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Forests a Fascination Since High School for Legislative Affairs Specialist

Katie Armstrong prepares to board the Glacier Discovery Train operated in partnership by the U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Railroad. (Courtesy Katie Armstrong)

Katie Armstrong prepares to board the Glacier Discovery Train operated in partnership by the U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Railroad. (Courtesy Katie Armstrong)

When Katie Armstrong read “So You Want to be a Forester,” like many high school students she wasn’t sure what career path she wanted to follow. So she decided to attend a summer forestry camp offered by Michigan Tech. After the camp she was hooked.

Then she set her goal on attending Michigan State University to study forestry.

“During my time at MSU one of my professors introduced me to urban forestry. I loved it so much I went back for a master’s degree in Forestry and Urban Studies,” said Armstrong. Read more »

Organic 101: The National Organic Standards Board – Representing the Organic Community

Given the breadth and scope of the NOSB’s responsibilities, members have to demonstrate a commitment to the integrity of the organic industry. The NOSB is as diverse as the organic community they serve. Photo courtesy of AMS.

Given the breadth and scope of the NOSB’s responsibilities, members have to demonstrate a commitment to the integrity of the organic industry. The NOSB is as diverse as the organic community they serve. Photo courtesy of AMS.

From Shayla Bailey, USDA:  This is the twentieth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations. To mark the 20th milestone, USDA invited Dr. Jean Richardson, Chair of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), to be a guest author. The NOSB provides critical support to the USDA and the organic community.  We thank the NOSB for their commitment to the organic community, and the integrity of the organic label.

Twice a year, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meets to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on what substances should be allowed or prohibited in organic agriculture.  The NOSB recommends standards, policies and guidance that help shape the organic regulations to the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

The NOSB was established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, and in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Made up of dedicated volunteers, the 15-member board includes four organic farmers, two handlers, three individuals with expertise in environmental protection or resource conservation, three representatives of public interest or consumer interest groups , a scientist, an organic retailer and an organic certifying agent. Earlier this year, I was honored when my fellow board members elected me as the Chair. Read more »

Better Service for Rural Renters: Innovative App for Field Employees Streamlines Recordkeeping

Rural Development Specialist Lea McGiboney and Fort Benton, Montana resident Velma Hansen share a laugh as Lea makes sure the Canyon Villas Apartments are providing safe and affordable homes for Velma and her neighbors.

Rural Development Specialist Lea McGiboney and Fort Benton, Montana resident Velma Hansen share a laugh as Lea makes sure the Canyon Villas Apartments are providing safe and affordable homes for Velma and her neighbors.

Velma Hansen has lived in Fort Benton, Montana for over 60 years, the last dozen of them at Canyon Villas. The engaging 91-year-old keeps an impeccably clean apartment in the rent-controlled complex financed by USDA Rural Development. As one of our hundreds of multi-family properties across rural America, Rural Development regularly inspects the properties to ensure they meet basic standards for safe and sanitary housing. If problems are noted, the property owners must address them, and do so immediately.

Right now, a specialist inspects the property, takes paper notes and digital photos, and then returns to the office to input all the data – essentially touching all the data twice to get it in our system – before being able to follow up on any necessary repairs that were noted during the servicing visit. We decided there was opportunity to invest a little technology in streamlining this process. Read more »

Mapping U.S. Agriculture

2012 Ag Census Web Maps tool helps you create a visual overview of data for U.S. farm demographics, economics, crops, and livestock.

2012 Ag Census Web Maps tool helps you create a visual overview of data for U.S. farm demographics, economics, crops, and livestock.

Agricultural data are valuable for analysis, and thanks to the Census of Agriculture and other surveys, NASS has plenty of data available. As a cartographer, however, I obviously prefer to present the data in map form. A map gives anyone a chance to visualize data for multiple geographic areas as a cohesive image, providing a graphic overview of the agricultural phenomena. It also allows map readers to visually compare regions, and discern patterns and relationships in the data across regions, topics, and time.

When it came to the ag census, for each of the past eight editions, NASS produced an atlas of thematic (statistical) maps illustrating various aspects of U.S. agriculture. While great for their time, with the evolution of digital technology, these paper maps are no longer sufficient on their own. The component missing from them is the data behind the maps, so what better way to depict and also convey a myriad of county-level statistics than through a web map application? Read more »

Collective Courage: New Book Relates History of African-American Co-ops

USDA photo archives.

USDA photo archives.

Note: Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, was published this year by Penn State University Press (www.psupress.org). The following is one in a series of blogs being posted in observance of National Cooperative Month in October.

Scholars of cooperative topics are praising Collective Courage: A History of African-American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, by Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, a faculty member at John Jay College, City University of New York. The book has been called “the most complete history to date of the cooperative economic struggles of African Americans.”

The author reminds readers that large proportions of the African-American community have had to struggle with familial, social, political and economic difficulties due to a history of enslavement, racial segregation, discrimination and violence. This experience has resulted in solidarity within the African-American community and helped facilitate social-action organizations. Read more »

USDA Partners with DOD to Fight Childhood Obesity

Concannon (far left) with students from Walt Whitman Middle School at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Va., Sept. 18, 2014.

Concannon (far left) with students from Walt Whitman Middle School at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Va., Sept. 18, 2014.

Tackling the child obesity epidemic that holds so many health risks for our nation’s youngest members is an important responsibility.  Fortunately, USDA is not alone in this critical charge.

Sound nutrition plays an essential role in all aspects of a child’s life, including their ability to learn, grow and thrive in the classroom.  And since many children today consume half of their daily calories while at school, we want to ensure the healthy choice is the easy choice for them and their families.  Happily, we have partners that feel the same way. Read more »