Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

25 Years Later, Forest Conservation Programs Still Help Keep Our Working Forests Thriving And Working

Senator Patrick Leahy speaking at a commemoration on Capitol Hill

Senator Patrick Leahy, (left, at podium) speaks at a commemoration on Capitol Hill of this year’s 25th anniversary of the Forest Legacy Program and other initiatives that help states and communities conserve forest land. The Senator authored forest conservation programs that he first included in the 1990 Farm Bill, when he chaired the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Photo courtesy of Jay Tilton, office of Senator Leahy.

Patrick Leahy is Vermont’s senior U.S. senator and led in authoring forest conservation programs that he first included in the 1990 Farm Bill, when he chaired the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.  Robert Bonnie is USDA’s undersecretary for natural resources and environment.  This week they headed a commemoration on Capitol Hill of this year’s 25th anniversary of the Forest Legacy Program and other initiatives that help states and communities conserve forest land.  Wayne Maloney, Office of Communications

Twenty-five years ago, the Senate’s 1990 Leahy-Lugar Farm Bill authorized the creation of three pivotal forestry programs that today are a resounding success.  The Forest Legacy, Forest Stewardship and Urban and Cooperative Forestry Programs help private and state forest landowners keep their forests healthy.  That in turn supports tens of thousands of jobs, benefiting rural and urban communities across the nation.  This week we joined in a celebration in the Capitol Hill Visitors Center marking this milestone. Read more »

Enhancing the Flavor of Food through Plant Breeding

Butternut squash

Plant breeding can lead to new varieties that taste great and are easier to grow, giving you choices if you are growing them or getting them from a farmers market or grocery store.

Vegetables are becoming more flavorful and sustainable through plant breeding. Plant breeding is at the core of the seed-to-table movement—using selective breeding to develop plant varieties that possess exceptional culinary properties and the ability to thrive in a sustainable production system.

One plant variety leading the way in this movement is a series of mini-butternut squash developed by a Cornell University researcher, Michael Mazourek. He began the project as part of a $2.5 million Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant awarded to Oregon State University, which resulted in a national network of organic plant breeders, the Northern Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC). The grant is funded by National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »

Defining Open Space in the San Gabriel Mountains

West Fork of the San Gabriel River

Winter waters rush through the West Fork of the San Gabriel River. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

The term “open-space” can mean so many different things to an Angelino. It can mean finding a rare open parking spot downtown, finding an open reservation at the newest, trendy restaurant, or it can mean escaping the overwhelming congestion of Greater Los Angeles into its “backyard”: The Angeles National Forest and the newly designated San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

When Angelinos and tourists from various parts of the world trade the congestion on the highways for the feel of an open trail, it provides relief from the daily grind that lies only 60 minutes away from the metropolitan area. Read more »

Alabama Water Festival Teaches Fourth Graders About Water Conservation

A group of students building a mini-filtration system

A group of students build a mini-filtration system. NRCS photo.

Although it’s no longer her job, Anna Miller still takes time to volunteer for the Lee County Water Festival every spring in Auburn, Alabama. The annual event has attracted hundreds of fourth graders with lessons on aquifers, the water cycle and water filtration, since it first began in 2004.  

“Students learn about their environment; they learn about water and how precious it is,” said Miller. Read more »

Meeting to Prepare Industry for Food Safety Modernization Act Compliance

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending a public meeting held by our colleagues at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to provide an update for the pending Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This law will make significant changes to the country’s food safety laws, including the first-ever regulation of fresh produce and a more proactive approach to preventing food-borne illnesses. I spoke on behalf of my agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – as part of a panel of domestic and international officials who provided the government’s perspective on how we would like to see the final law implemented.

With several of the law’s rules set to become final later this summer and early in the fall, the FDA is still seeking comments and suggestions for the best way to implement FSMA. The meeting, which included breakout sessions where participants could start an open dialogue about the implementation, is part of the FDA’s emphasis on educating the industry before regulating it. Read more »

Kentucky Agriculture – Snapshot of Bluegrass State Farming

Kentucky State Infographic

That's a lot of cows, and soybeans, and corn, and horses - Kentucky Agriculture is growing! Check back next week for another spotlight on another state and the results of 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.

Kentucky and cattle have always been a perfect match, and as the most recent Census of Agriculture shows that bond remains to this day. In 2012, the year for which we conducted the Census, Kentucky farmers sold more than $1 billion worth of cattle and calves.

Beef cattle production has become an increasingly important sector for many farms transitioning away from tobacco production. Overall, about half of all farms in Kentucky owned cattle in 2012. That’s not surprising, considering we have some of the best cattle pasture in the United States. Read more »