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From Soils to Suitcase, Oregon Geologist Travels the World to Help Those in Need

Paul Pedone, a geologist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, poses for a photo with Zebitt in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia while working on a school construction project with Engineers Without Borders. Photo courtesy of Paul Pedone.

Paul Pedone, a geologist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, poses for a photo with Zebitt in Debre Birhan, Ethiopia while working on a school construction project with Engineers Without Borders. Photo courtesy of Paul Pedone.

When most people think about retirement, they think of sitting on a beach, reading books, or relaxing. Paul Pedone, has different plans. As a newly-registered member of Engineers Without Borders, Pedone is traveling across the globe to do what he does best — study the soil.

“I was looking for a meaningful retirement opportunity, so I got involved with our local EWB chapter here in Portland,” said Pedone, a geologist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oregon. “I started working with a group of students at Portland State University as a mentor for their EWB program.”

Pedone has worked for NRCS for 43 years, and as the prospect of retirement nears, his work with EWB provides a pathway to continue his service to the environment and to others. Read more »

American Farmland Trust and Many Others Thankful for Regional Conservation Partnership Program

American Farmland Trust President Andrew McElwaine presents NRCS Chief Jason Weller (right) with a thank you card with more than 1,300 signatures. NRCS photo.

American Farmland Trust President Andrew McElwaine presents NRCS Chief Jason Weller (right) with a thank you card with more than 1,300 signatures. NRCS photo.

As a part of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the most rewarding part of my job is seeing and hearing about the impact our work is having on the communities we serve.

Last month, I had the pleasure of meeting with American Farmland Trust President Andrew McElwaine. He presented me with a card signed by more than 1,300 people thanking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and NRCS for the successful launch of the newest Farm Bill conservation program – the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP. Read more »

Talking Trade in the Sunshine State

USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, Michael Scuse, talks with Florida agriculture leaders at the Port of Tampa to discuss trade issues and the Trade Promotion Authority.

USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, Michael Scuse, talks with Florida agriculture leaders at the Port of Tampa to discuss trade issues and the Trade Promotion Authority.

Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting USDA Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Under Secretary, Michael Scuse, here in Florida for an agricultural trade roundtable. Mr. Scuse met with more than 25 Florida agriculture leaders at the Port of Tampa to discuss trade issues and talk about Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).

Trade Promotion Authority, which needs Congressional approval, is a critical tool in our efforts to seek approval of trade agreements that support and create U.S. jobs while helping American agriculture compete more successfully in an ever-expanding global marketplace. Right now, the United States is negotiating two critical trade agreements – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Trade Promotion Authority would help ensure that America’s farmers, ranchers, and food processors receive the greatest benefit from these negotiations. Read more »

Love of Animals Keeps Colorado Teen Focused

Lakota Roberson (left) stands with representatives from Flying Diamond Ranch, who have sponsored the teen for various events. Roberson has won multiple championships and has been hired by other businesses for her fitting and showing abilities.

Lakota Roberson (left) stands with representatives from Flying Diamond Ranch, who have sponsored the teen for various events. Roberson has won multiple championships and has been hired by other businesses for her fitting and showing abilities.

At 16, Lakota Roberson has a lot of responsibility. The high school sophomore works two jobs, runs her own business, handles a full course load of classes and cares for 54 animals that she considers to be her children. By senior year she hopes to grow her animal family to 100.

Lakota, who starts her days off at 5:30 a.m. on weekends and 6 a.m. on weekdays admits, “I don’t have much down time, but when I do, I sleep.” Her first chore of the day, of course, is to take care of her animals. They consist of 40 ewes, 10 goats and four rams.

“It started out as a hobby, now it’s my job,” said Lakota. “But I love it.” Read more »

Healthy Kids Need Healthy Food: USDA Nutrition Programs Help Children and Families Grow & Thrive

Childhood Hunger in America infographic. Click to enlarge.

Childhood Hunger in America infographic. Click to enlarge.

USDA nutrition programs help families gain access to safe, nutritious food. Still many families with children don’t have the security of knowing they will be able to feed their family tomorrow.  Further, many families often rely on cheaper, less healthy foods because of financial constraints and transportation issues. USDA is working to address the intertwined challenges of hunger, malnutrition, and childhood obesity through several initiatives, including the newly announced Child Hunger Demonstration Projects and increased efforts in USDA Summer Meals Programs. Read more »

Summer Meals: Its Success Depends on All of Us

Every day, millions of students are able to enjoy a nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunch thanks to the National School Lunch Program. Everyday they’re in school, that is. But what happens to these children when school lets out during the summer? That’s when vital programs offered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service come into play. The summer meals program defends against hunger – ensuring that millions of the most vulnerable Americans have the energy they need to perform at work and school by receiving a healthy meal or snack when school meals are not available. Those meals are served at a variety of community centers throughout the country.

In the summer of 2014, USDA set a goal of serving 10 more million meals than in the summer of 2013 through the two programs that comprise USDA’s summer meal programs: USDA’s Summer Food Service Program and the National School Lunch Program’s Seamless Summer Option. With the help of partners, elected officials, and community leaders across the country, the goal was exceeded. We now want to build on that momentum. We’ve set new goals and need your help. Read more »