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Don’t Play Politics with our Children’s Health

Earlier this morning, The Hill published an op-ed written by Secretary Vilsack and former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, who served from 2001 to 2005. In the op-ed, Vilsack and Veneman call on Members of Congress to stand strong for America’s children and resist attempts to undo the progress made since the passage of the bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 (HHFKA). Schools across the country are now serving healthier meals to kids based on recommendations from doctors and nutritionists at the Institute of Medicine. Thanks to HHFKA, the school environment is healthier for millions of American children, giving them a fair shot at a healthier, more productive future. Read more from The Hill Op-Ed

Small Operation Perseveres Until Drought Relief Comes

Keegan Poe received disaster funding for grazing losses he suffered during the drought in 2012.

Keegan Poe received disaster funding for grazing losses he suffered during the drought in 2012.

This post is part of a disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Wednesday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Keegan Poe of Johnson County, Indiana is a busy man. Not only is Poe a regional manager for Indiana Farm Bureau, but in his “spare time,” he holds down a second full-time job raising beef cattle and running Poe’s Quality Meats where he sells family raised beef and lamb direct from farm to consumer.

“My family has raised sheep for 70 years here in Indiana, but my passion for raising cattle started with one dairy steer when I was involved with 4-H as a youth,” said Poe. “I asked my dad if I could show cattle and he said, ‘sure’ and the rest is history.” Read more »

A Wetland Returns to its “Roots” Through a Conservation Easement

The South Branch Prairie shows vibrant native grasses two years after its restoration. DeKalb County Forest Preserve District photo.

The South Branch Prairie shows vibrant native grasses two years after its restoration. DeKalb County Forest Preserve District photo.

If the land floods more often than growing a crop, why not let it go back to what it wants to be – a wetland. That’s what happened on the Hoppe Heritage Farmstead in 2011. The Hoppe sisters owned cropland along the southern branch of the Kishwaukee River in DeKalb County, Ill. About half of the land would flood on a regular basis.

After several years of dealing with the floods, the sisters decided to do something about it. They sold the homestead to the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District, which preserves and restores landscapes and their plant and animal life.

Terry Hannan, the forest preserve’s superintendent, contacted USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service about a conservation easement as a possible opportunity to improve the land. Read more »

100+ Years of Tracking Nutrients Available in the U.S. Food Supply

Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply: Macronutrients per Capita per Day, 1909-2010. Click to enlarge.

Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply: Macronutrients per Capita per Day, 1909-2010. Click to enlarge.

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.

What’s in the food we eat? Have you ever wondered if the foods past generations ate as children were more nutritious than the foods you now eat, or vice versa? Well, let’s take a look at the amount of nutrients available in foods for over 100 years!

The Nutrient Content of the U.S. Food Supply is a historical data series beginning with 1909, on the amounts of nutrients available in the food supply for consumption (not nutrients consumed), on a per capita per day basis, as well as percentage contributions of nutrients by major food groups. The series provides data for food calories and the calorie-yielding nutrients which are protein, carbohydrate, and fat (total, saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and individual fatty acids); cholesterol; dietary fiber; 10 vitamins; and 9 minerals. Food supply nutrients are closely linked to food and nutrition policy, with prominence in areas related to nutrition monitoring, Federal dietary guidance, fortification policy, and food marketing strategies. Read more »

NIFA Small Business Grant Could Help Quench Thirst Around the World

Robert Sorber operates the MicroDesal, which may successfully remove heavy metals, nitrates, phosphorus, and bacteria, making water safe to drink.  Photo by Isaac Madsen

Robert Sorber operates the MicroDesal, which may successfully remove heavy metals, nitrates, phosphorus, and bacteria, making water safe to drink. Photo by Isaac Madsen

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.

Clean drinking water for the world is a pretty tall order, considering that the United Nations says nearly a billion people currently go without it.  But, that’s exactly the vision that Karen Sorber had when she co-founded Micronic Technologies in 2008 as a family business.

Now a Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is bringing the company one step closer to making that dream a reality.  Micronic Technologies has introduced “MicroDesal,” a technology that takes well water with unsafe nitrate levels and treats it to the point where the water meets U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean drinking water safety standards.  Nitrates are unsafe for humans – especially children and pregnant women – and livestock. Read more »

Restored Wetland Doubles as Outdoor Classroom for High School Students

Swales, like this one, were created throughout the wetland to hold water after a rain event, which in turn helps aid in flood storage, enhances plant diversity and provides habitat for wildlife. NRCS photo.

Swales, like this one, were created throughout the wetland to hold water after a rain event, which in turn helps aid in flood storage, enhances plant diversity and provides habitat for wildlife. NRCS photo.

A 53-acre conservation easement is an ideal environmental learning lab for students at Francis Hugh Wardlaw Academy in Johnston, South Carolina.  The land was once pastures for cattle, but now it’s a vibrant wetland just across the street from the high school.

The contractor hired to install the restoration work, Charles Kemp, was instrumental in involving the school’s students in creating and managing the wetland. “These students are exploring what a career in agriculture or environmental science would be like, and they love being outside and escaping the confines of the classroom,” Kemp said.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provided technical and financial assistance to develop the restoration plan, and install the structures and earthwork to convert the wet pasture into a functioning wetland. Read more »