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Diversity of Thought Brings Success

At the first ever "Opportunities for Diversity" event, AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (at the podium) was joined by Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (first seat) and several members of the commodity Research and promotion boards. The event discussed the changing face of agriculture and the importance of including members from all schools of thought, backgrounds and culture.

At the first ever "Opportunities for Diversity" event, AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (at the podium) was joined by Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (first seat) and several members of the commodity Research and promotion boards. The event discussed the changing face of agriculture and the importance of including members from all schools of thought, backgrounds and culture.

The face of agriculture is changing.  The changes are reflected in the Ag Census data released last week, in the rural communities we serve, and in the way the Department is looking toward the future.  With a 12 percent increase in minority farm operators and a 21 percent increase in Hispanic farm operators since 2007, it’s clear that the agricultural landscape is changing. And it is vital that industry leadership evolves, too.

My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), oversees more than 20 Federal Research and Promotion (R&P) boards, whose members are appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.  These boards serve a variety of commodity industries, focusing on nutrition, research, marketing and consumer outreach.  By helping develop new markets and strengthening existing ones, they create opportunities for farms and businesses across the country. Read more »

Creating a Roadmap for Women in Agriculture

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, seated left, hosted a panel on the role of women in agriculture at the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum. Photo by Bob Nichols

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, seated left, hosted a panel on the role of women in agriculture at the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum. Photo by Bob Nichols

In February, it was my privilege to moderate a panel that featured four exceptional women at the Agricultural Outlook Forum.  The break out session was titled “A Roadmap for Women in Agriculture,” a lively and thought-provoking exchange on the future of women in agriculture.

Autumn Veazey, Debbie Hamrick, Kate Danner and Leslie Wheelock, all shared their passion for agriculture and gave great advice on how to earn a seat at the table. Read more »

Growing Interest in Conservation Careers with USDA

Project Grow students at TERRA Environmental Research Institute are given instruction on the steps required to collect field data used in USDA’s National Resources Inventory (NRI). Photo by: Yolanda Rivera, NRCS Florida.

Project Grow students at TERRA Environmental Research Institute are given instruction on the steps required to collect field data used in USDA’s National Resources Inventory (NRI). Photo by: Yolanda Rivera, NRCS Florida.

Students at a public high school in Florida are receiving some hands-on experience and invaluable mentoring from the staff at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as a result of a USDA grant.

Project Grow aims to educate high school students about careers and college education requirements for career positions with NRCS in an agency effort to meet future staffing needs. NRCS is shifting to a younger age group for recruitment to evaluate if it’s effective in raising awareness for potential new staff members. Read more »

USDA Publications Shine on Government Bookstore Bestseller List

A favorite U.S. Forest Service book for kids is “Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?” which explains to children that, yes, there are reasons to cut trees. (U.S. Forest Service)

A favorite U.S. Forest Service book for kids is “Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?” which explains to children that, yes, there are reasons to cut trees. (U.S. Forest Service)

The U.S. Government Bookstore, the place where you can buy the 2014 Counterterrorism Calendar for $20 or a loose-leaf copy of the Export Administration Regulation 2013 edition for $199, released its list of best-selling publications for 2013 that includes several items published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Why Would Anyone Cut A Tree Down?” is written by Roberta Burzynski, who works in the U.S. Forest Service’s Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry unit. The book shows children the life cycle of trees and how trees are a renewable resource. The 41-page book with 28 full-color illustrations can be used by parents and teachers along with online activities and lessons. Colorfully illustrated by Juliette Watts, the $10 book is ideal for parents, teachers and children. Burzynski also wrote the popular “Woodsy Owl’s ABCs” that is meant to be read by an adult to children. Read more »

School Breakfast Week, International School Meals Day Kick off National Nutrition Month

Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service Audrey Rowe engages elementary students from Sacramento Unified District on the importance of starting their day with a healthy breakfast.

Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service Audrey Rowe engages elementary students from Sacramento Unified District on the importance of starting their day with a healthy breakfast.

To kickoff National Nutrition Month, USDA is again celebrating National School Breakfast Week (March 3 – 7) to support the health and well-being of our nation’s children.  National Nutrition Month is the perfect time to highlight the essential role nutrition plays in sustaining healthier lives.  A well-balanced breakfast serves as an important first step to a healthier life—and a healthier next generation!

The case for breakfast is a strong one.  Research reveals that students who consume breakfast make greater strides on standardized tests, pay attention and behave better in class, and are less frequently tardy, absent or visiting the nurse’s office.  Eating breakfast is also positively linked with maintaining a healthy weight – and avoiding health problems associated with obesity. Given the current rates of childhood obesity and related health problems, it’s vital for children and families to eat healthier meals and snacks throughout the day.

Studies also show that children who skip breakfast are at an academic disadvantage: They have slower memory recall, make more errors and are more likely to repeat a grade. Read more »

At Agricultural Outlook Forum, Farmer Shows How Conservation Pays Off

Mark Jennings plants sunflowers in wheat stubble.

Mark Jennings plants sunflowers in wheat stubble.

Attending a no-till conference forever changed the way North Dakota farmer Mark Jennings farmed. He started using basic conservation practices for conserving moisture.

For the past decade he’s been sowing cover crops and reaping rich returns.

Working closely with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Jennings has become a devoted no-till farmer. Read more »