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The Foundation is in the STEM

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

When I look at tree leaves, the stems always strike me as remarkable.  Although typically slender, they’re pretty resilient, firmly anchoring the leaves to the branches to withstand the extreme whims of Mother Nature.

In the same way that stems provide a sturdy foundation so that the leaves can make food for the tree, science, technology, engineering, and math (frequently referred to as STEM) education provides a strong base for a wide range of activities. Read more »

USDA Talks Honeybees on Twitter

Last week’s cover of TIME magazine featured a story about the rapid rate of decline of honeybee populations across the globe. The article focuses on the question of the price we’ll pay if we don’t figure out what is killing the honeybee. A daunting thought when you think about the fact that one-third of all food and beverages are made possible through pollination and pollinators are valued at $15 billion annually.

This morning, Jim Jones from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), author Hannah Nordhaus and I joined TIME journalist Bryan Walsh on Twitter to discuss the topic and what is being done and what needs to be done. If you happened to miss the Twitter chat, you can follow what was said by searching #TIMEbees. Read more »

Industry Associations Use USDA Market News to Create Apps

Screenshot of the ASI Market News mobile app.

Screenshot of the ASI Market News mobile app.

For nearly 100 years, USDA Market News has been collecting market information on behalf of those working in American agriculture to provide current, unbiased price and sales information.

Covering both domestic and international markets, the data is disseminated within hours of collection to help market and distribute farm commodities.  It is all provided publicly and free of charge via the Internet and other electronic means, in printed reports, by telephone recordings, and through the news media.  The agricultural industry relies on the thousands of market reports across hundreds of commodities, often using the data to create reports of their own. Read more »

Alpine Team Leading the Way to Stewardship Success in Texas

When the sign-up window opened for USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in 2012, the five-member NRCS Alpine Resource Team was ready. The team is responsible for more than nine million acres of the Trans-Pecos region of Texas, and protecting the region’s natural resources comes first.

CSP is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers who are already participating in NRCS conservation programs to take their efforts to the next level. Participants address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner with financial and technical assistance from NRCS—not only by tackling new practices, but also by maintaining, improving and managing the existing conservation measures on their operation. The program, begun in 2009, was still fairly new in 2012. Read more »

Nebraska’s FFA Youth Leaders Impressed and Impressive

It’s a big deal when you’ve just graduated from a small town high school in Western Nebraska to make a trip to Washington, D.C.  It’s especially a big deal when you get to sit in the office of the Administrator of the Farm Service Agency while in D.C. and share your thoughts.

Spencer Hartman made the trip recently.  He sat with FSA Administrator Juan M. Garcia and Deputy Administrator for Farm Loan Programs Chris Beyerhelm.  He was joined by colleague Bryce Doeschot, also a Nebraska native but from the opposite side of the state.  They talked about farming. Read more »

Puff and Fluff the Owls Return Home

Puff and Fluff, the baby owls that Forest Service firefighters saved during the Carstens Fire in June, are finally home. Terri Williams of the Fresno Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Service released the Western Screech-Owls on July 24 near where they were found over a month ago in a downed tree in the Sierra National Forest.

The birds were weak and dehydrated when Williams first received them from the Forest Service on June 20.  But under her care, Puff and Fluff tripled in weight, enjoying a steady diet of mice, day-old chicks and crickets. They grew strong and healthy and soon began showing signs that they were ready for release into the wild. According to Williams, the owls were tearing their own food, eating a whole mouse in one gulp, catching crickets, flying easily, finding hiding places in their enclosure during the day, and showing appropriate defensive actions towards humans, such as beak-clacking and hissing. Read more »