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Community Combats Pollution in Inlet, Succeeds in Restoring Oyster Populations

The inlet once suffered from pollution. But the nearby community gathered together to improve water quality by preventing runoff of sediment and nutrients. Now, oysters thrive. NRCS photo.

The inlet once suffered from pollution. But the nearby community gathered together to improve water quality by preventing runoff of sediment and nutrients. Now, oysters thrive. NRCS photo.

Two years ago, the Nisqually Shellfish Farm south of Belfair, Wash. didn’t have a chance. Runoff from surrounding homes and dairy farms polluted Henderson Inlet, and the state declared the water unfit for raising shellfish for human consumption.

Worsening the problem, the place was overrun with an invasive species, the Japanese oyster drill, which feeds on and kills shellfish.

But water quality in the inlet, which flows into Puget Sound, is improving. Last year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) began working with a nearby tribe and shellfish producers to monitor and remove the Japanese oyster drill. Read more »

New USDA Methods Will Help Land Owners Manage Carbon and Greenhouse Gases

A new report issued today by USDA should help farmers and ranchers make informed decisions resulting in better soil and ultimately reduce greenhouse emissions.

A new report issued today by USDA should help farmers and ranchers make informed decisions resulting in better soil and ultimately reduce greenhouse emissions.

For the past 3 years, I have worked with a team of experts and scores of reviewers on a report published today, Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture and Forestry: Methods for Entity-Scale Inventory.

If you are a landowner, scientist, or conservationist looking for new tools to estimate carbon storage and greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes, you will want to take a look at this report.  It provides the scientific basis and methodology to assess the GHG benefits of conservation practices and farm, ranch and forest management. This information will help producers gauge progress in building healthy, carbon-rich soils and, ultimately, more resilient production of food, fiber and fuel. Read more »

The Empire State – A Veritable Dairyland

Who knew The Big Apple was surrounded by billions of dollars of milk?  Check back next Thursday for more fun facts from another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Who knew The Big Apple was surrounded by billions of dollars of milk? Check back next Thursday for more fun facts from another state and 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.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, the value of New York’s number one commodity is nearly half the value of all our agricultural products. The value of milk sales, at $2.42 billion, ranks third among all states. This milk is used in the production of many dairy products, with New York ranking number one among states in the production of yogurt, cottage cheese, and sour cream and also ranking high in the production of cheese.

However, because of New York’s varied geography and large size, New York is agriculturally diverse, with many commodities ranking in the top ten nationally. For example, 2,598 New York farms produce fruit on 93,304 acres. New York traditionally ranks second in the nation in apple production with apples grown on 47,148 acres. New York also produces 39,216 acres of grapes, mostly along the moderating climates on the shores of the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, and Long Island. New York grows grapes both for juice and for wine, and typically ranks third in total grape production. Read more »

USDA’s Agricultural Ties Run Deep

Mary Louise Reynnells (right) and Shellie Wallace-Polin in their FFA jackets, 1977.

Mary Louise Reynnells (right) and Shellie Wallace-Polin in their FFA jackets, 1977.

Earlier this year, in preparation for the 2015 opening of a new business history exhibition, American Enterprise, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History put out a call for current and past members of the National FFA Organization to submit their FFA jackets accompanied with their own personal agricultural history. The jackets and stories, to be featured in the agricultural portion of the exhibition, will examine the significance that agricultural education continues to play to our national identity.

At a ceremony last week, five jackets and their stories were selected; among them, a jacket from President Jimmy Carter and a jacket from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service employee Mary “Louise” Reynnells. USDA employees work every day to ensure that American farmers have access to the opportunities they need, and many of their ties to agriculture extend well beyond their time at USDA. Here is Mary “Louise” Reynnells’s story, and with it, her contribution to our agricultural heritage. Read more »

Unleashing Climate Data to Empower America’s Agricultural Sector

Cross-posted from the White House Blog:

Today, in a major step to advance the President’s Climate Data Initiative, the Obama administration is inviting leaders of the technology and agricultural sectors to the White House to discuss new collaborative steps to unleash data that will help ensure our food system is resilient to the effects of climate change.

More intense heat waves, heavier downpours, and severe droughts and wildfires out west are already affecting the nation’s ability to produce and transport safe food. The recently released National Climate Assessment makes clear that these kinds of impacts are projected to become more severe over this century. Read more »

Four Steps to a Food Safe Eid ul-Fitr

Traditional Moroccan meal for Eid ul-Fitr after the fast for Ramadan has been broken.

Traditional Moroccan meal for Eid ul-Fitr after the fast for Ramadan has been broken.

Ramadan will end this week.  This month of fasting concludes with Eid ul-Fitr, and on this festive day it is forbidden to fast. Those commemorating this holiday attend prayer, visit with family and friends, and celebrate. While traditions vary, one component stays the same – FOOD. If you plan on celebrating this “Festival of Breaking the Fast” follow the four simple steps for food safety to keep your loved ones foodborne illness-free: clean, separate, cook and chill.

During Eid ul-Fitr, observers visit the homes of family, friends and neighbors. As with most family gatherings and celebrations, children often play while adults talk. Also like most family gatherings and celebrations, food is usually served, in the form of a small snack or a large meal. As you and your family make your holiday visits, make sure your children clean their hands before they enjoy the day’s treats. Read more »