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New Report Highlights Sage Conservation Successes, Stories

Signing an agreement supporting sage grouse conservation

SGI today unveiled a new report that highlights the people and partnerships responsible for sage grouse conservation efforts on private lands.

Statistics associated with the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) are quite impressive. Since 2010, more than 1,100 ranchers have teamed up with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in the partnership led by the agency to conserve habitat on 4.4 million acres, an area of working lands twice the size of Yellowstone National Park. The partnership has invested more than $424 million, of which more than 75 percent are invested in the highest priority areas.

NRCS helps restore habitat for sage grouse, an iconic, at-risk bird of the American West, by restoring and protecting key landscapes through removal of encroaching conifers, up by 14-fold, and through the establishment of conservation easements, up by 18-fold. While these numbers are indeed important, they do not share the real story. It’s the people and partnerships behind the numbers that truly matter as they are the ones that actually put the conservation on the ground. These conservation heroes and their tremendous accomplishments are highlighted in the brand new publication called “Success on the Range,” unveiled today by SGI. Read more »

Celebrating the Blueberry’s 100th Birthday

AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Deputy Administrator Charles Parrott and AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Research and Promotion Program Director Heather Pichelman (right) enjoying the blueberry celebration at the USDA Farmers Market

AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Deputy Administrator Charles Parrott and AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Research and Promotion Program Director Heather Pichelman (right) enjoy the blueberry celebration at the USDA Farmers Market. They stopped by the Blueberry Council’s booth to meet Melissa Mowery (second from left) and Toni Austin (second from right), representatives from the Blueberry Council’s Public Relations team.

They often say big things come in small packages. That is the case for the highbush blueberry, a fruit that is only small in stature. July is National Blueberry Month and people all over the world are busy enjoying blueberry-inspired fruit salads, smoothies, and other refreshing foods. In addition to this month-long celebration, blueberry fans have another reason to get excited – the 100th anniversary of commercial blueberries.

The blueberry’s journey from farm to table began in 1916 in Whitesbog, N.J., when Elizabeth White teamed up with USDA botanist Frederick Coville to go against conventional wisdom and breed a variety of wild blueberries to be sold on the market. The blueberry’s 100-year history contains many milestones. This includes being named the official state berry of New Jersey, an iconic appearance in the classic Willy Wonka movie, and being planted in the White House kitchen garden. Read more »

#USDARoadTrip: USDA Innovates to Meet Your Needs

A person holding a digital map on a smart phone

Digital maps available for your smart phone help visitors find their way around U.S. Forest Service forests and grasslands.

USDA is in the solutions business. And now more than ever, we’re committed to working beside farmers, ranchers, rural businesses and partners to find innovative and collaborative solutions that meet the ever-evolving interests of the American people.

This week, as part of our USDA summer road trip, we’ll take you through a few of our signature advancements from recent years that help us to better serve your needs, including a series of mobile and web based applications that allow you to interact with USDA programs and services your way. Read more »

Reach Your Goal Weight Your Way with the NIH Body Weight Planner and USDA’s SuperTracker

Body Weight Planner graphic

This image shows the Body Weight Planner results page for a sample user we can call #1Mom. #1Mom is trying to reach her goal weight of 138 pounds in 180 days (about 6 months). Based on her goal and the physical activity changes she specified, the Body Weight Planner calculated that she will need to eat 1,819 calories a day to reach her goal and 2,094 calories a day to maintain it after she reaches it (assuming she keeps up her physical activity changes). (Click to enlarge)

Many people want to do a better job managing their weight but aren’t sure how. Whether you’re trying to maintain your weight, lose weight, or gain weight it can be challenging to figure out how to get started.

USDA and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) teamed up to bring you a simple new tool that can help you set, reach, and maintain your goal. Using science-based technology, the NIH Body Weight Planner calculates how many calories you need to eat and how much exercise you need to achieve a goal weight within a specific time period. You set the goal and decide what timeframe makes sense for you. Read more »

Kids’ “State Dinner”: Celebrating Healthy Cooking at the White House

Menu from the Kids’ “State Dinner”

Menu from the Kids’ “State Dinner” featured healthy, MyPlate-inspired recipes by talented kid-chefs.

Don’t let the name fool you; attending the Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House is an exciting experience for both kids and adults alike.  As a nutritionist with the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, I had the privilege of being both a judge and an attendee for the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, a contest where young chefs-in-training practice creating their own MyPlate-inspired healthy recipes.  The winners of this competition are in turn honored on July 10 with a special invitation to the White House for the Kids’ “State Dinner” and I joined these talented, young chefs for an unforgettable experience.

Kids and their guardians participated in a welcome reception prior to getting their picture taken with the First Lady. Excitement, and the sweet smell of fresh produce, was certainly in the air! However, it wasn’t just the recipes at the “State Dinner” that were inspired by MyPlate—even the centerpieces were created by using a variety of fruits and vegetables! Read more »

Migrating Monarchs

Children enjoying a Monarch Butterfly during a community event in Chicago

Children enjoy a Monarch Butterfly during a community event in Chicago. (Photo by Alexander Rivera for El Valor)

Last month, beautiful monarch butterflies floated across Chicago’s skyline as a part of their annual migration. During this year’s journey, they found more milkweed plants in several places along their paths because of an innovative program that connects urban communities with nature.

Area school kids, their families and teachers involved in an innovative project were thrilled: they had planted milkweeds in schoolyards and home gardens to attract more monarchs to the city … and it worked.  Many of the families are originally from Michoacan, Mexico, where the butterflies spend the winter. Read more »