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Super Storm Sandy Whips Up Super Recovery Satisfaction

New Jersey farmer Liang Shao Hua listens to NRCS technical advisor Frank Wu provide advice in Chinese Mandarin, Liang’s native language. His limited English proficiency restricted his exposure to USDA farm programs until Tropical Storm Sandy made it necessary for Liang to connect with the department for assistance. He is now an FSA loan recipient and appreciates the cost-share benefits of the Emergency Conservation Program funds that assisted his family’s clean-up efforts.

New Jersey farmer Liang Shao Hua listens to NRCS technical advisor Frank Wu provide advice in Chinese Mandarin, Liang’s native language. His limited English proficiency restricted his exposure to USDA farm programs until Tropical Storm Sandy made it necessary for Liang to connect with the department for assistance. He is now an FSA loan recipient and appreciates the cost-share benefits of the Emergency Conservation Program funds that assisted his family’s clean-up efforts.

Disasters create pain.  And recovery from disasters creates partnerships and opportunity.

That is the lesson Liang Shao Hua learned in the past year after Tropical Storm Sandy, also known as Super Storm Sandy, destroyed his New Jersey high-tunnel farming operation and left him wondering how to manage his loss.

Liang, a Chinese American with very limited English proficiency, relied first on his American-born son, Peter, a 21-year-old college student studying at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York. Peter obtained USDA paperwork from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) that helped his father apply for Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) funds.  He, his brother, David, 19, and mother, Pei Yin, joined Liang in the clean-up efforts.

Liang Shao Hua was among 315 successful applicants for ECP, one-third from New Jersey.  The applicants stretched from West Virginia to New Hampshire. That was the wide swath where Sandy and her trailing cold front left a path of destruction to Atlantic Coast and New England farms. Read more »

USDA Chief Scientist Answers Your Questions on STEM and Agricultural Science Degrees; Join Our Twitter Chat Using #StudyAgScience

Join @ScienceAtUSDA for a Twitter chat on STEM & Agricultural Science education tomorrow at 2pm ET. Use #StudyAgScience to participate.

Join @ScienceAtUSDA for a Twitter chat on STEM & Agricultural Science education tomorrow at 2pm ET. Use #StudyAgScience to participate.

Do you have questions about why there is a big push for students to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? Or what jobs, in addition to farming, are available for graduates with agricultural science degrees? USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics Dr. Catherine Woteki will host a live Virtual Office Hours session on Twitter this Friday, August 23, 2012 at 2 p.m. EDT to answer your questions about what USDA is doing to make sure we are keeping the pipeline filled with promising students. Read more »

Smokejumpers – Out of the Sky and Into the Fire

A smokejumper exits a plane. (US Forest Service photo)

A smokejumper exits a plane. (US Forest Service photo)

This blog is part of a series from the U.S. Forest Service on its wildland firefighting program to increase awareness about when and how the agency suppresses fires, to provide insights into the lives of those fighting fires, and to explain some of the cutting-edge research underway on fire behavior. Check back to the USDA Blog during the 2013 wildfire season for new information. Additional resources are available at www.fs.fed.us/wildlandfire/.

Imagine jumping from a plane into a fire, with enough provisions to last for several days.  That’s what highly trained Forest Service smokejumpers do to provide quick initial attack on wildland fires.

The attack is a well-choreographed scenario.  Aircraft can hold anywhere from eight to 16 jumpers, a ‘spotter’ who stays with the plane, the pilot and provisions to make the jumpers self-sufficient for 72 hours. The spotter is responsible for the safe release of the jumpers.  Once the jumpers have landed, the aircraft will circle around and drop their cargo by parachute from just above treetop height.  The spotter also is responsible for communicating essential information about the wind, fire activity and the terrain to the jumpers, the pilot and to dispatch centers. Read more »

Taking the Summer On: AMS Interns Gain Valuable Experience

AMS interns at the USDA Internship Meeting at USDA Headquarters. During their internship, they met with senior USDA officials, including AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (first row in the center with black coat and white dress).

AMS interns at the USDA Internship Meeting at USDA Headquarters. During their internship, they met with senior USDA officials, including AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (first row in the center with black coat and white dress).

Without farmers and the agricultural businesses that support them, no one can eat. This is a simple concept, but it implies that people will continue to choose careers in agriculture. Here at USDA, one of the ways that we encourage younger generations to choose these careers is offering grants to institutions that offer agricultural curriculums. 

Through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), USDA enables students to expand their knowledge of the agricultural industry. NIFA provides grants to schools such as the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez (UPRM) through the Hispanic Serving Institutions Program. This allows these institutions to offer top-notch agricultural curriculums. Read more »

COMET-Farm™: Conservation Calculation

Healthy soil captures and stores carbon. Photo by Ron Nichols, NRCS

Healthy soil captures and stores carbon. Photo by Ron Nichols, NRCS

USDA’s new online carbon-capture calculator, COMET-Farm™, has nothing to do with comets. This tool is all about farms and their potential to help planet Earth. Since its recent release more than 4,200 visitors have already explored the new online COMET-Farm™ tool to learn how they can become part of the climate change solution.

Record-breaking concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are accelerating climate change. Agriculture has the unique opportunity to help contribute to a solution, as demonstrated by COMET-Farm™.

“When farmers use conservation practices, they improve soil health,” NRCS air quality scientist Dr. Adam Chambers says. “Healthy soil captures and stores carbon, effectively removing it from the atmosphere.” Read more »

A USDA-Funded Project Brings Hope to Illinois Valley’s Homeless

Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Patrice Kunesh recently visited Lily PADS Resale Boutique in Peru, IL, a community-supported funding vehicle for two Illinois Valley “Public Action to Deliver Shelter” (PADS) homeless shelters. Rural Development’s 2009 partnership with Hometown National Bank secured a loan guarantee, which PADS used to construct a new retail facility that enabled the organization to warehouse and sell goods from one location. The store has been so successful that Lily PADS recently expanded its storerooms and retail space again.

“This project exemplifies the significance of USDA funding to essential community facilities such as Lily PADS,” Kunesh said. “Because of the USDA Community Facility Guarantee, the owner’s dream to serve the community became a reality; and because of the owner’s perseverance, the resale boutique became successful.” So successful in fact that the bank was able to relinquish the guarantee earlier this year. “This is exactly the kind of project USDA Rural Development envisioned – community based and financed, playing a vital role in this rural community, and giving back in multiple ways!” Read more »