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Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems: Changing the Landscape of Organic Farming in the Palouse Region

Dorper ewes grazing in selected areas in a mixed crop-livestock research project

Dorper ewes graze in selected areas in a mixed crop-livestock research project. (Image courtesy of Jonathan Wachter)

Grazing livestock may soon be a common sight in the Palouse region of southeastern Washington, usually known for its rolling hills and grain production. 

Jonathan Wachter, a soil science doctoral student at Washington State University, has been working with a local farm to improve the competitiveness of organic mixed crop-livestock systems and their potential adoption by growers in a conventional grain-producing region. Read more »

New York State of Mind: Empowering Women and Creating Local Food Opportunities

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (standing in the middle) joined USDA state colleagues and New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball for a roundtable on Women in Agriculture

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (standing in the middle) joined USDA state colleagues and New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball for a roundtable on Women in Agriculture and Local Foods at the Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Center in Syracuse, N.Y.

The future of agriculture depends on the next generation of farmers and ranchers.  That’s why the Department of Agriculture is committed to creating more opportunities for new and beginning farmers and removing barriers for women and minority farmers.

To advance these priorities, I traveled to Syracuse, N.Y., last week, where I was joined by my USDA state colleagues and New York State Commissioner of Agriculture Richard Ball for a roundtable on Women in Agriculture and Local Foods at the Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (WISE) Center in Syracuse, N.Y.  The discussion focused on the big picture of how a thriving local food system can help women succeed as farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs.  We had a vibrant conversation that ranged from sharing ideas to creating valuable connections and networks to mapping out strategies for further progress. Read more »

U.S.-Cuba Trade Relationship: Past, Present, and Possible Future

Field of corn growing on a farm in Cuba

Field of corn growing on a farm in Cuba. A recent report by the Economic Research Service points to future prospects for agricultural trade between the United States and Cuba. U.S. grain and feed exports to Cuba averaged 344,000 MT per year during 2012-14. Photo credit: USDA

Since December 2014, when the United States and Cuba announced the intention to restore diplomatic ties for the first time in more than half a century, the U.S. has taken steps to ease restrictions on trade, remittances, and travel to Cuba. The actions have generated a wave of enthusiasm about the economic opportunities that a more normal relationship between the two countries could create.

A recent report by the Economic Research Service (ERS) considers potential impacts of more normal commercial ties between the two countries on bilateral agricultural trade. Read more »

School Embraces Nutrition Standards to the Culinary Delight of Its Students

A group of women showing food and posters

Nutrition Services teams up with high school culinary classes to create recipes and menu concepts.

Locally-sourced fish baked in fresh herbs and oil topped with a fresh cilantro slaw…It sounds like a dish from a five star restaurant, but it’s just one of many recipes registered dietitian and director of nutrition services Jenn Gerard offers students for lunch in her California school district. Learn how Monterey Peninsula Schools embraced the new nutrition standards, using them as a springboard to enhance their impressive school meals programs.

By Jenn Gerard, R.D., Director of Nutrition Services, Monterey Peninsula Unified School District

I began my career in child nutrition at 26 years old in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD).  Six months later I was stepping into the director position during one of the biggest changes in school meal regulations, attributed to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010. Read more »

Using Gypsum to Help Reduce Phosphorus Runoff

USDA agricultural engineer Jim Fouss observing an algal bloom on Alligator Bayou, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana

USDA agricultural engineer Jim Fouss observes an algal bloom on Alligator Bayou, near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. These blooms, a particular problem during hot summer months, can be caused by high concentrations of fertilizer nutrients from agricultural drainage waters.

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.

When it rains it pours. Whether we get a passing shower or a day-long downpour, the runoff ends up in rivers, streams and waterways. That runoff may include nutrients from fertilizers, and one of those nutrients is phosphorus.

Phosphorus runoff is causing blooms of harmful algae that deplete waterways of oxygen, resulting in “dead zones” that damage ecosystems vital for aquatic life. It’s a problem in many of the waterways we all depend on for recreation and drinking water, including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.  Just last year, Maryland’s outgoing governor proposed land use regulations designed specifically to reduce phosphorus runoff in the Chesapeake watershed. Read more »

Team Up Training Fosters Healthier Schools, Empowers School Nutrition Professionals

Seminole County Public Schools Fresh Fruits & Veggies

Seminole County Public Schools Fresh Fruits & Veggies Menu.

The following guest blog highlights the success story of one of our nation’s school nutrition change agents. As a recent participant and lead mentor in USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success Initiative, Richard Miles provided best practices and strategies to ensure his peers have the tools they need to manage successful school meal programs.

By Richard Miles, Coordinator of Nutrition and Wellness, Seminole County (Fla.) Public Schools

The Team Up for School Nutrition Success training was an experience that provided me with valuable tools, resources and networking opportunities, along with the motivation and confidence to empower school nutrition professionals, like myself, to create positive changes in our schools and communities. Read more »