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South Dakota Becoming an Agriculture Powerhouse

South Dakota Infographic

South Dakota agriculture is growing by leaps and bounds! Be sure to check back next week for highlights of 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.

South Dakota is growing to be quite an agricultural powerhouse, as the most recent Census of Agriculture results showed. In 2012, the year for which the latest Census was conducted, our farmers and ranchers sold more than $10 billion worth of agricultural products. That’s an incredible 55 percent increase from 2007 Census of Agriculture.

Our farms are also defying a downward national trend. While the number of farms is decreasing in most states, in South Dakota, our farm numbers actually grew by 3 percent between the 2007 and 2012 censuses of agriculture. As of 2012, there are nearly 32,000 farms in The Mount Rushmore State. Read more »

Keep Striking from the Top: Inspirational Words for 2015 Florida A&M University Graduates

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of providing the commencement address for Florida A&M University’s spring 2015 graduates. As a designated 1890 historically black land-grant university, FAMU plays a critical role in teaching students to meet the high quality, innovative research needs that are vital to the well-being of our nation and the world. The ever-increasing need to feed the growing world population has made it more important than ever to train the next generation of policy makers, researchers and educators in the food and agricultural sciences.

With FAMU’s foundation and mission rooted in agriculture, engineering and technology, science and mathematics, it is paramount that the school’s graduates recognize the importance of the contributions they can make as leaders in science and agriculture. These graduates will be a part of the next generation that uses the power of their passion, potential and creativity to develop innovative solutions to some of the world’s present-day challenges. Read more »

USDA Celebrates the Public Service of 12 Unsung Heroes

USDA colleagues and teams honored at Unsung Hero Award Ceremony

As part of Public Service Recognition Week, outstanding USDA colleagues and teams from around the country were honored at the Department’s 31st Annual Unsung Hero Award Ceremony in Washington, DC. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Every day, USDA employees are hard at work providing safe, nutritious food for our families and children; conserving our land and natural resources; supporting our nation’s farmers and ranchers; expanding market opportunities for American agriculture at home and abroad; and investing in our rural economies.  Recently, Secretary Vilsack penned a moving essay as to why he dedicates his life to public service at the USDA.

Nearly 100,000 USDA employees serve our country with pride and dedication. As part of Public Service Recognition Week, I joined the Organization of Professional Employees at the Department of Agriculture to honor 12 outstanding colleagues and teams from around the country in our 31st Annual Unsung Hero Award Ceremony.  I invite you to congratulate these extraordinary public servants for their dedication to their jobs and their communities. Read more »

USDA Strengthens Partnership with 1890s Universities

Marcus Brownrigg, Pathways Officer, Phyllis Holmes, Acting Director, 1890’s National Program, Dr. Moses Kairo, Co-Chair of the USDA/1890 Executive Committee, Dr. Gregory Parham, Assistant Secretary for Administration, Beattra Wilson, Co-Chair of the USDA/1890 Executive Committee, Carolyn Parker, Director, Office of Advocacy and Outreach and Chief Tom Tidwell, U. S. Forest Service observe Dr. Juliette Bell, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Chair of 1890 Executive Committee and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sign a memorandum of understanding

The USDA and the Council of 1890 Universities today renewed their memorandum of understanding that reaffirms and sustains the partnership between USDA and the historically black colleges created under the Second Morrill Act of 1890 for an additional five years. Dr. Juliette Bell, President of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Chair of the Council of 1890 Universities of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, signed the agreement with Secretary Vilsack. This year celebrates 125 years of the signing of the second Morrill Act, which led to the creation of 19 historically black land-grant colleges and universities. (USDA Photo by Bob Nichols)

Congress enacted the Second Morrill Act, creating a group of African-American land-grant universities, in the year 1890.  Today – 125 years later – USDA maintains a close, supportive and cooperative relation with these 19 schools located in 18 states that are commonly known as “1890 Universities.”  

This morning in a ceremony in his office, Secretary Vilsack signed an agreement extending USDA’s commitment to the 1890 Universities for another five years. Also signing the agreement was Dr. Juliette Bell, President of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), acting on behalf of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ (APLU) Council of 1890 Universities.  Secretary Vilsack spoke of the importance of extending the partnership between these universities and USDA, saying it was “more important than ever to train the next generation of policy makers, researchers and educators in the food and agricultural sciences.” Read more »

A Greenhouse Garden Inspires an Urban New Orleans School

Dr. Joe Leonard speaking to the students

Dr. Joe Leonard speaks to the students. NRCS photo.

Tucked in the middle of a mixed commercial and residential area of New Orleans still struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, is Carter G. Woodson Middle School − a state of the art public charter school known as Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Central City Academy.

As I wandered through the garden taking pictures and preparing for guests to arrive for the Greenhouse Garden Club ribbon cutting ceremony, I was intrigued by the markers made by students identifying the plants in the beds and statements about working hard and respecting the garden. 

“Hello miss! Our teacher sent us out here to keep you company,” said seventh-grader Keyira Powell.  She was accompanied by another student, Clifton Desilva who mostly stood in silence while Keyira − clearly a school ambassador – eagerly began telling me about the gardening club. Read more »

A New Way to Stop Invasive Pests – Clean Recreation

Mud and seeds on shoes

Removing mud and seeds from your shoes can help prevent the spread of invasive plants and animals. (Photo by Kim Lanahan-Lahti, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry)

For years now, the U.S. Forest Service has been encouraging visitors to our nation’s forests and grasslands, to not only enjoy all there is out there, but to play safe and play clean.

One example of this outreach effort is the PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species In Your Tracks campaign.

PlayCleanGo has 130 partners, all fostering active participation in actions designed to interrupt recreational pathways of spread for invasive species. By becoming a partner, you can spread the message to stop invasive species in your tracks. Read more »