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Celebrating a World of Benefits from a Dwindling Resource

A monarch butterfly, a honeybee and leafcutter bee gathering nectar from a showy milkweed

A monarch butterfly, a honeybee and leafcutter bee gather nectar from a showy milkweed. Photo: John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms.

Tomorrow, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is joining the festivities at the sixth annual Pollinator Festival in honor of National Pollinator Week. Bees, butterflies, bats, birds, beetles and other animals play a critical role in the production of fruit or seeds, including plants that provide our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine.

An estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees alone. But despite their value, pollinator populations are dwindling due to threats of habitat loss, disease, parasites and environmental contaminants. That’s why farmers and ranchers are doing their part to improve the health of pollinators while providing benefits to the environment. Producers have worked with NRCS to voluntarily apply conservation practices on hundreds of thousands of acres of land because they know people and pollinators depend on each other for survival. Read more »

In Recently Burned Forests, a Woodpecker’s Work is Never Done

A black-backed woodpecker

The black-backed woodpecker is a burned forest specialist. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Following a wildfire, some might see dead trees. Woodpeckers see possibilities.

The black-backed woodpecker is one such bird—a burned forest specialist—who readily chooses fire-killed trees (snags) in which to drill cavities for nesting and roosting.

When the woodpecker moves on, its cavity turns into valuable habitat for other forest-dwelling species. Read more »

Protecting Pollinators through Habitat Conservation is Critical to Preserving Food Supply

Honeybees leaving and returning to the hive after collecting pollen

Honeybees leaving and returning to the hive after collecting pollen. Photo: Ashton Ebarb.

“They’re in a happy mood today,” Jim Pratt, a local apiarist, said.

At a comfortable 62 degrees, honeybees buzz with a clear objective: collect nectar and pollen, for honey and pollination.

“Pollinators, like honeybees, support food crops,” Pratt said, explaining why for 20 years he’s raised honeybees.

Pratt’s Farm annually produces about 120 pounds of honey per colony. He maintains 100 colonies, collecting honey from them each spring, summer and fall. During the winter, the bees eat stored honey until warmer weather arrives. Read more »

Just In: Check Out MyPlate Video Search Results

It is an exciting time for kids to get creative with nutrition! Last week, the top kid chefs from the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge were announced, and students across the country are Cooking up Change and getting connected to school food. The CheckOut MyPlate Video Search provided another opportunity for kids to showcase their creative thoughts and ideas about food and health.  

The video search was created and implemented by a group of MyPlate National Strategic Partners to help educate and empower children to take healthy eating and physical activity into their own hands and bring it to life via video. Parents and teachers of kids ages 2-18 in three age groups: (2-10, 11-13, and 14-18) were challenged to create a 60 second video demonstrating a MyPlate inspired healthy eating message and a physical activity tip. Videos were accepted March 9 through April 30, 2015. The video search resulted in over 100 submissions featuring kids across America. From the videos submitted it was clear that food and physical activity can be a fun topic for kids. Read more »

Talking All Things Produce at the United Fresh Convention & Expo

A team of AMS employees staffing a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo

A team of AMS employees staffed a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo. The agency’s diverse offerings led to questions spanning from grant programs to transportation reports. Under Secretary Avalos (left) and Deputy Administrator Parrott third from left. AMS photo.

The saying goes that change is the only thing that is constant. That certainly is the case in the produce industry where businesses are always looking to streamline processes and introduce new products to the market. Since my agency — the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) — provides services that facilitate marketing opportunities for the industry, it is imperative for us to be nimble and constantly look for ways to strengthen our connection with industry leaders. One of the ways we do this is by attending conferences like last week’s United Fresh Convention & Expo in Chicago, Ill. Read more »

And the Winner of the Smokey Bear Poster Contest is…

Audrey Morga, national winner of the 2015 National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster, standing with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl

Audrey Morga, national winner of the 2015 National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster, stands with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl. (Photo by Dominic Cumberland, U.S. Forest Service)

For 54 years, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Garden Clubs Inc., have worked together to sponsor the National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster contest that reaches elementary children throughout the U.S.

This year’s grand prize winner is Audrey Morga, an 11-year old, and a fifth grader at St. Bernardine of Siena School in Woodland Hills, California.

“When I found out that I won, I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming,” said Morga. Read more »