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FNS Uses Research to Protect Taxpayer Dollars

Integrity is an essential component of all USDA nutrition assistance programs, including the school meals programs.

Integrity is an essential component of all USDA nutrition assistance programs, including the school meals programs.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, while ensuring that our program are effective and well managed.

For Federal nutrition assistance programs to succeed over the long term, they must operate with a high degree of integrity.  The American people expect and deserve nothing less.  At FNS, we use research and analysis to take a hard look at integrity in these programs, determine strengths and challenges, and shape innovations to continuously improve.

While fraud and errors are low in FNS programs, we assert that any level of either is unacceptable.  High-quality research is an integral component in our integrity efforts because it enables us to see where fraud and errors occur and identify ways to strengthen the programs against those challenges and track progress over time: Read more »

USDA Rural Development Celebrates Protection of Sebasticook River with Hartland Community and Makes $29.7 Million Landmark Earth Day Announcement

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel (back row second from right) announced Earth Day funds in the amount of $29.7 million to assist rural wastewater systems in Maine, including the Town of Hartland. Children from the Hartland community took time away from their school vacation to sign the official USDA Earth Day Banner.

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel (back row second from right) announced Earth Day funds in the amount of $29.7 million to assist rural wastewater systems in Maine, including the Town of Hartland. Children from the Hartland community took time away from their school vacation to sign the official USDA Earth Day Banner.

This Earth Day I visited the rural Maine community of Hartland, population 1,782, for its 1st Annual Earth Day Celebration. I was greeted by Hartland’s Interim Town Manager Christopher Littlefield, and the smiling children, residents, town and wastewater officials who welcomed me to their community for a special Earth Day announcement.

I was pleased to join partners including Maine’s Congressional Staff and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to announce significant USDA Rural Development funding in the amount of $29.7 million to fund seven Maine wastewater treatment facilities. Included in the announcement is the Town of Hartland which will receive $1,600,000 through USDA Rural Development for essential upgrades to the wastewater treatment facility. Read more »

Ag Research Month at the “People’s Department”

ARS cotton technologist Paul Sawhney (left) and research leader Brian Condon examine needled-punched nonwoven products made with classical raw cotton and precleaned raw cotton, respectively.

ARS cotton technologist Paul Sawhney (left) and research leader Brian Condon examine needled-punched nonwoven products made with classical raw cotton and precleaned raw cotton, respectively.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

During the month of April we have taken a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine.

Ag research month has been an excellent opportunity to showcase all the ways in which USDA is truly the “People’s Department.”

That’s how President Lincoln described it after USDA was established in 1862. More than 150 years later, we continue to find innovative ways to improve agricultural production and create new products to benefit the American people. Read more »

What’s a Pine Cone Got to do With It? Educators use them for Art and Science

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

A pine cone has many purposes. It could serve as a home for birds and insects. Pine cones contain seeds to use in reforestation projects. They even can be made into fanciful ornaments to adorn the 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree.

That’s exactly what students learned during a recent Science Fusion program at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

As part of an overarching mission to the world of science, technology, engineering and math, these special Saturday programs afford underserved Minnesota youth the opportunity to interact with local scientists, engineers, inventors and science educators through hands-on activities. Read more »

Expanding Opportunities for Small-Scale Beef Producers

Using the USDA Certified Grass-Fed claim as its initial focus, a new USDA program will reduce costs for small producers wanting to market their cattle as USDA certified grass-fed.

Using the USDA Certified Grass-Fed claim as its initial focus, a new USDA program will reduce costs for small producers wanting to market their cattle as USDA certified grass-fed.

Sometimes big things come in small packages.  At USDA, we provide programs and services to producers of all sizes – and now we’re offering even more to small-scale and local beef producers.  Many small-scale producers are contributing to the growth of the grass-fed beef industry.  And, thanks to a new program tailored to meet their needs, they now have another resource in their marketing toolbox.

The USDA Grass Fed Program for Small and Very Small Producers, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is designed as a verification tool for small and very small producers to certify that animals meet the requirements of the grass-fed marketing claim standard and will make them eligible to have their products marketed as “USDA Certified Grass Fed Beef”.

With today’s label-conscious, savvy consumers, producers are relying on verified and certified labels to help distinguish their products in the marketplace.  This new initiative joins our suite of consumer-trusted verification programs for meat, poultry, and eggs. Read more »

Budding Conservation Practice Helps Farmers use Technology to Control Amount, Timing of Water

Planting foxtail millet, a summer annual forage with low water needs, helps conserve water for subsequent crops. Photo by Scott Bauer.

Planting foxtail millet, a summer annual forage with low water needs, helps conserve water for subsequent crops. Photo by Scott Bauer.

An up-and-coming conservation practice offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers and ranchers manage water on their land, keep water clean and better cope with extreme weather like drought.

Drainage water management enables landowners to determine when and how much water leaves farms through underground tiles and drainage ditches. Underground tiles lay beneath fields removing excess water from the soil subsurface.

“Since landowners don’t need the same drainage intensity at all times during the year, this practice lets them use their drainage water in a way that’s most advantageous to them, their crops and the environment,” NRCS Senior Project Leader Paul Sweeney said. Read more »