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Surveyors Learn to Measure Snow, Prepare for Risks in Remote Mountains

Jeff Anderson, snow survey director for NRCS in Nevada, shows the school’s students how to read snow-measuring instruments. Dan Martyn and Nichole Bolton learn the ropes. NRCS photo by Anita Brown.

Jeff Anderson, snow survey director for NRCS in Nevada, shows the school’s students how to read snow-measuring instruments. Dan Martyn and Nichole Bolton learn the ropes. NRCS photo by Anita Brown.

If you live in the western United States and you’re sipping a glass of water, irrigating your crops, lighting your home with hydrological-sourced energy, or enjoy skiing or fishing, you’re probably using information made available from USDA’s snow survey program.

Snow provides 50 to 80 percent of the western water supply and while many agencies, utilities, Tribes and others have a role in snow surveys, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) leads efforts to make sure all the players use accurate and consistent methods and come home safely. NRCS just released its February forecast. Read more »

USDA Supports California’s Efforts to Improve the Nutrition and Health of Low-Income Pregnant Women, New Mothers, Infants and Young Children; Lifts Ban on Stores

Woman with child at supermarket.

California WIC participants now have greater access to healthy foods as FNS ensures that vendors are efficiently administering the program.

This month, nearly 1.4 million women, infants and children in California have greater access to the healthy foods provided through the state’s Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program.

In 2012, USDA notified the California Department of Public Health that it must continue a self-imposed moratorium on the authorization of stores to accept WIC. The moratorium was due to concerns related to the oversight of authorized WIC vendors in the state and rising costs. Read more »

Oklahoma Ranchers’ Unflinching Courage Helps Them Thrive Despite Adversity

Oklahoma ranchers Julie and Robert Carr credit good old fashioned determination and a USDA Farm Service Agency loan with making it through one of the worst droughts to hit the state.

Oklahoma ranchers Julie and Robert Carr credit good old fashioned determination and a USDA Farm Service Agency loan with making it through one of the worst droughts to hit the state.

Since 2011, Julie Carr and her husband Robert slowly watched everything they worked for dry up and wither away.

Julie calls those days lemonade days — long stretches of hardship where life is throwing nothing but lemons and by the end of the day she has made lemonade. But those days were anything but sweet.

“We literally started with nothing,” said Julie, recalling how she and Robert left Texas 30 years ago and moved to Oklahoma just to buy a ranch. “We built this [business] cow by cow and calf by calf.” Read more »

New Farm Bill Program to Help Protect Longleaf’s Legacy for Future Generations

Longleaf Pine forest (photo by William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)

Longleaf Pine forest (photo by William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)

As a kid, I spent Christmas vacations with my family and my grandfather in the longleaf pine forests of South Carolina.  While my grandfather and father (and later me) were quail hunters, you don’t have to be a sportsman or a sportswoman to appreciate longleaf pine.  Longleaf forests are home to countless wildlife species, a diversity of plants, and provide valuable wood products, such as heart-pine floors that are cherished across the South.  Longleaf forests once covered some 90 million acres along the Southeast coastal plain, but over the past two centuries, development, conversion, ill-planned timbering, and fire suppression have reduced longleaf’s range to a mere sliver of its former extent.

USDA and our many conservation partners are working to restore longleaf forests, and we’ve seen significant progress in the recent years. Now, a new Farm Bill program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP, is providing additional support to the effort. Read more »

Puerto Rico: Collaborating for the Future of Our Climate

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden listens to  farmer José Delgado describe his initiative to introduce locally-grown sorghum feed to Puerto Rico on Jan. 25, 2015. USDA photo by Julie Wright.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden listens to farmer José Delgado describe his initiative to introduce locally-grown sorghum feed to Puerto Rico on Jan. 25, 2015. USDA photo by Julie Wright.

Climate change has been deemed one of the greatest challenges facing agriculture, world food security, and human development in the 21st century.  It’s a challenge that USDA is working to mitigate while also making sure that our farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are ready to adapt to the challenges it will pose. Just last year we announced the creation of several regional climate hubs — information centers that help to connect a community of farmers, ranchers, researchers and partners committed to finding viable climate solutions. One area that’s been identified as particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change is the Caribbean.

On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I had the pleasure of visiting the USDA Caribbean Climate Sub Hub in Rio Piedras where I was joined by the Puerto Rico Secretary of Agriculture Hon. Myrna Comas and the Puerto Rico Secretary of Natural Resources Hon. Carmen Guerrero. I was truly impressed by the collaboration taking place at the Caribbean Climate Sub Hub at every level – federal, state, and local. While at the hub, I saw some examples of products, from musical instruments to home decor, made from native wood grown on the island. By working collaboratively with the hub, local producers are able to harvest native woods in a way that both supports forest health and creates new market opportunities. Read more »

Affordable Care Act Gives New Farmers the Freedom to Farm

As every farmer and rancher will tell you, life on the farm means you make tough choices every day. At times the challenges and risks facing farmers, especially those just starting out, can seem difficult and daunting. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new farmers have one less thing to worry about: they no longer have to choose between doing what they love and having access to affordable, reliable health insurance coverage for themselves and their families.

There are stories like Elena, who worked alongside her father on their Colorado farm throughout her early 20s. The Affordable Care Act allowed her to remain on her parent’s health insurance through the age of 25. But after she turned 26, she had to take a job in town that came with health benefits. By getting Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage, she was able to come back to her family farm while maintaining access to health coverage. Read more »