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Puerto Rico Works with USDA to Strengthen Local Food Systems

The Santurce Marketplace in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary wants to encourage more farmers markets like the Santurce Marketplace. This market is located in a twenty-minute bus ride away from Old San Juan. One of the oldest markets, it is known for its farmers who bring in fresh produce every day, which is the first choice of residents. Photo credit: cogito ergo Imago

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long by 35 miles wide. The small island is full of natural wonders, rich culture and bountiful agriculture. Yet few realize that much of the food eaten by residents and visitors alike comes from other places. Earlier this month, Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary Dr. Myrna Comas Pagan made a visit to the USDA. She came to explore ways that my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and other agencies in the department can help improve the island’s local food system.  

Although the value of Puerto Rico’s agricultural production has reached $919 million, a 14 percent increase over the last two years, there is a lack of a distribution system for local produce on the island. The local agriculture sector is growing, supporting 6,500 jobs, but more still needs to happen.   Puerto Rico imports food from 52 different countries which can leave the food system vulnerable. A recent event highlighted this point when a Puerto-Rico bound cargo ship was lost in a hurricane, costing the lives of the crew, but also resulting in the loss of 70 containers of food. Read more »

Helping Farmers in Pakistan and the U.S.

David Marshall, research leader of the USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit, examining rust infections in a greenhouse in Muree, Pakistan

David Marshall, research leader of the USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit, Raleigh, NC, examines rust infections in a greenhouse in Muree, Pakistan.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Plant diseases can easily cross international borders and damage crops in neighboring countries. The good news is that in Pakistan, scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are working toward a solution.

David Marshall, a research leader at the USDA-ARS Plant Science Research Unit in Raleigh, North Carolina, has been collaborating with Pakistani scientists in recent years to prevent losses there from wheat rust diseases including Ug99, a fungal disease that threatens wheat production worldwide. Ug99, which was first reported in Uganda in 1999, has not yet been detected in Pakistan (or in the United States). But it is transmitted by wind-blown spores and has been detected in neighboring Iran. It is widely expected to reach Pakistan in the near future. Read more »

Gardens Bring Learning to Life in North Dakota Tribal Community

The Cannon Ball Elementary School Garden on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota

The Cannon Ball Elementary School Garden on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska.

What we teach our children about food can shape how they eat, learn, grow and live. While I was on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, I saw firsthand how a community garden can bring learning to life.

Planting a garden near their school, elementary students in Cannon Ball created a hands-on, outdoor classroom where they are taught how to grow their own food, a skill that will last a lifetime. The garden not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, it improved the students’ behavior and performance at school and developed their appreciation for the environment. Read more »

Farmers Find Conservation Good for Dobbins Creek and Soil Health

Angus cows on Tom Finnegan’s farm grazing cover crops

Angus cows on Tom Finnegan’s farm grazing cover crops.

Last spring, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Minnesota named five watersheds eligible for funding through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). Dobbins Creek, located in Mower County, was one of the selected watersheds.

About 25,700 acres in size, the Dobbins Creek watershed winds through prime farmland and flows along the northeast edge of the city of Austin. NRCS has committed $488,000 for conservation activities in the watershed over the next 5 years and obligated $51,402 through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in fiscal year 2015. Read more »

The Northeast Regional Climate Hub Applauds its Champions of Change

Workers on East New York Farms surveying crop beds and garden layout

Workers on East New York Farms survey crop beds and garden layout.

The White House recently recognized 12 Champions of Change for their leadership in sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. This week we will meet them through their USDA Regional Climate Hub, today featuring the Northeast’s Anita Adalja, Herman “Trey” Hill and Jennifer “Jiff” Martin.

USDA’s Northeast Regional Climate Hub works to bring land managers in the Northeast the science and other tools that can help them adapt to changing weather/climate conditions. Many farmers, ranchers and land managers are already leading efforts to develop and demonstrate the value of sustainable agricultural practices that benefit soil, air, and water quality while helping to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions.  Educators and advisors have also been crucial in bringing science-based, sustainable, and climate-informed agricultural practices to the agricultural community. Read more »

Champions of Change: Midwest Climate Hub Applauds Three Regional Leaders

Champions of Change group in front of the White House

Champions of Change group in front of the White House.

The White House recently recognized 12 Champions of Change for their leadership in sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. This week we will meet them through their USDA Regional Climate Hub, starting with the Midwest’s Loretta Jaus, Erin Fitzgerald Sexson and Timothy Smith.

USDA’s Midwest Regional Climate Hub works to bring land managers in the Midwest the science and other tools that can help them adapt to changing weather/climate conditions. Many farmers, ranchers and land managers are already leading efforts to develop and demonstrate the value of sustainable agricultural practices that benefit soil, air, and water quality while helping to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions.  Educators and advisors have also been crucial in bringing science-based, sustainable, and climate-informed agricultural practices to the agricultural community. Read more »