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Budding Conservation Practice Helps Farmers use Technology to Control Amount, Timing of Water

Planting foxtail millet, a summer annual forage with low water needs, helps conserve water for subsequent crops. Photo by Scott Bauer.

Planting foxtail millet, a summer annual forage with low water needs, helps conserve water for subsequent crops. Photo by Scott Bauer.

An up-and-coming conservation practice offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers and ranchers manage water on their land, keep water clean and better cope with extreme weather like drought.

Drainage water management enables landowners to determine when and how much water leaves farms through underground tiles and drainage ditches. Underground tiles lay beneath fields removing excess water from the soil subsurface.

“Since landowners don’t need the same drainage intensity at all times during the year, this practice lets them use their drainage water in a way that’s most advantageous to them, their crops and the environment,” NRCS Senior Project Leader Paul Sweeney said. Read more »

Kids Visit Mom’s Co-Workers: Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl

Olivia and Lily Anderson enjoy making camp at Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. Lily (right) builds the fire as Olivia (left) preps the dinner. (Photo courtesy Leah Anderson)

Olivia and Lily Anderson enjoy making camp at Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. Lily (right) builds the fire as Olivia (left) preps the dinner. (Photo courtesy Leah Anderson)

As a U.S. Forest Service employee, I was very excited recently to take my two preschool age daughters to visit my co-workers: Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl.

The visit, however, took us to the Betty Brinn Museum’s Home Sweet Home Exhibit located in Milwaukee, Wis.

Created in collaboration with the Forest Service, the exhibit shares Smokey’s message of “Help Prevent Forest Fires” and Woodsy’s message of “Give a Hoot Don’t Pollute,” in addition to fun activities underscoring the importance of protecting ecosystems. Read more »

USDA’s Nutrition Evidence Library: Answering Food and Nutrition Questions with Systematic Reviews

The USDA Nutrition Evidence Library specializes in systematic reviews of research on food and nutrition, providing a scientific foundation for evidence-based decisions by federal policymakers and program managers.

The USDA Nutrition Evidence Library specializes in systematic reviews of research on food and nutrition, providing a scientific foundation for evidence-based decisions by federal policymakers and program managers.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, such as laying the foundation for evidence-based food and nutrition policies and programs by compiling and reviewing the best available nutrition research.

Ever wonder what the science says about the foods we eat, the beverages we drink, and our health? Or whether there is evidence to show how best to educate kids about a healthy diet?

If so, check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrition Evidence Library (NEL). The NEL specializes in doing systematic reviews, or pulling together the best available research to answer important food and nutrition-related questions. These reviews provide the scientific foundation that allows Federal policies and programs to be based on the strongest available evidence. Using this evidence-based approach also helps USDA comply with the Data Quality Act, which states that Federal agencies must ensure the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of the information used to form Federal guidance. Read more »

It’s Personal…Scenic Pennsylvania Lake Community Celebrates Protecting the Environment for Earth Day with USDA Funding

As part of USDA’s weeklong celebration of the 44th anniversary of Earth Day, I had the pleasure of visiting Wayne County, Pennsylvania to announce funding that will bring improved water and wastewater services to residents and businesses of The Hideout, one of the state’s lake communities in the Pocono Mountains.

Thanks to congressional passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA Rural Development received an additional $150 million to help rural communities build or upgrade water and wastewater systems in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. We are pairing that grant money with an additional $232 million in regular funding to support 116 projects nationwide. Read more »

How Research Shapes Vital Nutrition Programs

Nutritional research is key to helping millions of Americans achieve healthier lifestyles.

Nutritional research is key to helping millions of Americans achieve healthier lifestyles.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, such as using research to inform policy decisions about our nutrition assistance programs, which reach 1 in 4 Americans.

America’s nutrition safety net has a broad reach.  SNAP serves millions of hardworking American families, WIC benefits about half of the nation’s infants each year, and the National School Lunch Program touches the lives of about 31 million children every school day, including 21 million low-income children.  Because these and other Federal nutrition assistance programs are a critical resource for families seeking a healthy diet with limited resources, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service knows the importance of shaping them with evidence gathered from rigorous research.

Several flagship studies illustrate how FNS uses research to build the knowledge base about our programs and make continuous improvements to meet the highest nutrition standards: Read more »

Researcher with NIFA Roots Earns International Prize

Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of plant sciences at University of California–Davis, is co-winner of the 2014 Wolf Prize in agriculture. Photo courtesy of Jorge Dubcovsky

Jorge Dubcovsky, professor of plant sciences at University of California–Davis, is co-winner of the 2014 Wolf Prize in agriculture. Photo courtesy of Jorge Dubcovsky

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine.  Today we look at USDA support for a researcher striving to improve wheat through developing better disease resistance, nutritional value, and yield.

One of America’s most renowned agricultural researchers, a man who has already collected two of the USDA’s top honors, has now earned international recognition with the Wolf Prize in Agriculture.  The Wolf Foundation began awarding six prizes – agriculture, the arts, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and physics – in 1978 to recognize outstanding scientists and artists for achievements in the interest of mankind and friendly relations among peoples.

Jorge Dubcovsky, a professor of plant sciences at the University of California–Davis and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute–Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation investigator, is sharing the Wolf Prize with Leif Andersson, from Uppsala University in Sweden.  Dubcovsky’s previous awards include USDA’s National Research Initiative Discovery Award and the USDA Secretary’s Honor Award.  Dubcovsky will receive the Wolf Prize June 1 at Knesset Israel (the Israeli Parliament) from Israeli President Shimon Peres. Read more »