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Remembering the Fallen and Serving our Veterans

Leon Kauzlarich (left) and his son, David, are both U.S. Army veterans. With critical home repairs in place, including a handicap-accessible ramp, Leon plans to get out this Memorial Day to recognize the contributions of other military veterans.

Leon Kauzlarich (left) and his son, David, are both U.S. Army veterans. With critical home repairs in place, including a handicap-accessible ramp, Leon plans to get out this Memorial Day to recognize the contributions of other military veterans.

As we celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, those of us at USDA Rural Development would like to take a moment to remember the fallen.  We also thank the veterans who served alongside them and who are helping keep their memories alive today.

Leon Kauzlarich from rural Appanoose County, Iowa, is one such veteran who will be getting out this Memorial Day to do just that. For decades, he has spent Memorial Day visiting rural cemeteries to place American flags on the graves of fallen soldiers. As a senior with mobility issues, however, he missed three recent Memorial Day observances, because he was unable to navigate the front steps and was completely homebound. Read more »

Under Secretary Bonnie Visits South Carolina to See Longleaf Partnerships

USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie listens to Mary Hill, a retired school superintendent and Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation Sustainable Forestry Program participant. Hill owns more than 80 acres of land and timber in Berkeley County adjacent to the Francis Marion National Forest. Forest Service photo.

USDA Under Secretary Robert Bonnie listens to Mary Hill, a retired school superintendent and Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation Sustainable Forestry Program participant. Hill owns more than 80 acres of land and timber in Berkeley County adjacent to the Francis Marion National Forest. Forest Service photo.

The longleaf pine ecosystem is one of the most diverse in the world. It provides habitat to nearly 900 plant species and 29 federally-listed threatened or endangered species. It’s prized for its valuable timber and its strength against disease, pests and damaging storms.

But longleaf pine forests are now rare since their original range of 90 million acres has waned to just a few million. USDA and other partners are working to change this.

USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie recently traveled to South Carolina to meet with USDA employees and conservation partners. Bonnie toured private and public lands where the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the U.S. Forest Service have recently protected and restored thousands of acres of longleaf forests. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Caring for Our Forests, Protecting Our Families and Our Communities

Over the past several years, we have seen the spread and occurrence of wildfires increase significantly. Deadly wildfires threaten our homes and communities and turn lives upside down.

USDA continues to do all that we can to protect people, homes and our forests in the face of fire. Just this week, we announced four new airtanker additions to the U.S. Forest Service’s next-generation firefighting fleet, which brings the total amount of aircraft to 21 large air tankers (with opportunities to add additional aircraft, if needed) and more than 100 helicopters. These new aircraft will enter service in the coming weeks and support over 10,000 firefighters during this year’s wildfire season. Read more »

Enjoy Your Holiday Weekend – Use a Food Thermometer!

Those of you who follow the news have probably seen the recall this week of ground beef that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

Understandably, this causes concern among consumers. However, this does not mean you can’t enjoy a hamburger off the grill or that you need to cancel your backyard BBQ. You can still enjoy your Memorial Day weekend cookout, just remember to practice safe food handling! And if the cooking is to be done by your “weekends only” cook, make sure you take the time to educate him or her about these important steps.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) reminds all cooks to follow four simple tips—clean, separate, cook and chill—for a safe cookout. Additional safe food handling and cooking tips are available at the Grill it Safe website. Read more »

Join us for a Google+ Hangout on May 28th: What the Farm Bill Means for New Farmers

The Google+ Hangout with D/S Harden today has been temporarily postponed — stay tuned.

In February 2014, President Obama signed the new Farm Bill into law. But what does that mean for you as a new farmer or rancher?  What’s new about this Farm Bill and what programs can you use? What questions should you be asking?

USDA is here to answer your questions.

On Wednesday, May 28th at 3 p.m. EDT Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will host a Google+ Hangout to discuss what the farm bill means for new farmers. Read more »

Partnerships and Volunteers Bring a Midwest Wetland to Life

The wetland in bloom with a more than 100-year-old oak tree standing prominently in the prairie. Natural Land Institute photo.

The wetland in bloom with a more than 100-year-old oak tree standing prominently in the prairie. Natural Land Institute photo.

Now, when you look at the Nygren Wetland Preserve in Illinois, a menagerie of wildlife can be seen –  ducks and geese paddling about, white pelicans lounging, otters swimming and a pair of sandhill cranes huddling in a nest. There was talk of the endangered blanding turtles living in the wetland, too. It’s a wonderful scene, but it was much different 14 years ago.

The land, located along Raccoon Creek at the confluence of the Rock and Pecatonica rivers, was once forests and crops. The Natural Land Institute purchased the land in 1999, and that’s when transformation began. Read more »