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After September 11th, A U.S. Forester in Afghanistan

Alberto Moreno, a U.S. Forest Service supervisory forester, stands in the Spin Ghar Mountain range at the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan by the Khyber Pass. (Photo courtesy Alberto Moreno)

Alberto Moreno, a U.S. Forest Service supervisory forester, stands in the Spin Ghar Mountain range at the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan by the Khyber Pass. (Photo courtesy Alberto Moreno)

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, sitting in a small Cessna about to go airborne, the pilot suddenly slowed the plane and aborted the takeoff. He said he had received orders that all flights had been grounded and that any airplanes that did not comply would be shot down by the Air Force.

The United States was under attack.

At the time, my job had been with the Arkansas Forest Inventory and Analysis survey program monitoring plots on the Mississippi Delta. I spent the rest of that day tracking my crews working in the field, and like the rest of the world, tried to comprehend the events as they unfolded. Read more »

An Update on the White House Rural Council

Since the White House Rural Council was formed in 2009, our members from across the Federal government have taken a renewed look at many critical programs and services that impact rural residents, with an overarching goal to ensure that Federal agencies are collaborating to achieve the greatest possible benefit in rural America.

Today, I hosted a meeting of the White House Rural Council where we continued our focus on shared efforts to better serve rural America – from conservation, to veterans’ services, to rural development, to support for American agriculture and more.

Today’s meeting included a special focus on expanding rural access to health care.  Rural Americans face unique barriers with regard to health care services, and new investments in medical facilities, expanded information technology and stronger veterans’ health care services can help meet these challenges. Read more »

Hunger Knows No Season

There is no “off-season” for the nearly 15% of people in this country facing hunger. Although demand remains high all year round, many of the nation’s food banks experience a major decline in donations during the summer months. USDA programs, however, work year-round to help those affected by hunger.

Through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), USDA helps those in need by purchasing items for food banks and community service organizations. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Commodity Procurement staff coordinates with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to send quality, wholesome foods to these establishments. In FY 2013, AMS purchased more than 212 million pounds of food for TEFAP. Read more »

Online Tool Helps Ag Exporters Track Trade Agreements

The Foreign Agricultural Service recently launched an online tool, called the Agricultural Tariff Tracker, to help exporters obtain information about tariff reductions resulting from world-wide free trade agreements.

The Foreign Agricultural Service recently launched an online tool, called the Agricultural Tariff Tracker, to help exporters obtain information about tariff reductions resulting from world-wide free trade agreements.

The United States has free trade agreements with 20 countries around the world that expand export opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural producers.  To help exporters obtain information about tariff reductions resulting from these FTAs, the Foreign Agricultural Service recently launched the Agricultural Tariff Tracker.

“The tracker was developed in response to requests from the agricultural export community for more detailed information about export opportunities resulting from FTAs,” said Jeff Jones, a senior policy advisor with FAS. “Though we’ve seen significant expansion in U.S. agricultural exports as a result of our trade agreements, there will be even more opportunities for U.S. agricultural exporters in the future as tariffs continue to fall throughout implementation,” he said. “Providing more information in a user-friendly format will allow exporters to maximize the potential of these agreements.” Read more »

Expanding the Circle of Ag Chief Scientists Across the Globe

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.

There are no borders around the opportunities and challenges we face in agricultural science.  Agricultural science priorities in one country are often shared by others.  That’s why agricultural science, whether national or international, benefits from being addressed globally and cooperatively.

That’s exactly what was discussed at the second G-20 Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists (MACS), hosted in June of this year by the Russian Federation, which currently serves in the role of 2013 G-20 President.  The MACS is an initiative endorsed by G20 Leaders, their Agriculture Vice Ministers and other International Research Organizations such as CGIAR because they know the value of identifying global research priorities and targets, facilitating collaboration between public and private sector organizations in key areas, and tracking progress on established goals over time. At the most recent meeting, we completed the MACS terms of reference, which established the operating parameters for this continuing forum.  To read more about the meeting, click here for the proceedings. Read more »

USDA, Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Invite You to Get Involved in Conservation Efforts

Low Elevation Spray Application and Low Energy Precision Application systems are being used on the Gonzales’ alfalfa field in Lovington, NM. This month, USDA celebrates our partnerships to encourage  conservation practices on both public and private lands.

Low Elevation Spray Application and Low Energy Precision Application systems are being used on the Gonzales’ alfalfa field in Lovington, NM. This month, USDA celebrates our partnerships to encourage conservation practices on both public and private lands.

America’s farmers, ranchers and forest owners have a great tradition of stewardship of our natural resources and environment. The U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other USDA agencies work in partnership with farmers, ranchers, forest owners, conservation groups, sportsmen, local communities, businesses and many others to encourage the conservation of both our public and private lands. This month – National Conservation Month – the Forest Service and NRCS are making several announcements that highlight the commitment of USDA and its partners to natural resource stewardship on public and private lands.

Later today, Secretary Tom Vilsack will announce the latest round of recipients for the NRCS Conservation Innovation Grants program (CIG). These grants stimulate the development and adoption of innovative conservation approaches that improve the productivity of farms, ranches and forests while enhancing the environment. For example, last year the University of Delaware used a CIG grant from NRCS to assist poultry producers in improving their operations and their environmental performance, and helping them comply with federal and state environmental quality requirements. Read more »