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Ready, Set, Lights! U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Delivered, Decorated and Ready to Shine

Workers use a crane to lift an 88-foot spruce tree harvested from the Chippewa National Forest to its final resting place on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The scaffolding surrounding the dome is part of a multi-year restoration project to repair deficiencies. (U.S. Forest Service/Mary LaPlant)

Workers use a crane to lift an 88-foot spruce tree harvested from the Chippewa National Forest to its final resting place on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The scaffolding surrounding the dome is part of a multi-year restoration project to repair deficiencies. (U.S. Forest Service/Mary LaPlant)

After a 2,700-mile, 30-stop journey from Minnesota, the 88-foot white spruce tree harvested from the Chippewa National Forest is delivered, set up in Washington, D.C., decorated by Architect of the Capitol employees and ready for the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2.

Speaker of the House John Boehner will light the tree on the Capitol’s West Front, where it will remain lit from dusk until 11 p.m. daily through Jan. 1. The tree is a gift from the American people, hence the moniker “The People’s Tree.” Hundreds of people attend the lighting ceremony. Read more »

The Other Holiday Shopping: Grocery Shopping

During the holiday season, it seems that all we do is shop, shop, shop. While not paying attention when you purchase holiday gifts places your wallet at risk, not paying attention when you purchase groceries can place your health at risk.

If you don’t take certain safety steps while grocery shopping, you can risk food poisoning. Grocery shopping is where safe food handling should start, by following these recommendations you can make sure the food you bring home is safe. Read more »

From Scientist to Farmer, Today’s Agriculture Producers Come from All Walks of Life

Richard McGinley farms 950 acres fulltime in central Florida.  According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming. NRCS photo.

Richard McGinley farms 950 acres fulltime in central Florida. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming. NRCS photo.

In the past, full-time farmers were the norm and children of farmers followed in their parent’s footsteps. That’s not the case today. Now, data from the Census of Agriculture show more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming.

Richard McGinley is a good example of today’s Florida farmer. He spent his early years living the city life until his dad moved the family to Ocala, located in central Florida, to begin farming. But McGinley had other interests that took him far from farming. He established a career in the nuclear industry and even started his own consulting business. Read more »

USDA Keeps Dairy Exports Flowing to Morocco

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and its sister agencies work to keep markets open to U.S. products.  Recently, an interagency team resolved an issue with Morocco, keeping a $126 million market open for American butter, cheese and other dairy products.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and its sister agencies work to keep markets open to U.S. products. Recently, an interagency team resolved an issue with Morocco, keeping a $126 million market open for American butter, cheese and other dairy products.

U.S. agricultural exports continue to be a bright spot for America’s economy, worth a record $152.5 billion in fiscal year 2014.  That’s why USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and its sister agencies work so hard to keep these export markets open.  So in 2011, when Morocco requested that USDA use a new dairy export certificate that we could not endorse, we launched into action.  Our goal was to protect an export market worth $126 million annually while preserving our close relationship with a valued trading partner.

Morocco is the 13th largest export market for our dairy products, and U.S. dairy exports are the fastest growing export category to that country.  U.S. companies export many dairy commodities to Morocco, such as butter, cheese and skim milk powder, as well as dairy ingredients such as milk protein and whey protein products. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Celebrating Our Nation’s Agricultural Abundance this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and the abundance of food we are able to share with our friends and family. This Thanksgiving, take a moment to thank the farmers and ranchers who make our nation’s agricultural abundance possible. Without them, the safe, abundant and affordable food we’ll put on our tables at Thanksgiving would not be possible.

At the same time, this Thanksgiving, it is important to remember those less fortunate. Many people will donate time, food or other resources to a food bank to brighten the holiday for families in their communities, and I am proud to say that many USDA employees are among them. I am also proud that through our People’s Garden Initiative, we’ve been able to donate 3.9 million pounds of fresh produce to food banks across the country over the last few years. Read more »

Kentucky Jail Uses a High Tunnel to Grow Fresh Food

NRCS staff discuss soil health efforts with Hopkins County jailer Joe Blue, right, and Deputy Jailer Billy Thomas and the jail’s gardener. NRCS photo by Christy Morgan.

NRCS staff discuss soil health efforts with Hopkins County jailer Joe Blue, right, and Deputy Jailer Billy Thomas and the jail’s gardener. NRCS photo by Christy Morgan.

Kentucky Jailer Joe Blue is passionate about rehabilitating inmates. Innovative ideas for teaching new skills are always on his mind, which is how the Hopkins County jail’s gardening program was started.

The Kentucky jail sits on several acres and has a large farm just across the street. As Blue was walking around the property one day, he looked across the street and thought: “What’s the difference in that land and our land? Why can’t we grow our own food here?” Read more »