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UTEP Researchers Take a Different Path to Tackle International Drought Issues

UTEP text and the state of Texas layered onto an image of a river

Scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are helping policy makers and residents manage their ever-shrinking water resources using new and different approaches. (Image by Stephanie Engle)

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 USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are working with stakeholders to determine the course their research will take.  The result, they say, is better science that is more useful to end users – and the scientists learn a lot, too.

Rather than have their own science-based questions direct their research, Dr. Josiah Heyman and his research partner Dr. William Hargrove will let stakeholders – the actual users of their science – point the way.  According to Heyman, this “participatory approach” is science for the public’s sake, not for the scientists’ sake.  The two lead a multi-institutional, multi-national project that is tackling drought-driven water supply issues in the Southwest. Read more »

Wildfire-Related Tragedy Leads to Landmark Forest Restoration Partnership

A tractor working on trees

In July/August 2013 the Forest Service and City of Flagstaff, Arizona conducted a pilot project off FR240 (Schultz Pass Road) to assess impacts and capabilities of two types of logging equipment on steep slopes and best methods for slash piling on slopes (to allow for the greatest consumption during prescribed pile burning). (FWPP photo)

The Schultz Fire of 2010 started with an abandoned campfire. High winds blew the flames into neighboring trees and brush, igniting a wildfire that would grow to 15,000 acres of the Coconino National Forest and threaten residents near Flagstaff, Arizona. In the following days 750 homes would be evacuated. It took 300 firefighters several weeks to contain the fire in the steep slopes North and East of the city.

Flagstaff had been spared from fire, but not its aftermath. In July 2010, heavy flooding due to monsoonal rain events on the burned-over slopes of the San Francisco Peaks caused an estimated $133-147 million in damage to neighborhoods just outside the city.  A 12-year-old girl, Shaelyn Wilson, was killed when she was swept away in a flash flood. Read more »

Assistance Helps Beginning Farmer Improve Operation

Wade Kloepping

Wade Kloepping has made several conservation improvements to his farm.

A rich background in agriculture helped Wade Kloepping make the decision to come home to Dawson County after college and take over the family farm near Eustis, Nebraska.

Two years before graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kloepping’s dad passed away; he was the manager of the family’s farming operation. Wade has since taken over that role. As a beginning farmer, he aimed to improve the stocking rate of his pasture, advance forage productivity and increase the amount of native plants. Read more »

#USDARoadTrip: Investments in Rural Business

Trim Operator Roger Brown at Port City Group’s Port City Castings Corporation manufacturing high-pressure aluminum die-castings

Trim Operator Roger Brown at Port City Group’s Port City Castings Corporation manufactures high-pressure aluminum die-castings, mostly for the automotive industry, in Muskegon, M,. Port City Group boosted its employment by 12 percent over last year thanks to two Rural Business Guaranteed Loans totaling $9.6 million.

The fifth and final stop on our #USDARoadTrip is the backbone of our nation’s rural economy — rural business. By making historic investments and streamlining access to capital for enterprises of all sizes, USDA is helping to build a productive and dynamic rural landscape capable of supporting America’s workforce.

Local businesses foster growth and prosperity not only by creating jobs in our rural communities, but by improving the overall quality of life outside of our urban centers. Whether it’s manufacturing, service-based, retail, wholesale, or farming, when business is booming in rural cities and towns, it adds to the breadth and depth of these communities and provides more opportunities. When rural Americans can find jobs, access healthcare, and buy groceries locally rather than travel fifty miles round-trip to the nearest big city, it saves them time, expense and helps to stimulate both the local economy and the American economy as a whole. Our investments in rural businesses are a strategic investment in all Americans. Read more »

Microloan Sets Stage for School Counselor to Retire to Family Ranching Operation in Southwest Georgia

As a native Georgian, it is always a treat to go back home and see what’s happening on my family farm as well as the farms of my neighbors. Today I had the pleasure of meeting Jean Oliver, a dedicated mother, daughter and cattle farmer. She recently received a microloan from the Farm Service Agency to help build her operation. Within the next 10 years, Jean plans to make the leap from working 9-to-5 as a counselor with the Cook County school system to living off of her family’s 200-year-old farm, raising and selling cattle.

Here is her story: Read more »

USDA/Microsoft “Innovation Challenge” Offers $60K in Prizes to Software Developers

Farmers have long looked to the clouds for signs of relief, but a new competition launched by USDA and Microsoft will tap the Internet cloud to help farmers and our food systems to adapt to climate change. The “Innovation Challenge” is asking software developers to create applications that will use more than 100 years of USDA data to explore how our food system can achieve better food resiliency.

Climate change will likely affect every aspect of the food system—whether it’s the ability to grow food, the reliability of food transportation and food safety efforts, or the dynamics of international trade in agricultural goods. Even so, we don’t yet fully know how to anticipate and mitigate any negative changes. Read more »