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Happy Valentine’s Day from MyPlate!

MyPlate Tips for Valentine’s Day!

MyPlate Tips for Valentine’s Day!

This Valentine’s Day, give something for the heart. Sharing a heart healthy gift is a great way to let the people in your life know you care.  Instead of offering an over-sized piece of cake or a box of sweets, give something that takes care of the heart.

For Your Spouse or Partner:  Make a healthy meal together.  Cooking a meal can help you to control portion sizes and the ingredients in your food. Find a healthy recipe to make at home or attend a cooking class at your local mall or community college.  For healthy recipe ideas, visit the FNCS Recipe Box. Read more »

“Voices from the Land” Conservation in American Agriculture Briefing Highlights Environmental Award Winners

USDA Deputy Undersecretary Ann Mills (ninth from left) visits with Leopold Conservation Award winners at USDA last week. USDA photo.

USDA Deputy Undersecretary Ann Mills (ninth from left) visits with Leopold Conservation Award winners at USDA last week. USDA photo.

“Water conservation begins where the first drop of rain falls…most likely on private working lands.” This is a favorite saying of Tom Vandivier, a Texas cattle rancher and 2008 recipient of the Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award (LCA).

Tom was one of more than two dozen recipients of the LCA – which recognized landowners for achievement in environmental improvement on agricultural land – in Washington, D.C. last week.  I was fortunate to meet with them here at USDA headquarters to talk about the importance of conservation and the need to spread the message that investing in conservation practices on our farm and ranch lands not only protects water, air and wildlife – it also makes economic sense. Read more »

Good-Bye, Willie

USDA Farm Service Agency employee Willie Cooper retires after more than 56 years.

USDA Farm Service Agency employee Willie Cooper retires after more than 56 years.

Willie F. Cooper recently retired after more than 56 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Three hundred of his Louisiana friends – more if the rain doesn’t freeze — are prepared to honor Willie Feb. 11, in Alexandria, La.

At retirement, people often reflect on their careers.  Willie has a lot on which to reflect.  He started in August 1957 with the Farm Service Agency (FSA).  Back then it was called the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.

In a recent conversation, Willie spoke about the thing that amazed him the most during employment with FSA – technology.  Some changes affected everyone, but the technology that stood out the most for Willie Cooper was what affected farming.  “It blows your mind,” he said. Read more »

Southern Plains Climate Hub Seeks to Address Three Huge Problems

Corn shows the affect of drought in Texas on Aug. 20, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Corn shows the affect of drought in Texas on Aug. 20, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

I am a research scientist, by nature, training, and now more than 30 years of experience.  I hold degrees in Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, Meteorology, and have done research in many sub-specialties of the last two, including climate science.  My curiosity about the natural world never slows down, and I am not intimidated by difficult problems.  But the research I’ve been doing since 1999 has been the most challenging:  how do we transform what we know about weather, weather variability, climate, and climate change into practical advice for farmers and ranchers?  This is not just one problem in my mind, but three.  Three huge gnarly problems, each close to intractable.  But these new USDA Climate Hubs are an opportunity to make progress on all three.  What follows are thumbnails of the three problems I have in mind, and then briefly how I see the Climate Hubs providing a handle on them. Read more »

Pinchot Award Recognizes Scientist’s Passion: Public Relations for Bats

Bats like this northern long-eared bat are important to agricultural and forest ecosystems and are a significant force in keeping insect populations in check. (U.S. Forest Service/Sybill Amelon)

Bats like this northern long-eared bat are important to agricultural and forest ecosystems and are a significant force in keeping insect populations in check. (U.S. Forest Service/Sybill Amelon)

Sybill Amelon is trying to repair the damage Bram Stoker did to bats’ public image.

A research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Columbia, Mo., Amelon has introduced bats to more than 20,000 primary, secondary and college students and teachers. Over the past 20 years, she has explained bat biology and lifecycles to master naturalist classes, Audubon clubs, garden clubs and native plant societies. Through her research and conservation efforts, she has raised awareness about bat species, while inspiring people to save them.

Amelon’s work was recently recognized with a regional Gifford Pinchot Excellence in Interpretation and Conservation Education Award, a national accolade given to Forest Service employees for achievement in environmental interpretation and conservation education. The annual award is named in honor of the first Forest Service chief. Read more »

USDA Scientist Eager to Lead New Initiative to Combat a Devastating Citrus Disease

Mary Palm, Ph.D., who is leading USDA’s multi-agency response to combat Huanglongbing (citrus greening) disease.

Mary Palm, Ph.D., who is leading USDA’s multi-agency response to combat Huanglongbing (citrus greening) disease.

When I learned I was chosen to lead USDA’s new emergency, multi-agency response framework to combat one of the most serious citrus diseases in the world, I felt both humbled and honored.  I relish the opportunity as a scientist to partner with other federal agencies, states, and industry to combat a disease—huanglongbing (HLB or citrus greening)—that has devastated so many citrus groves in Florida and threatens other citrus-producing states.

When Secretary Vilsack established this new framework—USDA’s HLB Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group—he directed us to fund the most promising, practical research to give growers tools to use against HLB as quickly as possible.  USDA provided $1 million in funding, and the 2014 Federal budget includes an additional $20 million for HLB research, which the Group will collectively determine how best to spend. Read more »