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Celebrating Black History Month with ‘A Night at the Museum’

ARS Administrator Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young (left) standing with an elementary school student

ARS Administrator Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young (left) stands with an elementary school student who portrayed her during an African American Living Wax Museum event held in Washington, DC.

It was my great pleasure to recently attend what proved to be a truly inspiring wrap-up of national Black History Month—namely, an African American Living Wax Museum event hosted by the 5th-grade class at Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

The school kicked off the event this year to recognize the contributions of African Americans in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, as well as to provide hands-on learning experience for the 52 participating students who had to use their research, writing, and oral-presentation skills to portray these individuals—Daniel Hale Williams, George Washington Carver, Sarah E. Goode, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Mae C. Jemison among them. Read more »

Market News – Indispensable to Producers on Earth, Now Goes to MARS

Joe Gaynor demonstrating the new MARS data platform

Joe Gaynor (left) demonstrates how MARS will improve our services, helping ensure that farmers and ranchers know they're getting a fair price, wholesalers make better decisions about what and how much to buy, and commodity traders buy and sell based on current market information.

Editor’s Note: The free webinar on the Market Analysis and Reporting Services (MARS) has been moved to Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 2 p.m. Eastern.  Sign up using this link:  http://bit.ly/1MxNAWj

For over 100 years, USDA Market News has been an indispensable service, used by agricultural producers of all sizes to get timely, unbiased data from Market News reporters across the country.  Farmers, ranchers, and the entire agricultural supply chain turn to USDA Market News – administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – for data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.  Now, Market News is entering a new phase, deploying the Market Analysis & Reporting Services (MARS).  It’s a big step forward for AMS, Market News and for the markets and producers that use our data every day.

MARS was formally unveiled during the recent USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum.  It includes the ability to capture livestock auctions for commodities like feeder cattle and will eventually include more than 600 commodities in real time (where applicable), and moves reporter’s data capture from the paper age to a connected digital age.  That means a reporter at a livestock auction in, for example, Kansas will know in real time what comparable feeder cattle is selling for at an auction in Texas. Read more »

From Our Family to Yours – Find Healthy Eating Solutions with MyPlate, MyWins

MyPlate MyWins graphic

Share your healthy eating tips on social media with #MyPlateMyWins

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

We get it. Between hectic schedules, tight budgets, and caring for children, sometimes it’s easier said than done when it comes to healthy eating. MyPlate, MyWins, our latest initiative, is here to make healthy eating easier with real life solutions you can apply today. MyPlate, MyWins is all about finding a healthy eating style that works for you and fits with your everyday life. MyPlate tips and tools can guide you in making small, practical changes that add up to big successes over time.

Remember – we’re all in this together!  That’s why we kicked off MyPlate, MyWins by sharing our own healthy eating tips and tricks. We may be nutrition experts, but we’re also busy moms, wives, brothers, graduate students, volunteers, coaches, etc., who are trying to juggle it all, just like you! Check out our healthy eating “hacks” on the MyPlate, MyWins landing page and on social media. Read more »

Public-Private Partnerships a Crucial Element in Crop Insurance Safety Net

Corn in Iowa

Corn in Iowa was among the crops across the nation hit hard by the 2012 drought. The rapid response by crop insurance companies to that crisis demonstrated why public-private partnerships are good for today’s agricultural economy.

Farming is in my blood, and I’m proud of that. I grew up on my family’s sheep ranch in northern Utah and managed our raspberry farm before coming to USDA. For the past three years, as Administrator for the Department’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), I’ve sat across the table and listened to producers who, like myself back in Utah, couldn’t find an insurance product for their operation.

Natural disasters and unexpected events make agriculture a risky business, so having a strong safety net is essential for today’s farmers and ranchers. Nobody knows that better than RMA. Read more »

Proposed Rule Clarifies SNAP Outreach Activities Allowed

An elderly man shopping

Proper outreach ensures that those eligible for SNAP are aware of the benefits of nutrition assistance programs.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Even as the economy improves, many Americans continue to need a helping hand putting food on the table.  Many of our most vulnerable low income citizens still have trouble obtaining meaningful jobs due to barriers such as lack of education, transportation, or child care.  Outreach helps people understand whether they may be eligible for USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and how it can supplement their current food budget. But in the end, whether or not to participate in SNAP is a personal decision.  This is a core part of the SNAP regulations and a guiding factor in SNAP outreach strategies.

Today, USDA published a proposed rule that codifies portions of the 2014 Farm Bill related to outreach that further strengthen guidelines against recruitment.  Outreach activities designed to pressure or persuade a person to apply for benefits are not allowed.  Furthermore, as directed by the Farm Bill, the proposed rule specifically prohibits radio, television or billboard advertising.  The proposed rule would also prohibit organizations receiving funds under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008 from tying compensation for outreach workers to the number of people who apply for SNAP benefits as a result of their efforts, also part of the Farm Bill. Read more »

A Diverse Sector is a Strong Sector: My Brother’s Keeper National Week at the Labs

Local middle-school students participating in a demonstration on pollinators during the White House Day at the Lab.

32 students toured live and preserved insect collections at the United States Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, S.C., where they learned how scientists name newly discovered species, observed varieties of sweet potatoes grown at the facility and discussed careers in STEAM with Dr. Mark W. Farnham, an ARS plant research geneticist.

Two years ago, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) to address persistent disadvantages and ensure boys and young men of color have opportunities to reach their full potential.  Since the initiative’s launch, the Administration has partnered with nonprofits, businesses, towns and cities to connect young people with mentors and resources, helping to build lasting bridges of opportunity for youth across the country.

Over the next five years, approximately 57,900 jobs will become available in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment annually — with only 35,400 students graduating with the specialized expertise to fill them. A diverse sector is a strong sector, and that’s why we’re taking strides to ensure all Americans have access to the array of opportunities across the field. Read more »