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Agriculture Deputy Secretary Talks Importance of New Farmers at Tribal Food Sovereignty Summit in Wisconsin

Agriculture Deputy Krysta Harden speaks to a Menominee Tribal biology class in Green Bay, WI on Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014. USDA photo.

Agriculture Deputy Krysta Harden speaks to a Menominee Tribal biology class in Green Bay, WI on Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014. USDA photo.

This month’s Midwest tribal forum brought together USDA state and national officials, including Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, to promote the growth of healthy food systems for Native Americans. The annual Food Sovereignty Summit was held at the Oneida Nation in Green Bay, Wis.

Deputy Secretary Harden’s speech to attendees of the summit focused on the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill. She said that young people need to be encouraged to make a living off the land. She also told the tribal community that USDA is here to assist and that we have a common goal of feeding the next generation. Deputy Secretary Harden is particularly focused on providing resources for new farmers and Native Americans well into the future. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service Makes Learning about Invasive Species Easy for Kids

The Insects Invade magazine developed by the U.S. Forest Service in collaboration with Scholastic Inc. was distributed to 25,000 teachers nationwide this year.  (U.S. Forest Service)

The Insects Invade magazine developed by the U.S. Forest Service in collaboration with Scholastic Inc. was distributed to 25,000 teachers nationwide this year. (U.S. Forest Service)

Our forests are under attack. And the U.S. Forest Service is hoping that the Nation’s fourth and fifth graders can help fight back.

The Forest Service distributed Insects Invade, a teacher’s package to 25,000 teachers nationwide.  The teacher’s package includes 30 copies of a 12-page full color magazine called Insects Invade, a teacher’s page that has two lesson plans, as well as a comment card for feedback. The magazine was developed in conjunction with Scholastic Inc., a company that has delivered books, magazines and educational materials to schools and families for 90 years.

The Insects Invade educational product resulted as an idea to build awareness among fourth and fifth graders elementary school children about invasive insects. Read more »

Ag Census Data Tools Coming Your Way

USDA tools are available so you can put the Census Data to work right away.

USDA tools are available so you can put the Census Data to work right away.

The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years and USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) spends that time planning, preparing, and executing the Census. But that’s only a part of the Census process. Once we gather and process the data, we have to make sure the results are easily accessible and understood by the public.

Traditionally, we’ve published PDF files to the Internet, but as most of us know, it is not the optimal format for online data dissemination. If you want to analyze and mine data, you don’t want to retype them into a spreadsheet. And if you have hundreds or thousands of data points to analyze, as is the case with the Census, you need a more accessible data tool to ensure accuracy and efficiency in data sharing. Read more »

Following the Rails: USDA Tracks Agricultural Exports Across the Border

Until recently, there was no readily-available public data showing the entry points of U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico, modes of transportation, or how product were used at their final destination.  Now, a USDA partnership with Texas A&M scientists provides insight into the movement of products from the U.S. to Mexico. Photo by Michael Matalis.

Until recently, there was no readily-available public data showing the entry points of U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico, modes of transportation, or how product were used at their final destination. Now, a USDA partnership with Texas A&M scientists provides insight into the movement of products from the U.S. to Mexico. Photo by Michael Matalis.

Driving down a rural road, admiring the expansive fields of corn and soybeans, I stopped at a rail crossing to wait for what seemed like an endless train of cars filled with grain.  My idle mind wondered, where are all those tons of grain headed, where was its final destination?  For anyone else, it may just be curiosity. But for me and those who work in my division within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), it’s our job to answer those questions.

We understand that for stakeholders within the agricultural industry—farmers, grain mill operators, shippers and exporters—the answers are critical.  Sound business decisions require knowledge about what is happening with the transportation of agricultural products, both in the domestic and international marketplace. Read more »

How do You Prepare for this Year’s Fire Season? Tune in Friday with #PrepareAthon!

Prepare your home and family for wildfire season.

Prepare your home and family for wildfire season. Click to enlarge or download.

With yet another busy fire season around the corner, the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE and the U.S. Fire Administration decided to take to social media and talk about America’s PrepareAthon!, which is a nationwide, community-based campaign for action to increase emergency preparedness and resilience through hazard-specific drills, group discussions and exercises conducted at the national level every fall and spring.  Wildfire experts will be ready to answer any questions that range from how to help protect your home from wildfire to what the wildfire season forecast looks like this year.

Drought conditions in the West, especially in California, combined with other factors portend a dangerous fire season that now could start at any time.  Last year, 34 wildland firefighters died in the line of duty as fire ravaged 4.1 million acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes around the Nation. This year the U.S. Forest Service has more than 10,000 firefighters who stand ready as well as aircraft and engines deployed around the country.  Should that call be received, these firefighters and the tools that they use are ready to spring into action. Read more »

Everybody Talks About the Weather…

A member of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew, Department of the Interior (DOI) Indian Affairs (IA) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) San Carlos Agency in Arizona; on assignment. The combined effects of droughts and insects may lead to a pulse of tree mortality that increases the potential for intense fires. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

A member of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew, Department of the Interior (DOI) Indian Affairs (IA) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) San Carlos Agency in Arizona; on assignment. The combined effects of droughts and insects may lead to a pulse of tree mortality that increases the potential for intense fires. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

The climate statistics for the first month of 2014 have been impressive. Extreme weather has lashed the United States from Alaska to Florida with record warmth, cold, dry and wet conditions all at the same time. The National Climatic Data Center reports that January of 2014 was the driest January on record for New Mexico, 2nd driest for Arizona and 3rd driest for California. January 2014 was also in the top ten of coldest Januaries on record for much of the upper Midwest.

Extreme drought conditions in the western U.S. are dramatically impacting water supplies critical to agriculture and elevating fire risk across our National Forests. Across the continent frequent cold waves have repeatedly threatened winter crops across the Southeast while frost depths reaching several feet will impact springtime planting across the Midwest. This kind of winter gets everyone talking about the weather.  It brings to mind the quote “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” often attributed to Mark Twain (but apparently said by a friend). Read more »