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Helping States Build an Agricultural Future

A woman picking apples

A woman picking apples—one of many specialty crops—grown in New England. Since the beginning of the Obama administration, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has awarded $455.5 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants to all 50 states and several U.S. territories. These grants have supported 6,138 projects that increase capacity, opportunity, and economic success for America’s specialty crop growers. Photo courtesy Alberto Romero.

Specialty crops—fruits, vegetables, nuts and nursery crops—are an agricultural and dietary staple.  They’re a central part of a healthy diet and are vital to the economic success of American agriculture and to the farmers and businesses that rely on them for their livelihoods.

That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, works to support and expand markets for specialty crop growers and producers.  This year, through our Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, we awarded $62.5 million to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories to support critical work related to this segment of the agricultural industry. Read more »

State Agencies are Bringing the Farm to School!

State agency materials at annual USDA Farm to School Grantee gathering

Materials from state agencies are displayed at the annual USDA Farm to School Grantee gathering.

From organizing statewide conferences, to training farmers and child nutrition professionals, to developing farm to school curricula and resources, state agencies are playing a big role in bringing the farm to school. This fact sheet describes effective strategies state agencies are using to help community food systems take root. Here’s a sampling of three ways state agencies are making an impact. Read more »

RCPP Benefits Longleaf Ecosystem in Alabama

Jimmy Bullock with the Resource Management Service, Andrew Schock with The Conservation Fund and NRCS Alabama State Conservationist Ben Malone

(Pictured left to right) Jimmy Bullock with the Resource Management Service, Andrew Schock with The Conservation Fund and NRCS Alabama State Conservationist Ben Malone stand in one project area for the Coastal Headwaters Forest.

It takes time, patience and a committed partnership, but seeing thriving forests of longleaf pine trees return to Alabama’s Gulf Coast is well-worth the wait.

Longleaf pine forests once dominated the American Southeast, stretching across 90 million acres. A stronghold of the region’s environment and economy, longleaf was an essential building material used during the American Industrial Revolution. Today, only four percent of the original forests remain standing.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Alabama is working with groups to revive this strong and resilient wood, while also providing environmental benefits for the Gulf Coastal Plain’s wildlife and water. Read more »

Team Up and Show Your Spirit for School Meals!

Food service staff serving barbeque chicken to students

Food service staff serves barbeque chicken to students. (Photo courtesy of Right Light Photography, LLC)

The school nutrition community is celebrating National School Lunch Week from October 10-14. This year’s theme “Show Your Spirit” is all about encouraging parents, students and school officials to show their spirit for school lunch. Through the Team Up for School Nutrition Success (Team Up) initiative, school nutrition professionals have teamed up to provide nutritious and appealing meals to students, offering plenty of reasons for all of us to show spirit for awesome school meals!

The Team Up initiative, created through a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN), provides school nutrition professionals a unique learning experience.  The initiative is designed to enhance schools’ food service operations by providing training and peer-to-peer mentorship to school nutrition professionals who want to maintain a healthy environment and strong student meal program participation. The goal of this training is to help schools find simple ways to meet the updated USDA nutrition standards from the 2010 Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA), while increasing the number of students enjoying healthy and flavorful school meals. Read more »

The Farmers Screen

Julie Davies O’Shea and Les Perkins

Julie Davies O’Shea and Les Perkins were instrumental in developing and bringing the Farmers Screen to market.

Nobody wants fish to get stuck in irrigation pipes. Not the public; not the farmers; especially not the fish. But with more than 70,000 irrigation diversions tapping into Oregon’s rivers and streams, the concern is real.

Irrigation diversions channel stream water through a series of narrowing pipes, eventually reaching fields through irrigation devices. Until recently, there’s not been an adequate selection of screens to prevent high-gravity and sediment diversions from getting clogged. Diversions on wooded hills required daily maintenance during certain times of the year. Read more »

US Forest Service Helps Educate Students at World’s Largest Conservation Event

Forest Service staff with members of the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife teaching children

Forest Service staff were joined by members of the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife to teach children about the importance of native plant and animal species to healthy forests and watersheds during Student Day at the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress. (U.S. Forest Service/Denise Adamic)

Approximately 180 middle and high school students joined Smokey Bear, U.S. Forest Service staff and a host of other conservation-focused professionals from around the world for Student Day at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center in Honolulu.

The students were invited to learn about natural resources careers and interact with professionals during the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, World Conservation Congress, the world’s largest and most democratic recurring conservation event in the world. The event draws thousands of participants, including heads of state, business leaders, top scientists, educators and artists. Read more »