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USDA and Peace Corps Team Up in Screwworm Eradication Efforts in Panama

Peace Corps Volunteers receiving training on screwworm surveillance program from APHIS employees in Panama.

Peace Corps Volunteers receiving training on screwworm surveillance program from APHIS employees in Panama.

Over the past few months, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), as part of the U.S. Panama Commission for Eradication of Screwworm, has started to partner with Peace Corps Volunteers in Panama to enhance APHIS’ surveillance activities. Volunteers will be working in rural Panama and meeting with local communities to raise awareness about as well as report suspected cases of New World screwworm, one of the most costly and economically significant pests of livestock in South America.

The New World screwworm is a parasite of warm-blooded animals, including humans. Female screwworms are attracted to and lay their eggs in exposed flesh wounds.  After eggs hatch, larvae burrow and feed on flesh, causing severe tissue damage and may even be lethal to the host. The screwworm was eradicated from the United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Curacao and, finally, all of Central America in 2006 using the Sterile Insect Technique in which sterile male flies are released in massive numbers to mate with wild female populations. The mated female flies then lay non-viable eggs, leading to a decrease and subsequent eradication of screwworm populations. To prevent the screwworm from spreading north of South America, The Commission is maintaining a barrier at the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia, by utilizing both preventive release of sterile flies and field surveillance. Read more »

Volunteers Clear Weeds to Benefit Rocky Mountain Elk Habitat, Celebrate 50th Year of the Wilderness Act

Volunteers armed with shovels and picks remove clusters of houndstongue from a high elevation meadow in the Raggeds Wilderness on the Gunnison and White River National Forests. (U.S. Forest Service/Dan Gray)

Volunteers armed with shovels and picks remove clusters of houndstongue from a high elevation meadow in the Raggeds Wilderness on the Gunnison and White River National Forests. (U.S. Forest Service/Dan Gray)

The Raggeds Wilderness, a nearly 65,000-acre area on the Gunnison and White River National Forests near Paonia, Colorado, is prime elk habitat with herd numbers in the hundreds.

Acres of undisturbed coniferous forests are interspersed with open slopes of wet meadows thick with grasses and sedges, a nutritious diet for elk needing to fatten up for the winter. But houndstongue, a purple-flowered invasive weed that takes root alongside nutritious plants, is toxic to elk. Read more »

Virginia Farmer Balances Family, Farming and Flying with the Air National Guard

Buck Holsinger, a 9th generation farmer from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, served two tours in Afghanistan with the Air National Guard before returning back to his farm.

Buck Holsinger, a 9th generation farmer from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, served two tours in Afghanistan with the Air National Guard before returning back to his farm.

From the deserts of Afghanistan, to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, James “Buck” Holsinger has served his country as a pilot and a farmer. From an early age, Buck dreamed of becoming a pilot. After the events of September 11, 2001, he made the decision to enlist. For two tours in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, Buck flew large cargo planes.

After his second tour in Afghanistan and the birth of his third child, Buck wanted to return to farming so he could instill the same values in his children.

Buck is a 9th generation farmer.  He grew up working on the farm with his father, grandfather, and cousins. Buck recalls, “On the weekends, it was everybody’s second job.” Looking back, he says, “Some of the tools and knowledge that I gained have been invaluable in all my careers including the military because I learned that farming work ethic.” Read more »

The Importance of Farm Broadcasting in Reaching America’s 3.2 Million Farmers

NASS Associate Administrator Renee Picanso visits with Mike Adams of AgriTalk for an in-studio interview to help reach farmers and ranchers during the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Working with farm broadcasters like Adams helps NASS deliver vital information and statistics to America’s 3.2 million agricultural producers.

NASS Associate Administrator Renee Picanso visits with Mike Adams of AgriTalk for an in-studio interview to help reach farmers and ranchers during the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Working with farm broadcasters like Adams helps NASS deliver vital information and statistics to America’s 3.2 million agricultural producers.

Growing up on a small crop and hog farm in Perry County, Illinois, I have memories as a child listening to the radio with my father or uncle to hear the latest agriculture news. As farmers, they relied on and trusted receiving weather, farm, and market updates from the local radio station, WDQN. Some days my father would nod in agreement liking what he heard on the radio and other days my uncle would shake his head and turn the volume down. But the important thing was they always tuned in and listened.

As a child, I never guessed that I would grow up to be on the receiving end of interviews to report the crop, livestock, and agriculture census numbers that we listened for.  Having worked for USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) for 30 years, I have had the pleasure to talk with a great number of farm broadcasters. Folks who are dedicated to delivering the information and stories to farmers, ranchers, and rural America. Read more »

Community Eligibility Provision First Step to Universal School Meals in Vermont

The following guest blog was submitted by Alida Duncan of the anti-hunger advocacy organization, Hunger Free Vermont. The implementation of the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) by many state partners across the country means that more students have access to free healthy meals at school.  This policy can reduce food insecurity for the nearly 16 million children living in households that have trouble affording enough nutritious food. In Vermont, over 7,000 students are participating in CEP.

Guest Post By Alida Duncan, Hunger Free Vermont, Development & Marketing Director

Many kids aren’t getting the nutrients they need and some aren’t getting enough to eat at all. In an animated video produced by the anti-hunger advocacy organization, Hunger Free Vermont, Universal School Meals is presented as the solution for improving student health and academic performance, strengthening the local economy, and making schools a more welcoming place. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: In Rural America, Promise and Opportunity Abound for Veterans

Veterans have sacrificed dearly to keep this country safe. Every day, they confront and triumph over those that threaten our national security. We owe it to our military men and women to ensure a different kind of security is waiting when they return home—the security that comes from the promise of a good job, affordable housing, a quality education and dependable health care.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture stands proudly alongside those who have served. Our staff across America includes more than 11,000 veterans – and our team works hard every day to strengthen services and programs in rural areas that support veterans and their families as they achieve their dreams. This includes everything from health clinics and telemedicine services, to distance learning and training opportunities for those who want to start a farm or ranch to grants and loans to help veterans start or expand a rural business. Read more »