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Secretary’s Column: Healthy, Affordable Meals for Our Children This Summer

As final school bells ring and students across our nation start summer break, the last thing on a parent’s mind should be how they’re going to provide nutritious meals for a child.

During the school year, USDA plays an integral role in being sure our children have enough to eat. Through the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, USDA helps families by providing nutritious school meals to 32 million kids each day.

But when school’s out for the summer, low-income families can have trouble providing food for their children. Read more »

As Bats Swoop, Students Swoon to Learn More About Them During USDA Webcast

Consider the bat – you know, the flying type that swoops out of urban eaves or rural caves usually at dawn or dusk. What do you know about the central roles they play in controlling insect populations, balancing ecosystems or pollinating flowers, fruits and vegetables?

Rob Mies, author, director, and founder of the Organization for Bat Conservation gives a presentation sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service in U.S. Department of Agriculture's, Jefferson Auditiorium, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, May 16, 2012. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

Rob Mies, author, director, and founder of the Organization for Bat Conservation gives a presentation sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service in U.S. Department of Agriculture's Jefferson Auditiorium, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, May 16, 2012. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

Last week, students in grades four through eight and educators from around the country did more than just consider the bat. They met a number of live bats via an hour-long Washington, D.C., Bats!LIVE distance learning seminar (view online video) including a little brown bat, a vampire bat and a straw-colored fruit bat with a six-foot wingspan. They asked questions of bat biologists, learned about threats to bats and what everyone can do to help bats in their own communities. Read more »

People’s Garden in Tipton, Iowa Celebrates USDA’s 150th Anniversary by Growing “Abraham Lincoln” Tomatoes

To help celebrate USDA’s 150th anniversary which was on May 15th, USDA Rural Development employee Mike Boyle (left in photo) and community volunteer Josh Meier, planted special heirloom “Abraham Lincoln” tomatoes at Hardacre Community Garden in Tipton, Iowa.

To help celebrate USDA’s 150th anniversary which was on May 15th, USDA Rural Development employee Mike Boyle (left in photo) and community volunteer Josh Meier, planted special heirloom “Abraham Lincoln” tomatoes at Hardacre Community Garden in Tipton, Iowa.

To help celebrate USDA’s 150th anniversary which was on May 15th, USDA Rural Development employee Mike Boyle (left in photo) and community volunteer Josh Meier, planted special heirloom “Abraham Lincoln” tomatoes at Hardacre Community Garden in Tipton, Iowa.

Tipton’s Hardacre Community Garden was recognized as a USDA “People’s Garden” in 2009.  The public is welcome to see this People’s Garden on Saturday, June 9th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Read more »

Construction Begins on a Rural Kansas Fire Station with Financing from USDA and an Electric Cooperative

The City of Quinter, Kansas, had a groundbreaking ceremony for a new fire station earlier this month.  All of the city’s fire equipment will soon be under one roof, which will help improve the fire station’s efficiencies when crews respond to emergencies in its 400 square mile service area.  The new station is being built with funding support from USDA and a local electric cooperative.

Earlier this month, the City of Quinter, Kansas, celebrated the groundbreaking of a new fire station with city employees, members of the volunteer fire department, USDA Rural Development staff, and representatives from Midwest Energy and Quinter Manufacturing & Construction (QMC). This photo was taken by a USDA employee.

Earlier this month, the City of Quinter, Kansas, celebrated the groundbreaking of a new fire station with city employees, members of the volunteer fire department, USDA Rural Development staff, and representatives from Midwest Energy and Quinter Manufacturing & Construction (QMC). This photo was taken by a USDA employee.

According to City of Quinter Administrator, Ericka Gillespie, the city of less than 1,000 needed a new fire station because the old facility was not meeting the needs of the community.  A larger space was needed for training, storage, and additional fire protection equipment and trucks.  The larger fire station will also improve the department’s fire rating, resulting in lower insurance costs. Read more »

Impact of Climate Change on Forest Diseases Assessed in New US Forest Service Report

A report being released by the U.S. Forest Service examines the impact of climate change on eight forest diseases and how these pathogens will ultimately affect Western forests.

The report analyzed a range of future conditions from warmer and dryer to warmer and wetter.  The first scenario, which is considered more likely for most regions in the West, includes dryer and hotter summers.  These conditions will increase the risk of wildfires and warmer winters allowing insect outbreaks, like the bark beetle, which has destroyed millions of pine trees in Colorado, to continue. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Decades of Partnership in Research

Nearly 150 years ago – on July 2, 1862, just two months after the creation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – President Lincoln signed another historic measure, the Morrill Act, which created the land grant university system.

Over the years, land grant colleges and universities have had a tremendously positive impact on our nation, graduating more than 20 million students. And in partnership with USDA, more than 100 land-grant institutions and other research partners have helped conduct the groundbreaking research that remains the envy of the world. Read more »