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The Poinsettia, in the Shadow of the Christmas Tree

The beautiful poinsettia stands as a decoration on its own. NRCS photo by Analia Bertucci.

The beautiful poinsettia stands as a decoration on its own. NRCS photo by Analia Bertucci.

The poinsettia – academic types may call it by its binomial name, and biologists might refer to its species. But how many of us are guilty of calling it that red flower with the pointy leaves used to decorate during the holidays?

In the world of holiday shrubbery, the poinsettia has always taken a backseat to the Christmas tree. With its lights and ornaments, the tree has become the icon of the holiday in contrast to the poinsettia, which is usually placed in a nearby corner. Read more »

Looking Under the Hood of Michigan’s Agriculture

That’s a lot of cherry pies! Check back on January 8 when we resume the Census of Agriculture Spotlight!

That’s a lot of cherry pies! Check back on January 8 when we resume the Census of Agriculture Spotlight!

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

When you think of Michigan, you may think of Detroit and the car industry, however our agriculture industry is also critical to our state’s economy. Agriculture’s economic impact on the Michigan economy recently surpassed the $100 billion mark. Traveling through Michigan, you can easily see just how diverse agriculture in our state truly is. In the latest Census of Agriculture, Michigan farmers reported growing many various types of fruits, vegetable and livestock commodities. In fact Michigan produces more than 300 different commodities.

While the Great Lakes provide our crop growers with an abundance of fertile lands and water, it is our dairy farmers that produce our most valuable commodity. According to the Census, in 2012, Michigan dairy farmers sold more than $1.5 billion worth of milk from their cows. And despite the decrease in the number of such farms, the number of dairy cows in Michigan keeps growing. As of 2012, there were more than 376,000 milk cows on 2,409 of our dairy farms. Read more »

Principles, Requirements and Guidelines – An Important Update that will benefit USDA Clients

When you take a drink of water in this country, chances are pretty good that it came from a reservoir or river that is managed, or that has been treated in a plant funded with support from the Federal government, or whose headwaters are on public land managed by the United States Forest Service or Department of Interior.  Every dollar the federal government spends supporting water quality and quantity impacts millions of Americans.  Interagency guidelines governing how investments, programs, and policies that affect water resources are evaluated at the Federal level have been updated for the first time since 1983, and published by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

Given the importance of water to USDA programs and our customers, we understand that it makes sense to have the most complete and forward-thinking information available to inform our investment and implementation decisions.  That enhances our ability to develop programs and projects that conserve water resources while ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent.  USDA is confident that these new guidelines can enhance our decision-making without adversely affecting how we implement our many conservation programs. Read more »

You’re Never Too Old to Play With Your Food

MyPlate offers easy ideas for making healthy foods festive and fun.

MyPlate offers easy ideas for making healthy foods festive and fun.

Who doesn’t want to have a little fun with their food? Especially if you have a picky eater at home, try adding a creative flair to the plate to boost a healthy meal’s fun factor. Our team of nutritionists has been having fun using cookie cutters to come up with creative, healthy ideas, but there are lots of easy ways to make healthy choices more appealing.

Earlier this week we shared a blog about making a snowman from all 5 of the MyPlate food groups. Below are some additional ideas. Have fun! Read more »

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Do We Count Thee?

According to the 2012 #AgCensus there were 12,079 farms in the U.S. that harvested a total of 17.3 million cut Christmas Trees. What will the 2014 Census of Horticulture reveal?

According to the 2012 #AgCensus there were 12,079 farms in the U.S. that harvested a total of 17.3 million cut Christmas Trees. What will the 2014 Census of Horticulture reveal?

Just as millions of Americans venture out this time of year to purchase a fresh cut Christmas tree, I too am busy visiting and talking with Christmas tree growers. However for me, the visits are important outreach opportunities with producers to prepare for the 2014 Census of Horticulture, which we at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) just mailed this week.

This special study will help us do more than just count Christmas trees. It will look at the entire horticulture sector in the United States and gather a full count of this $14.5 billion industry. The Census of Horticulture will paint a detailed picture of U.S. producers nationwide – those who grow all those cherished holiday trimmings, from fresh cut Christmas trees, to poinsettias, holly and more. Read more »

It’s all about the Sides

Image of roast potatoes with tomatoes on a decorative table.

By keeping your side dish components separate, you can avoid cross-contamination.

Main dishes may dominate most holiday tables, but the space on your plate will probably be filled with more sides than whatever holiday meat is served. Proper food handling and cooking will make sure these items come out just as safe and delicious as your main meat.

Making a safe side dish can be even harder than making a main dish safely because side dishes usually contain many ingredients. The more ingredients in the dish the greater the opportunity there is for cross-contamination. By keeping your side dish components separate, you can avoid cross-contamination. Read more »