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USDA Wildlife Habitat Program Going Strong – 30 Years, 1 Million Acres Later

Farmers and ranchers were among the first to practice conservation. It’s not surprising when you think about it. They’ve always understood the importance of caring for our land and water, and they depend on our natural resources for their livelihoods. They’re at the forefront of our country’s efforts to keep the land healthy, productive and resilient. And we’re proud to partner with them in that effort.

This year, we’re celebrating two more conservation milestones: the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), one of the largest private lands conservation programs in the nation; and registering the 1 millionth acre in CRP’s State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative. Read more »

Growing with the Times, Expanded USDA Farmers Market Opens for 20th Season

(Left to right)  Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, USDA AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal, Agricultural Market Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo, USDA Farmers Market Coordinator Annie Ceccarini,  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Under Secretary Ed Avalos cut the ribbon opening at the USDA’s 2015 Farmers Market in the east parking lot of USDA in Washington, D.C. on Friday, May 1, 2015. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

(Left to right) Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, USDA AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal, Agricultural Market Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo, USDA Farmers Market Coordinator Annie Ceccarini, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Under Secretary Ed Avalos cut the ribbon opening at the USDA’s 2015 Farmers Market in the east parking lot of USDA in Washington, D.C. on Friday, May 1, 2015. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

This morning, Secretary Tom Vilsack and I kicked off the 20th season of the USDA Farmers Market.  It was quite a celebration, complete with balloons, ribbon cutting and bell ringing!  The market underwent a major redesign and expansion this year to make room for twice as many vendors as we’ve had in the past.  Featuring everything from fresh oysters to delicious pastries to crisp lettuce, today’s market is full of delicious offerings from local farmers, ranchers and food businesses.   

I am so proud that my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, has managed this market for the past 20 years, turning it into a true gathering place for USDA and its neighbors, including Washington, D.C.-area employees, residents in Ward 2 and visitors to the National Mall.  The USDA Farmers Market also provides a great business opportunity for entrepreneurs. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack Accepts Climate Leadership Award

On April 28, 2015, the American Carbon Registry (ACR) presented Secretary Vilsack with its 2015 Climate Leadership award, intended to recognize an individual whose career commitments to address the changing climate have made a difference and whose example we hope will inspire other individuals to action.

ACR stated that it recognized Secretary Vilsack for his career-long actions as a steward of the environment from his accomplishments as Governor of Iowa to his more recent achievements as Secretary of Agriculture. ACR specifically mentioned the Secretary’s leadership in establishing the USDA Regional Climate Hubs, enabling record enrollments of farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in voluntary climate-beneficial conservation programs, efforts to lower GHG emissions on US dairies through innovative waste-to-energy projects, and work to improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems. Read more »

1890 Land Grant University Transform City Kid into Ag School’s Research Leader

Dr. Carolyn Brooks portrait

Dr. Carolyn Brooks had little exposure to agriculture while growing up in the city but, thanks to a love for biology nurtured at a 1890’s Land Grant University, she knows plenty now and even served as dean of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, MD.

Like many city kids growing up in Richmond, Va., Carolyn Brooks didn’t know much about agriculture and had never heard of 4-H. That changed quickly, however, as she was the first in her family to graduate from college—earning a B.S. and then a M.S. in biology from one of the foremost agricultural schools in the country, Tuskegee University, where she said, many people “helped me, guided me, and cared about my success.”

Brooks said that before moving to Tuskegee, Ala., she “knew nothing about the South. I had never been in that kind of environment – in a predominantly black community.” Read more »

25 Years Later, Forest Conservation Programs Still Help Keep Our Working Forests Thriving And Working

Senator Patrick Leahy speaking at a commemoration on Capitol Hill

Senator Patrick Leahy, (left, at podium) speaks at a commemoration on Capitol Hill of this year’s 25th anniversary of the Forest Legacy Program and other initiatives that help states and communities conserve forest land. The Senator authored forest conservation programs that he first included in the 1990 Farm Bill, when he chaired the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Photo courtesy of Jay Tilton, office of Senator Leahy.

Patrick Leahy is Vermont’s senior U.S. senator and led in authoring forest conservation programs that he first included in the 1990 Farm Bill, when he chaired the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.  Robert Bonnie is USDA’s undersecretary for natural resources and environment.  This week they headed a commemoration on Capitol Hill of this year’s 25th anniversary of the Forest Legacy Program and other initiatives that help states and communities conserve forest land.  Wayne Maloney, Office of Communications

Twenty-five years ago, the Senate’s 1990 Leahy-Lugar Farm Bill authorized the creation of three pivotal forestry programs that today are a resounding success.  The Forest Legacy, Forest Stewardship and Urban and Cooperative Forestry Programs help private and state forest landowners keep their forests healthy.  That in turn supports tens of thousands of jobs, benefiting rural and urban communities across the nation.  This week we joined in a celebration in the Capitol Hill Visitors Center marking this milestone. Read more »

Enhancing the Flavor of Food through Plant Breeding

Butternut squash

Plant breeding can lead to new varieties that taste great and are easier to grow, giving you choices if you are growing them or getting them from a farmers market or grocery store.

Vegetables are becoming more flavorful and sustainable through plant breeding. Plant breeding is at the core of the seed-to-table movement—using selective breeding to develop plant varieties that possess exceptional culinary properties and the ability to thrive in a sustainable production system.

One plant variety leading the way in this movement is a series of mini-butternut squash developed by a Cornell University researcher, Michael Mazourek. He began the project as part of a $2.5 million Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant awarded to Oregon State University, which resulted in a national network of organic plant breeders, the Northern Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC). The grant is funded by National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »