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Northern Lights Shine on Capitol Hill

US Capitol Christmas Tree lighting up the West Lawn of Capitol Hill

US Capitol Christmas Tree lights up the West Lawn of Capitol Hill (Photo credit: Sherri Eng, US Forest Service)

When U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan asked Anna Devolld, a ten year old child from Alaska, to flip the switch, a momentary hush came across the crowd as thousands of lights on a massive tree illumined the West Lawn just below both Houses of Congress.

More than a year of planning went into the lighting of the first US Capitol Christmas Tree from Alaska. Hand crafted ornaments made by hundreds of children and other folks in Alaska now bask in the glow of thousands of lights on the 74 ft. Lutz spruce harvested from the US Forest Service’s Chugach National Forest. Read more »

Walnuts Have Fewer Calories than the Label Suggests, ARS Researcher Discovers

Walnuts

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have found that walnuts have fewer calories than previously thought. Studies also show that eating tree nuts, as part of a healthy diet, can lead to improved cardiovascular health and a reduced risk of obesity.

USDA scientists have found that walnuts have 21 percent fewer calories than previously thought, which is good news for the weight-conscious nut lover!

Researchers with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service fed volunteers a controlled diet consisting of walnut halves and pieces (45 grams) for three weeks. After measuring the calories in the walnuts consumed, they found that a typical 28-gram serving actually contains 146 calories, 21 percent fewer than the 185 calories currently assigned by the USDA.  The study, published this month in The Journal of Nutrition, was partially funded by the California Walnut Commission. Read more »

Working Together to Address Global Food Insecurity

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Harden visits with women in agriculture around the world including this photo from her trade mission in Ghana in November 2015.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Harden visits with women in agriculture around the world including this photo from her trade mission in Ghana in November 2015.

As a daughter of farmers, and as someone who has spent her career working on behalf of farmers, one of the things I care most deeply about is the future of agriculture –  both in the United States and around the world. That is why one of my highest priorities at USDA has been to help develop the next generation of farmers, ensuring that women, young people, and others have access to the programs and support they need to farm successfully. 

As Deputy Secretary, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Africa, Central and South America. I’ve met many inspirational farmers from around the world, and while the languages we speak, the crops we grow, and the production methods we use may differ, one thing rings true in every conversation: we share the same passions and the same challenges in feeding a growing world population. Read more »

Farmer, Conservationists Partner to Build a Bridge for Salmon in Southern Maine

NRCS District Conservationist Wayne Munroe (right) talking with farm owner Cynthia Hodak on the bridge

NRCS District Conservationist Wayne Munroe (right) talks with farm owner Cynthia Hodak while inspecting a bridge over the restored fish passage. Photo: Thomas Kielbasa, NRCS Maine.

A just-completed project that restored a fish passage in southern Maine may have another benefit – preventing an environmental disaster on important salmon-spawning streams.

A new bridge that now crosses the Swan Pond Creek at the Al Dube Quarterhorse Farm in York County was the culmination of a year-long quest by the Saco River Salmon Club and Hatchery and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to rehabilitate a section of the creek for fish passage and rearing of juvenile salmon. Read more »

From Boots to Roots: Helping Women and Hispanic Vets Earn Ag, STEM Degrees

A graphic of a soldier's boots and a plant side-by-side

Texas State University’s “Boots to Roots” program guides women and Hispanic veterans towards agriculture and STEM degrees. (Image by Stephanie Engle)

A professor in the Lone Star State is counting on two underrepresented groups to play a major role in the future of agriculture.

Ken Mix, assistant professor of agriculture at Texas State University (TSU), is the project director of a new program called “Boots to Roots,” a program that helps female and Hispanic military veterans to earn bachelor’s degrees in agriculture and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree programs. Read more »

Partnering with Farmers and Ranchers to Address Climate Change and Food Security Challenges

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack listening to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) supervisory plant physiologist Dr. Jerry Hatfield explain the equipment to gather information on climate changes and impacts on corn and soybean plants in Iowa

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack listens to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) supervisory plant physiologist Dr. Jerry Hatfield explain the equipment to gather information on climate changes and impacts on corn and soybean plants in Iowa.

As world leaders gather in Paris this week to negotiate a new global climate agreement, it is important to recognize the contributions of farmers, ranchers and foresters in the United States towards achieving a more food secure world while adapting to climate change, increasing carbon sequestration, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Over the course of my tenure as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. producers have faced a record drought, which the University of California estimates has cost farmers in California alone an estimated $3 billion in 2015. We’ve seen increasing incursions of invasive pests and diseases and extreme weather, everything from bark beetle to severe droughts, which have cost billions in lost productivity. We’ve faced a series of record wildfire seasons in the western United States—the worst decade in U.S. history for wildfire. The growing El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific has created the perfect storm for disasters to strike the already damaged and weakened western landscape. Read more »