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Saving Florida’s Citrus Industry Through Collaboration and Innovation

A thermotherapy truck covering infected citrus trees

Thermotherapy trucks cover infected citrus trees with a canopy to heat treat them significantly reducing the amount of disease in the trees and increasing their productivity.

The Florida citrus industry is under siege and the invader is a tiny bug called the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP).  The ACP spreads a disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB) or citrus greening, and together they are destroying groves that have been cultivated by families for generations.

But all is not lost.  USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with State and Federal partners such as the Agricultural Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture, as well as State departments of agriculture and the citrus industry in Florida, California, Arizona and Texas to develop short-term solutions to help protect groves while researchers focus on longer-term projects that may one day put an end to this devastating pest and disease combo. Read more »

Report: Maintaining Sagebrush-Covered Landscapes Keeps Water on the Land for Ranchers and Wildlife

Sage grouse

Sage grouse are the iconic species of the West’s sagebrush sea. Photo by Tim Griffiths, NRCS.

Removing invading conifer trees improves the health of sagebrush ecosystems, providing better habitat for wildlife and better forage for livestock. And now, new science shows these efforts may also help improve late-season water availability, which is crucial for ecosystems in the arid West.

According to the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI)’s newest Science to Solutions report – which summarized research from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) – a sagebrush-dominated watershed holds water in snow drifts an average of nine days longer than one dominated by juniper trees. Read more »

When it Comes to Cotton, Texas Rules

NASS interviewers conducting objective yield measurements

NASS interviewers conducting objective yield measurements in a field near Lubbock, Texas.

Lone Star state growers are responsible for 56 percent of the U.S. acres planted to cotton and about 45 percent of the total cotton production. But how do we measure this crop accurately enough to make dependable forecasts for cotton yield and production? That’s where our measurement process, known as the objective yield kicks in.

All of the objective yield measurements are done by a well-prepared team of National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) enumerators. For this growing season, we spent the week of July 12-14 training 43 enumerators with a combination of classroom and hands-on field practice. Since approximately 63 percent of the Texas crop, which represents 30 percent of the U.S. total cotton crop, comes from the High Plains of Texas, this group has the bulk of the samples in Texas. Read more »

A Conversation with USDA Leader Audrey Rowe

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe oversees the nation’s federal nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

Audrey Rowe serves as the Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service.  Rowe oversees the nation’s 15 federal nutrition assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

“I started my career as an elementary school teacher… and I didn’t last very long because I saw such challenges with learning and health. I saw that school policies treated kids differently based on where their community was located, so I became an advocate for low-income children and families because they often don’t have a strong voice.” – Audrey Rowe Read more »

Healthful Foods Could Be Just a Click Away: FNS Works to Bring Online Shopping to SNAP Purchases

A family eating dinner

USDA is committed to providing access for SNAP participants to use their benefits to purchase healthy, nutritious food online.

Online grocery shopping has been an option for many busy American families for years. But for the 44 million Americans who use benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to supplement their food budget, this option has not been available…yet.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is in the process of bringing online purchasing to those who use SNAP benefits. Online purchasing could improve access to healthy food for those living in food deserts—areas with sparse options to buy healthy groceries—or for those who are unable to physically shop on their own due to a disability or transportation barrier. Read more »

A New Era for Civil Rights at The People’s Department

Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Dr. Joe Leonard (right) and an auditorium full of U.S. Department of Agriculture employees

Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Dr. Joe Leonard (right) and an auditorium full of U.S. Department of Agriculture employees laughed, listened and learned of the Reverend Al Sharpton’s insights about the topic of “Civil Rights in the Age of Obama,” on Monday, February 28, 2011 in Washington, D.C. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Throughout the month of August, we are reflecting on changes we’ve made over the past eight years to create a culture of inclusivity among USDA employees and the diverse communities we serve. For a broader look at our progress, check out our Results project here:

As a kid during the first years of desegregation in Austin, Texas’ public schools, many of my early experiences were shaped by race, and I quickly became familiar with the life-changing impacts discrimination can have on individuals both young and old. While a lot for any kid to experience, these circumstances taught me the power of inclusion, and from them, I became aware of the ways diversity and fairness can help repair troubled histories and heal the wounds of the past. These lessons have shaped my life’s work.

When Secretary Vilsack and I arrived nearly eight years ago, we were aware of USDA’s imperfect history marked by denial of equal service – too often based on race. It was admittedly a terrible situation by any accord. We had our work cut out for us, and got started quickly by examining our history deeply and thoroughly, bringing to light the most challenging aspects of the Department’s past. Read more »