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Many Facets of Pennsylvania Agriculture

Half-a-billion dollars’ worth of mushrooms would cover a lot of pizzas, Pennsylvania!  Check back next Thursday to learn more about another state from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Half-a-billion dollars’ worth of mushrooms would cover a lot of pizzas, Pennsylvania! Check back next Thursday to learn more about another state from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

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.

Many people today associate Pennsylvania with heavy industries, such as coal and steel, forgetting the presence of another major industry – agriculture. Farming has been a major part of Pennsylvania culture for centuries. In fact, one of the theories behind the “Keystone State” moniker is that Pennsylvania was a combination of Northern industries and Southern agriculture, making it a true keystone of the original colonies. And even today, agriculture remains a major component of our state’s economy.

As the latest Census of Agriculture showed, Pennsylvania farmers sold more than $7.4 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012 and have nearly 60,000 farms and ranches on more than 7.7 million acres of land. The land area dedicated to farming in Pennsylvania is larger than the total areas of at least 8 states in the nation. Read more »

School Meal Implementation: A Simple Apple, Oranges Comparison

Students in Cañon City, Colorado, enjoy fruits and vegetables from their "Harvest Bar".

Students in Cañon City, Colorado, enjoy fruits and vegetables from their "Harvest Bar".

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

by Paula Buser, Director, Nutrition Services & Print Shop, Littleton Public Schools

For me, success in implementing the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, in large part has been about communication and leadership.  It’s not just what you present to people, it’s the way you present it and the way you lead them through change.

In the fall of 2012, when the rules were first being implemented, I was the Manager of Nutrition Services for Cañon City Schools in Cañon City, Colorado.  Initially, there was a lot of anxiety among the staff about how we were going to be able to meet the new requirements. Read more »

FSIS Enhances Food Safety Protections for Ground Beef

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced new procedures that will allow the agency to trace contaminated ground beef back to its source more quickly, remove it from commerce, and identify the root cause to prevent it from happening again.  These changes build on other initiatives the agency has instituted this summer to improve the safety of ground beef, including a proposed requirement that retailers keep records of their ground beef source suppliers, and new laboratory methods the agency is using to test these products for multiple pathogens at one time.

Typically, a company that produces ground beef uses source material purchased from a slaughterhouse or other supplier.  As the ground beef is being produced, FSIS takes a sample and tests it for the presence of illness-causing E. coli O157:H7. Read more »

Elite Firefighting Team Ready to Protect Lake Tahoe Basin

The Tallac Hotshots are a valuable resource to the Lake Tahoe community by carrying out initial attack for wildfires that occur in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin. (U.S. Forest Service)

The Tallac Hotshots are a valuable resource to the Lake Tahoe community by carrying out initial attack for wildfires that occur in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin. (U.S. Forest Service)

A group of 20 determined firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit completed a demanding and extensive certification process to become the first Interagency Hotshot Crew from Lake Tahoe.  Formerly the Tallac Hand Crew, the Tallac Hotshots join an exclusive group of roughly 2,000 firefighters across the country.

“The certification of the Tallac Hotshots is a significant event for the Lake Tahoe Basin,” said Forest Supervisor Nancy Gibson.  “Fire suppression in the Basin is vital to our communities and it’s reassuring, particularly in light of the anticipated active fire season, to have such a key resource of well-trained and experienced firefighters in our area.” Read more »

Secretary’s Column: The Farm Bill at Work in Your State

Last week, USDA marked the six-month anniversary of the signing of the 2014 Farm Bill. I am proud to say that we’ve made important progress on every title of the Farm Bill, including issuing disaster assistance payments, updating risk management tools, modifying farm loan programs, announcing new support for agricultural research, establishing new conservation programs, and much more.

My team and I at USDA have gathered together some top statistics that show how the Farm Bill is at work in your state—and the record results we’ve achieved this time around. For example: Read more »

Summer Food Service Program Meals with a Healthy Southern Twist

Mobile County’s Super Food Express bus travels from nine to 12 schools to ensure their children are fed healthy meals when school is out of session.

Mobile County’s Super Food Express bus travels from nine to 12 schools to ensure their children are fed healthy meals when school is out of session.

Fried chicken, sausage biscuits and fried okra are a thing of the past in the Mobile County (AL) Public School Service’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), explained Child Nutrition Director of MCPSS, Susanne Yates.

“The program is providing nutritional meals that are still southern in style but meet the new nutritional standards under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  We rely on southern staples such as steamed mixed vegetables, whole grain cereals and baked chicken.  Fried foods have been replaced with more nutritious fruits and vegetables and have not been a part of the meal service since 2006.” Read more »