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USDA Export Development Program Helps Boost U.S. Blueberry Exports

U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council member Deborah Payne at the Gulfood 2014 trade show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) federation.

U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council member Deborah Payne at the Gulfood 2014 trade show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) federation.

Spring is here and brings with it many fresh healthy foods, including blueberries. Known for their antioxidants, vitamins and fiber, blueberries are a healthy option that is becoming more popular around the world and the U.S. blueberry industry is taking advantage of this demand with the help of the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Market Access Program (MAP).

Through MAP, FAS partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities that help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities. Read more »

Local Combines with American Grown

Quickly assembling tortilla wraps for hungry students is a hard job. I learned this first hand recently at Stone Spring Elementary in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Mary Lou, Ott and Jean, the cafeteria staff responsible for preparing and serving school meals every day, took control of the kitchen, quickly assembling 300 turkey wraps while I clumsily tried to keep up.

But while I found the prep work to be challenging, I learned that products from USDA, such as the lean turkey in the wraps, make it easier for schools to buy local foods. USDA purchases over $1 billion of food from American farmers for school meal programs every year. Known as USDA Foods, these American grown products include fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, lean meats and poultry. Read more »

Farm Service Agency – Honored to Serve America’s Farmers and Ranchers

Several buildings suffer damage from a severe storm on the Goyings farm in Paulding County, OH on June 29, 2012. USDA photo by Christina Reed.

Several buildings suffer damage from a severe storm on the Goyings farm in Paulding County, OH on June 29, 2012. USDA photo by Christina Reed.

This post is part of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

For the last few weeks we have shared stories about farmers and ranchers across the country that are benefitting from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) Microloan program. The stories highlighted new farmers starting out on their own, producers who follow a proud family tradition of working the land, and even one farmer who, at 92 years young, is finding new ways to keep growing — all with the help of the Microloan. The program allows beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access up to $35,000 in loans using a simplified application process with up to seven years to repay.

Microloans are just one of many ways FSA is helping farmers and ranchers. We also offer Disaster Assistance. Producers around the country have suffered through two and a half difficult years with no disaster assistance because these programs were awaiting Congressional action. With the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill, eligible producers can sign up today to get help. Read more »

USDA Helps Develop Next Generation of Ag Scientists

ARS soil scientist Gary Bañuelos (left) with Ph.D. candidate Irvin Arroyo, who already has almost 20 years of scientific work with USDA on his resume, beginning with a scholarship to work at ARS’ San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, now in Parlier, California.

ARS soil scientist Gary Bañuelos (left) with Ph.D. candidate Irvin Arroyo, who already has almost 20 years of scientific work with USDA on his resume, beginning with a scholarship to work at ARS’ San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center, now in Parlier, California.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, such as keeping our educational pipeline filled with the best and brightest future agricultural scientists.

So far, Irvin Arroyo has not strayed too far from the farming world. Growing up, he lived and worked with his parents at a 200-acre vineyard in Madera, California, where he tended the vines and harvested the grapes.

When Arroyo went to college at California State University, Fresno (CSU Fresno), he was given a scholarship to work at USDA’s San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center in Fresno as an intern.  The laboratory, now in Parlier, is part of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The scholarship had been established by CSU Fresno and ARS soil scientist Gary Bañuelos to foster minority student interest in science careers. Read more »

Web of Intrigue: New Spider Species Spotted on Fort Pierre National Grassland

The Fort Pierre National Grassland is home to a series of spiders previously unknown. A new species, Theridion pierre (Levi & Patrick 2013) is part of the cobweb family of spiders, Theridiidae, the fifth largest family of spiders which boasts 2387 currently recognized species (Platnick 2014). This 1 millimeter spider – about the size of a lead pencil point – is relatively abundant and easily caught on the grasslands. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Brian)

The Fort Pierre National Grassland is home to a series of spiders previously unknown. A new species, Theridion pierre (Levi & Patrick 2013) is part of the cobweb family of spiders, Theridiidae, the fifth largest family of spiders which boasts 2387 currently recognized species (Platnick 2014). This 1 millimeter spider – about the size of a lead pencil point – is relatively abundant and easily caught on the grasslands. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Brian)

When a new species is discovered on the planet, people usually imagine a discovery process that is dangerous and remote in location. However, one scientist didn’t have to venture far from home to learn about a few new discoveries that has the science community spinning about a native grassland ecosystem in South Dakota.

Arachnid hunter Brian Patrick, an assistant professor of biology at Dakota Wesleyan University, is looking for creatures that are usually overlooked in the grasslands, and his work is making a mark in the scientific world. With help from partners like the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks and the University of South Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network, Patrick works with the Nebraska National Forest to conduct research on arachnids on the Fort Pierre National Grassland. Read more »

Better Quality Beef Starts with Improving the Quality of the Land

Jake and Jondra Shadowen and family use conservation programs to improve their Benton, Ky. ranch. (NRCS photo)

Jake and Jondra Shadowen and family use conservation programs to improve their Benton, Ky. ranch. (NRCS photo)

When Jake and Jondra Shadowen from Benton, Ky. got married 14 years ago, they decided to buy a 26-acre ranch with a goal of raising a healthy herd of cattle. Today, thanks to hard work and conservation, they maintain a strong herd of 26 cattle, up from 11 when they first began.

They worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement a rotational grazing system, which breaks up large pastures into smaller ones. A rotational grazing system allows for grass to grow faster and quicker and prevents soil from becoming prone to erosion. Read more »