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

“Safety Datapalooza” Brings More Usability of FSIS Salmonella Data

On Jan. 14, 2014, nearly 400 people participated in the second annual “Safety Datapalooza” at USDA headquarters.  The event, hosted by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Transportation and USDA, recognized innovators from the private, nonprofit and academic sectors who have freely used available government data to build products, services and apps that advance public safety in creative and powerful ways.

During a breakout session, Christopher Alvares, Director of FSIS’ Data Analysis and Integration Staff, explained the agency’s recently released Salmonella Action Plan and testing programs aimed at reducing the number of illnesses associated with FSIS-regulated products using new standards, strategies and innovation.  “FSIS produces regular reports on Salmonella contamination in regulated product, but the data had never been available in machine-readable format or in a single place,” said Alvares.  Up until now, this data had been available only from report to report spanning many years.  Today, this data is available as one source and in one place. Read more »

Water Supply Forecast Shows Record Snow in Northern Parts of West, Parched in Southwest

Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)

Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)

March storms increased snowpack in the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) in its April 2014 water supply forecast.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and northern parts of Colorado and Utah are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecast.  Far below normal streamflow is expected for southern Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah and western Nevada. Read more »

Rural Development Helps Restore Water Supply to Town of Gifford after Devastating Tornado

With landmarks missing it was difficult for even Gifford residents to locate once familiar locations.

With landmarks missing it was difficult for even Gifford residents to locate once familiar locations.

Four months after a tornado ripped through the town of Gifford, Illinois, destroying its water tower, 70 homes, and damaging 40 others, visible and emotional aftereffects remain.

On November 17, the day the tornado touched down, I called my colleague and Gifford resident Molly Hammond, who wistfully noted during our conversation, that “Everyone is all right.  But not everything is all right!”

No doubt her sentiments reflected those of Gifford’s other 1,000 residents. Read more »

Ready, Set, Charge! Mt. Hood National Forest Welcomes First Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Mt. Hood National Forest is home to the nation’s first electric vehicle fast charger installed on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and on a ski resort. (Courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation)

Mt. Hood National Forest is home to the nation’s first electric vehicle fast charger installed on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and on a ski resort. (Courtesy Oregon Department of Transportation)

Oregon, home to the nation’s first border-to-border electric highway, continues its emergence as the ultimate travel destination for electric vehicle (EV) drivers. The Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Transportation and their partners recently unveiled America’s first EV fast-charger installed on U.S. Forest Service land and at a ski resort.

By using the growing West Coast Electric Highway fast-charger network, EV drivers can now travel up Mt. Hood’s rugged slopes, looming large at 11,250 feet and located just over an hour from Portland, Ore. The charging station, at Mt. Hood Skibowl West, completes Oregon’s Mt. Hood-Columbia River Gorge Electric Byway.

“It’s a natural fit to support infrastructure that promotes clean energy near forest recreation sites,” said Bill Westbrook of the Forest Service’s Zigzag Ranger District. Read more »

USDA-Supported Small Business Assistance Provides a Ladder to Prosperity for Enterprising Hispanic Families

First-time small business owner, Nabor Ceja, is one of 26 Hispanic and Latino entrepreneurs in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge receiving business start-up and development services funded through the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program.

First-time small business owner, Nabor Ceja, is one of 26 Hispanic and Latino entrepreneurs in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge receiving business start-up and development services funded through the Rural Business Enterprise Grant program.

As a first-time small business owner, Nabor Ceja, has learned a lot since opening his restaurant, Chicken & Teriyaki, in Hood River, Oregon. Like many immigrants, Mr. Ceja wasn’t familiar with local processes and requirements for things like business registration, tax numbers, insurance, permits, licensing, hiring and employer obligations. With limited English proficiency, just asking the different agencies and offices for help was a significant barrier.

Mr. Ceja is not alone. Thirty percent of the population in Hood River County is Hispanic. Until recently, however, there were no small business assistance providers meeting the unique needs of the Hispanic community.

Gabriel Muro is the business services coordinator at a social services nonprofit called The Next Door. “I have met so many people who start businesses using their personal accounts, or who don’t get their W-9 forms submitted in time to demonstrate legal status and claim important exemptions. All of these things are done differently in Mexico.” Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Disaster Assistance Sign Up for Farmers and Ranchers to Begin April 15

Over the past several years, livestock producers have suffered through long-term drought, blizzards and other extreme weather-related disasters. Without the surety of disaster assistance programs, severe weather has caused economic hardship for producers and many have struggled to survive.

Since the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which restored and strengthened disaster assistance programs, USDA has made quick implementation of these programs a top priority. I am pleased to say that thanks to the hard work of Farm Service Agency employees across the country to stand up these programs, farmers and ranchers can begin signing up for disaster assistance starting this Tuesday, April 15. Read more »