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Organic Sound and Sensible Resources: Expanding Organic Education through Others

A group of people in front of high tunnels

The NCAT sound and sensible project focused on educating farmers and ranchers in the Gulf States region about organic production, as well as helping facilitate organic certification.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP) is continuing to launch new resources resulting from our Sound and Sensible Initiative, which is making organic certification more accessible, affordable, and attainable. Today, we are launching resources that help those who help others – guides and resources that help organizations reach out to and educate potential organic farmers. These resources were produced by our partners in the organic community, all of whom have on-the-ground experience teaching producers about the organic option. Read more »

A Proactive Approach to Investing in Employee Security

USDA Rural Development staff listening as Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans and Bangor Police Sergeant Rob Angelo discuss what to do in case of an active shooter

USDA Rural Development staff listens as Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans and Bangor Police Sergeant Rob Angelo discuss what to do in case of an active shooter at the USDA Rural Development State Office in Bangor, Maine.

Employee safety and security have always been at the top of my list of responsibilities as State Director of USDA Rural Development in Maine.  Our 58 employees in Maine work directly with the public to deliver essential programs that impact individuals, businesses, lenders, and communities; my staff’s personal security is something that the USDA and I take very seriously.

This past November, our staff welcomed Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans from the Department of Homeland Security to provide training in Bangor and Lewiston, Maine.  Talis is an Active Firearms Instructor, a National Weapons Detection Training Program Inspector, and a Field Training Evaluation Program Instructor. Read more »

Investing in Our Public Lands: The President’s Proposal to Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Land and Water Conservation Fund, Land Acquisition Budget Proposal FY2017 map

Land and Water Conservation Fund, Land Acquisition Budget Proposal FY2017 map. (Click for a larger version)

Over 50 years ago, a visionary Congress established an innovative program to bring communities together to invest in open spaces and recreational opportunities that are an essential part of our nation’s heritage and economy. Since then, the highly successful Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped to protect working forests and ranches, preserve our public lands — parks, refuges,  forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife habitats — and provide access to outdoor recreation across the nation for use and enjoyment by all Americans.

President Obama is committed to passing on America’s public lands and waters to future generations in better shape than we found them. That’s why he is proposing full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, and pursuing permanent authorization in annual mandatory funding for the Fund’s programs beginning in 2018. Read more »

Special Bean Team Tackling World Hunger with Science

Packages of dry beans

USDA-ARS maintains a collection of dry beans obtained from around the globe and catalogued for important traits, like resistance to diseases and pests. USDA-ARS photo by Steve Ausmus.

2016 has been named “International Year of the Pulses” by the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN). The goal of the initiative is to educate consumers about the nutritional and other benefits of eating pulse crops, as well as to marshal the capabilities of agricultural research organizations around the world in developing new, improved varieties that will help further global food security and sustainable agriculture.

Pulses refer to the dry edible seed of certain leguminous plants—most notably dry beans (like kidney, pinto and navy beans), dry peas, lentils and chickpeas. Read more »

10 #USDAResults in Conservation and Forestry You Should Know

USDA Results: Caring for our Land, Air and Water graphic

USDA Results: Caring for our Land, Air and Water. Preserving Precious Natural Resources for Tomorrow.

At the beginning of this year, we launched a year-long reflection on USDA-wide results achieved over the course of this Administration. This week begins a month-long focus on seven years of USDA accomplishments to preserve our natural resources for tomorrow’s generations – accomplishments that have only been made possible with the hard work of our staff at USDA and the support of our steadfast partners.

I’m proud of the work that we’ve done to build lasting partnerships to care for our nation’s unparalleled public lands and support producers as they conserve our nation’s land, water and soil. Please take some time to read a full story of our results on my Medium page at: www.medium.com/usda-results. Read more »

SBIR Grantee’s Response to Killer Beetles: SPLAT!

Mountain Lake With Pine Beetle Damaged Forest

Mountain pine beetle infestation has devastated pine forests in western North America, creating vast areas of “dead-crown zombie trees.” (iStock image)

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at USDA offers competitively awarded grants to qualified small businesses to support high quality, advanced concepts research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits.  The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers SBIR Phase I grants that are limited to $100,000 and a duration of 8 months, and Phase II grants of up to $500,000 and 24 months that are open only to Phase I awardees. Below is the first-hand account of NIFA-funded SBIR research from Agenor Mafra-Neto, President and CEO of ISCA Technologies, Inc.

It might sound like the subject of the lamest B-horror flick ever made, but for pine trees in western North America, it’s a true story—the plant world’s equivalent of a zombie plague that has destroyed an estimated 723 million cubic of timber on more than 17.5 million hectares of forested land.

All on account of a tiny mountain pine beetle (MPB), no larger than a single grain of rice. Read more »