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46 Million-Year-Old Eocene World in a Forest

Kishenehn fossil mosquito

Kishenehn fossil mosquitoes are among the best preserved Eocene insects in the world. Scale bar is 2 mm. (Photo credit: D. Greenwalt & C. Labandeira, Smithsonian Institution.)

An intrepid fossil hunter on the U.S. Forest Service’s Flathead National Forest in northwest Montana doesn’t need to dig too deep to find exquisitely preserved fossil insects with traces of their original stomach contents. Amazing as this sounds you just need to visit rock outcrops of the Kishenehn Formation exposed on the banks of the Flathead River.

There, researchers affiliated with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have discovered a treasure trove of tiny, 46-million year old fossil insects from the Eocene Epoch, which were deposited in sediments of an ancient lake early during the Age of Mammals. The preserved insects—over 7,000 specimens have been collected over the last several years—include fossil mosquitos. At least one specimen preserves an abdomen still engorged from its last meal. Read more »

Organic Sound and Sensible Resources: Understanding Rules, Certification, and Inspections

A tractor on a farm

Farmers and producers debunk common myths around organic certification in a new Sound & Sensible video resource.

Last month, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP) announced new resources resulting from our Sound and Sensible Initiative, which is making organic certification more accessible, affordable, and attainable. Today, we are introducing more guides, videos, and other tools – all produced by our partners in the organic community. These resources help farms and businesses understand the USDA organic standards, certification process, and inspections in more depth. Read more »

Innovative Program Promotes Rotational Grazing in Chesapeake Bay Area

Cows grazing on a farm in Upper Marlboro, MD

Cows graze on a farm in Upper Marlboro, MD.

“Who better to share the benefits of intensive rotational grazing than farmers who are actually doing it on their lands?” asked Beth L. McGee, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Senior Regional Water Quality Scientist.

Intensive grazing systems, a type of rotational grazing that uses higher per acre stocking rates in smaller grazing or pasture units, can provide multiple benefits for farmers and the environment. These systems can help maintain and enhance farm profitability while reducing labor and input costs. Compared to more traditional confinement operations, intensive grazing can result in improved soil health, an increase in sequestered carbon and decreased emissions of other greenhouse gases. Read more »

Change Beyond the Plate

Breonna Walker from Englehard Elementary School in Louisville, KY enjoying a nutritious and delicious school lunch

Breonna Walker from Englehard Elementary School in Louisville, KY enjoys a nutritious and delicious school lunch. Photo courtesy Jefferson County Public Schools

The following guest blog from a school and community nutrition services director in Louisville, Kentucky highlights how non-profit School Food FOCUS relies on USDA’s Process Verified Program (PVP) to help increase transparency and choice for school food purchases.  USDA’s objective, third-party auditing services focus on increasing transparency from farm to market by offering verification based on clearly defined, implemented, and transparent process points.

By Julia Bauscher, Director of School and Community Nutrition Services, Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky

The first time School Food FOCUS brought together a group of school food directors like myself to talk about how we could improve the quality of chicken—the number one protein we serve to students—I was thrilled and a little daunted.

Schools across the country spend nearly $1 billion on chicken every year. That’s a lot of buying power. School Food FOCUS challenged us to think about the changes we can make to our food system if districts leveraged this buying power to create a demand for chicken that is better on the plate and for the environment. Read more »

In New York, Youth Learn Leadership by Doing

Nosa Akol, CITIZEN U teen leader in Binghamton, New York holding her award

Nosa Akol, CITIZEN U teen leader in Binghamton, New York, won the 4-H 2015 Youth in Action Award as an exceptional youth who embodies the life-changing impact of 4-H. (Photo courtesy of the National 4-H Council)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

In Binghamton, New York, at-risk youth are learning to take charge of their lives by working on a variety of community improvement projects that they design and carry out.

CITIZEN U stands for Citizen You and Citizen University,” said Dr. June Mead, director of New York’s Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) program.  “(It’s) a metaphor for creating a university environment in which teens are empowered to become community change agents and graduate from high school prepared for college, careers, and citizenship.  Through their involvement, teen leaders gain knowledge and real-world application of civic engagement.” Read more »

USDA Northeast Climate Hub Integrates Farmer Panel into Operational Discussions

Drew (left) and Joan Norman (center), One Straw Farm and, Catherine Webb (right) of Springfield Farm

Drew (left) and Joan Norman (center), One Straw Farm and, Catherine Webb (right) of Springfield Farm shared stories and insights about their operations after a farm to table lunch at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office on October 27th, 2015.

As the autumn leaves in the Northeast were just beginning to blanket the ground in late October, the USDA Northeast Climate Hub held its first annual –university network hosted– Partner Operational Discussions. The group convened in Annapolis, Maryland where working meetings were held at both the Chesapeake Bay Program and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office on October 26th and 27th, 2015. On the second day, after much conversation, assorted presentations and a locally sourced farm-to-table lunch from A Cook’s Cafe, the group took a step back to listen to those whose daily work has dictated the very mission of the USDA Climate Hubs: farmers. Maryland-rooted farm operators, Drew and Joan Norman of One Straw Farm and Catherine Webb of Springfield Farm, formed a panel with moderators Joana Chan and Allison Chatrchyan of the Cornell Institute for Climate Change & Agriculture. Together they chatted about their operations, experiences with extreme weather events, practices and information needs. Read more »