply for Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) funds.  He, his brother, David, 19, and mother, Pei Yin, joined Liang in the clean-up efforts.

Liang Shao Hua was among 315 successful applicants for ECP, one-third from New Jersey.  The applicants stretched from West Virginia to New Hampshire. That was the wide swath where Sandy and her trailing cold front left a path of destruction to Atlantic Coast and New England farms. Read more »

USDA Chief Scientist Answers Your Questions on STEM and Agricultural Science Degrees; Join Our Twitter Chat Using #StudyAgScience

Join @ScienceAtUSDA for a Twitter chat on STEM & Agricultural Science education tomorrow at 2pm ET. Use #StudyAgScience to participate.

Join @ScienceAtUSDA for a Twitter chat on STEM & Agricultural Science education tomorrow at 2pm ET. Use #StudyAgScience to participate.

Do you have questions about why there is a big push for students to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? Or what jobs, in addition to farming, are available for graduates with agricultural science degrees? USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics Dr. Catherine Woteki will host a live Virtual Office Hours session on Twitter this Friday, August 23, 2012 at 2 p.m. EDT to answer your questions about what USDA is doing to make sure we are keeping the pipeline filled with promising students. Read more »