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Conservation Efforts Help Protect Longleaf Forests for Future Generations

A private landowner in Hancock County, Miss. is restoring a longleaf pine forest on his land.

A private landowner in Hancock County, Miss. is restoring a longleaf pine forest on his land.

I have a few decorative items on my desk at work, and some of those are longleaf pine cones. Even though I only learned of the rare longleaf pine forest – and the large pine cones that fall in them each year – a few years ago, it was love at first sight.

Longleaf pine forests once covered the coastal landscape of the Southeast, and they’re home to nearly 600 plant and animal species.

But over the past two centuries, development, timbering and fire suppression reduced the longleaf’s range by almost 97 percent. And many groups, including USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are working to save and restore this landscape. According to the America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative, longleaf forests have increased from about 3 million acres to about 4.4 million acres in recent years, reversing a century-long decline across the region. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Help for Rural Californians Suffering Through Drought

This week, I visited the small town of Cameron Creek Colony in Tulare County, California and saw firsthand the challenges drought poses, particularly for those living in rural communities.

About 10 percent of Cameron Creek Colony residents have no access to water because their wells have run dry. Still others have only intermittent access to water. Many are in danger of losing access to water permanently in the near future. One long-time resident told me that until this drought, she’d never worried about water. Now, worrying about having enough water is constantly on her mind. Read more »

A ‘Plane’ View about Wildland Firefighters and a New Disney Movie

The U.S. Forest Service partnered with Disney, Ad Council, and the National Association of State Foresters to launch a series of wildfire prevention public service advertisements featuring scenes and characters from the animated film Planes: Fire and Rescue. An Educational Activity Book with a teachers’ resource guide is also available.

The U.S. Forest Service partnered with Disney, Ad Council, and the National Association of State Foresters to launch a series of wildfire prevention public service advertisements featuring scenes and characters from the animated film Planes: Fire and Rescue. An Educational Activity Book with a teachers’ resource guide is also available.

This week’s opening of Disney’s animated movie, Planes: Fire & Rescue is especially exciting for the U.S. Forest Service because the agency played an important role in the production of the film.

Actually, no Forest Service employees appear in the new comedy-adventure, which features a dynamic crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting the mythical Piston Peak National Park from wildfire. The agency’s role was an advisory one, giving access to firefighting facilities for Disney animators so that even as a cartoon, the movie has a degree of authenticity. Read more »

Bringing the USDA Foods Mission to SNA-ANC 2014!

AMS Commodity Procurement Program Director Dave Tuckwiller and FNS Food Distribution Division Director Laura Castro talked to conference attendees at the SNA Convention. The convention gave them a chance to get feedback from school foodservice operators, vendors, and industry organizations.

AMS Commodity Procurement Program Director Dave Tuckwiller and FNS Food Distribution Division Director Laura Castro talked to conference attendees at the SNA Convention. The convention gave them a chance to get feedback from school foodservice operators, vendors, and industry organizations.

I love it when business travel doesn’t feel so much like a commitment as it does an adventure. That’s the feeling I had this year (and every year) as I packed my bag and headed to the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Convention (SNA-ANC) in Boston, MA. I was eager and anticipated a week full of sharing, learning, and exploring with a large number of our stakeholders!

I was excited to share with the audience the mission of the commodity purchase program for my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The program supports U.S. agricultural markets by stabilizing demand, while providing safe, quality foods to federal nutrition assistance programs. At one end of the supply chain, USDA’s domestic food purchases support markets that America’s farms, ranches, and fisheries rely on. On the other end, the “USDA Foods” that we purchase are a critical element in our nation’s food and nutrition safety net. Read more »

International Student Visitor Arrives for Forest Service Internship

Wellington Cardoso, an undergraduate student from Brazil, is visiting the Forest Operations research unit in Auburn, AL. (Photo Credit Dana Mitchell.)

Wellington Cardoso, an undergraduate student from Brazil, is visiting the Forest Operations research unit in Auburn, AL. (Photo Credit Dana Mitchell.)

Wellington Cardoso, an undergraduate student from Brazil, arrived in Auburn, Ala., this past January to begin an internship with the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station where he’s been studying a biomass harvesting operation.

“The research unit has been examining harvesting technologies for short rotation woody crops,” said Dana Mitchell, project leader of the Forest Operations research unit, which is hosting Cardoso. “Cardoso’s internship ends in July, and he has been able to witness field operations in action.” Read more »

Maryland: America in Miniature

Maryland isn’t chicken to talk about its agriculture – it ranks 8th in broilers sold in the USA.  Check back next Thursday as we spotlight another state’s results from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Maryland isn’t chicken to talk about its agriculture – it ranks 8th in broilers sold in the USA. Check back next Thursday as we spotlight another state’s results from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture results are out, and it is clear that here in Maryland, we have a little bit of everything. Although our state is small, the geography is diverse, providing suitable environments for a variety of agricultural commodities. From the Atlantic shore, to mountainous terrain, and from a diversity of livestock to an array of crops, Maryland truly is America in miniature.

In the Free State, about 69 percent of land in farms is cropland. We have 435,646 acres of corn for grain, 1,936 acres of oats for grain, 475,615 acres of soybeans for beans, and 210,354 acres of wheat for grain. In fact, 31.5 percent of the total market value of agriculture products sold comes from grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas. We also have almost every fruit and vegetable in the Census. The sandy environment near the shoreline is conducive to growing watermelons, of which we have 3,278 acres; and, the higher altitudes provide opportunities for producing grapes and peaches, of which we have 681 acres and 999 acres respectively. Read more »