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Wildlife Underpass to Benefit Animals, Drivers

Members of the Highway 89 Stewardship Team

Members of the Highway 89 Stewardship Team ceremonially broke ground in early May to begin construction on two wildlife underpasses in northeast California. Photo credit: Sagehen Creek Field Station

Every year in the U.S. roughly 200 people are killed in as many as 2 million wildlife-vehicle collisions and at a cost of more than $8 billion, according to the Western Transportation Institute.

But the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station scientists, along with their collaborators in the Highway 89 Stewardship Team, are paving the way to reduce those statistics with their latest project. The team broke ground last May on its second and third wildlife underpasses along a 25-mile stretch of Highway 89 between Truckee and Sierraville, California. Read more »

FAS Tariff Tracker Tool Now Includes TPP Data

USDA Agricultural Tariff Tracker screenshot

USDA’s Agricultural Tariff Tracker shows producers the benefits of TPP, including tariff eliminations, tariff reductions and more.

The United States has free trade agreements (FTAs) with 20 countries around the world and those agreements have expanded export opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural producers. The pending Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, between the United States and 11 other nations, will provide even greater opportunities for exporters by reducing or eliminating tariffs on a host of food and farm products.

How can exporters learn more about those tariff reductions and the opportunities they create? Through the Foreign Agricultural Service’s online Agricultural Tariff Tracker.  FAS initially developed the tracker in response to requests from those in the agricultural export community who wanted to obtain more detailed information about export opportunities resulting from FTAs. The tracker has already proven to be a valuable tool, but it just got even better – because now it includes TPP data. Read more »

Sustainably Growing Vegetables in a Changing Climate: It’s about Working Together

Soils protected from the impact of intense rainstorms by a layer of mulch between rows of lettuce growing at Harvest Valley Farm in Valencia, PA

Soils protected from the impact of intense rainstorms by a layer of mulch between rows of lettuce growing at Harvest Valley Farm in Valencia, PA. Photo credit: Franklin Egan, Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Director of Educational Programs, a USDA partner

The Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) sponsored a field day on June 2 to talk about growing vegetables in a changing climate.  The discussion focused on climate change, its impacts on the farming system, and strategies to effectively adapt through increasing biodiversity on the farm.

PASA’s Director of Educational Programs, Franklin Egan, provided an overview of climate change trends and projections.  Dave King and others who farm 160 acres of vegetables and small fruit all sold within 25 miles of the farm, talked about their challenges and sustainable farming practices.  Among them, high tunnel beds have more aphids and pill bugs in the winter, downy mildew appears earlier in the summer, weeds are not any easier to manage especially without degrading soil health,  irrigation costs are rising, and deer pressure rises during droughts.  Practices being continuously adapted to respond to changing conditions include a highly diversified crop production system, use of beneficial insects, crop rotations, cover cropping, and rye straw mulch. Read more »

Hill Farm Buzzing with Pollinator Success

Farmers Scott and Susan Hill in front of their pollinator garden

Farmers Scott and Susan Hill in front of their pollinator garden. “We had an agricultural specialist visit our farm operations who told us we needed more pollinators,” explained Susan Hill. “We initially added two bee hives and established a pollinator garden. It was amazing, our tomato production increased by 25 percent in the first year!”. Photo by Hill Farm

Since it’s National Pollinator Week, it seemed fitting to express my thanks to farmers Scott and Susan Hill – who run the Hill Farm outside Charlottesville, VA.  Earlier, I had the chance to visit their 10-acre property former tobacco farm to see firsthand how hard they are working to grow a variety of produce for the local customers. But there are more little workers helping on the Hill Farm too. Pollinators!

In the United States, about one third of all agricultural output depends on pollinators. Insects and other animal pollinators are vital to the production of healthy crops for food, fibers, edible oils, medicines, and other products. It’s clear that pollinators are important to the Hill Farm for their production of their artisan and specialty varieties of several vegetables, including lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes and even golden beets.  And the first year, the addition of bees increased their tomato production by 25 percent. Read more »

Local Experience Plants Seeds of Positive Youth Development Abroad

Three kids standing together

4-H sponsors cultural immersion and exchange programs, such as this one in the District of Columbia. Image courtesy of the University of the District of Columbia.

Raising children to be their very best is not a concept unique to any particular country; rather, teaching youth to make better choices and create positive change in their communities is a common theme.

4-H is an American program that provides positive youth development by promoting citizenship, healthy living, science, civic affairs, leadership, positive relationships, safe areas for risk-taking, and more. In 2015, nearly 6.5 million adult volunteers and youth sported the green four-leaf clover as they prepared for college, work, career, and life. As iconic as it is, 4-H is not just an American phenomenon, its principles have become deeply entrenched abroad, as well. Read more »

Pollinator Week: Celebrating Blue Butterflies on the Great Lakes

Karner Blue Butterfly

Karner Blue Butterfly on Dotted Horsemint on the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

In honor of National Pollinator Week, the U.S. Forest Service joins organizations and individuals across the world to celebrate pollinators and share ways to help them survive and thrive.

Pollinators are vital to healthy ecosystems. Eighty percent of flowering plants require pollination by animals to successfully reproduce and produce seeds and fruits. Plants and pollinators together provide the basis for life by converting sunlight into food, materials for shelter, clean air, clean water, medicines, and other necessities of life. Read more »