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USDA Teams Up with Vermont Beef Producers to Provide Local Market Data

Our new local and regional Market News reports are just one way USDA is ensuring that farmers and ranchers get access to the resources they need to thrive in the local market sector. Photo courtesy of Cascade Brook Farm.

Our new local and regional Market News reports are just one way USDA is ensuring that farmers and ranchers get access to the resources they need to thrive in the local market sector. Photo courtesy of Cascade Brook Farm.

It wasn’t too long ago that beef was far less traveled, and families often put a side of beef away in the freezer for the winter. Modern day conveniences make beef and the beef buying experience more suitable to a faster pace of life, but old traditions are hard to let go. Across the board, we’re seeing a return to buying local, and—although modern conveniences are still enjoyed—local beef is also more accessible.

USDA Market News, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, recently created a series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products, including beef.  As a part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the reports provide farmers, other agricultural businesses and consumers with a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information for local and regional food outlets. Read more »

Poll Finds Most Parents Support Higher School Nutrition Standards

A new poll shows that parents of school-age children overwhelmingly support national nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold to students during the school day. For more information, visit: www.pewtrusts.org/SchoolFoodParentPoll. Click to enlarge.

A new poll shows that parents of school-age children overwhelmingly support national nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold to students during the school day. For more information, visit: www.pewtrusts.org/SchoolFoodParentPoll. Click to enlarge.

Over the past four years, USDA has worked closely with schools, parents, community leaders, and nutrition experts to ensure that when children go off to school, they are greeted by a healthier school environment.  According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, leading to an increase in obesity-related health outcomes in children, including cardiovascular disease, pre-diabetes, and bone and joint problems.  Improving school nutrition is vital to reducing childhood obesity, because many children consume half of their daily calories during the school day. Making the healthy choice the easy choice sets our nation’s children up for a lifetime of healthy choices, and supports a healthier next generation.  Recently, we’ve seen evidence that student acceptance of healthier meals is increasing across all grade levels.  Today, we are pleased to see the results of the latest poll by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the American Heart Association, showing that most parents support the healthier meal and snack standards implemented through the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act of 2010.

Read more about the results of that study in this guest blog, from the American Heart Association.

A majority of parents favor strong national nutrition standards for food and drink sold at schools, according to a poll released Monday by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association.

In addition, the poll found that parents would also like to see salt limited in school foods and more fruits and vegetables served. Read more »

Born to Pack: Second-Generation Mule Packer Turns Love of Animals and the Great Outdoors into an Exciting Career

Mule packer Lee Roeser leads a pack through Guyute Pass in Sequoia National Park. (National Park Service/ Greg Fauth)

Mule packer Lee Roeser leads a pack through Guyute Pass in Sequoia National Park. (National Park Service/ Greg Fauth)

Lee Roeser was born to be a mule packer.  At a very early age, he learned the craft from his parents who ran a mule pack station in Mammoth Lakes, California. At age 6, he was already helping with the family business. By age 13, he began working as a packer; and at 16, he was hauling explosives, gear and tools for the public, the Forest Service and other government agencies, and mining and movie production companies.

“You must be passionate for the well-being of the animals,” said Roeser, a packer for the U.S. Forest Service on Inyo National Forest, home of one of the Pack Stock Centers of Excellence.  “I do it for that and my love of the mountains and opportunity to continue to learn.” Read more »

A “Brighter” Way to Save Money, Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Increase Productivity

New energy efficient lights in USDA greenhouses at the Western Regional Research Center in Albany (above) will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save about $200,000 a year in electrical costs. The City of Albany, California recently issued a proclamation recognizing USDA for installing the new LED luminaires and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Plants in the greenhouses, used for research by Agricultural Research Service scientists, also are growing faster and producing higher yields.

New energy efficient lights in USDA greenhouses at the Western Regional Research Center in Albany (above) will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save about $200,000 a year in electrical costs. The City of Albany, California recently issued a proclamation recognizing USDA for installing the new LED luminaires and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Plants in the greenhouses, used for research by Agricultural Research Service scientists, also are growing faster and producing higher yields.

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.

Sometimes greenhouse gases can be traced to greenhouses—or at least to their lighting systems.

That’s why the Albany City Council recently recognized USDA with a proclamation for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by installing energy-efficient lighting in the USDA greenhouses at the Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) in Albany, California.  The greenhouses are used by scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the retrofit advances the goals of the city’s 2010 Climate Change Action Plan because it reduces citywide electrical use and carbon emissions. Read more »

At a Washington Ranch, It’s for the Birds – and Elk

Nine Pine Ranch, a wetland easement near Chewelah, Washington, provides habitat for a variety of wildlife including yellow-headed black birds. NRCS photo.

Nine Pine Ranch, a wetland easement near Chewelah, Washington, provides habitat for a variety of wildlife including yellow-headed black birds. NRCS photo.

Most landowners would give up when faced with the challenges on Nine Pine Ranch near Chewelah, Washington, but not Glen Hafer. After trying for 40 years to farm his piece of land in the Colville River Valley, Hafer decided to convert it back to its original glory – wetlands.

Historically, the land in this valley flooded annually from the river, but settlers drained the area to farm. With no wetlands to hold water, flooding in the area worsened over time, making the land tough to farm.

When Hafer took the reins of his family’s land, he wanted to do something different. He was already – as he puts it – “semi-retired” and wanted to use his land to support his family. Read more »

Organic Cost Share Assistance Expands Opportunities for Farmers

Organic certification cost share programs puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes. It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.

Organic certification cost share programs puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes. It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.

The cost of organic certification is becoming more affordable for many certified producers and handlers.  Thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, cost share and assistance programs are available to organic producers and handlers through fiscal year 2018.

Cost share programs benefit certified producers and handlers across the organic supply chain, providing critical support to the organic community and rural America.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) administers these funds—which total almost $13 million this year—through grants to participating states. In 2012 alone, USDA issued nearly 10,000 reimbursements that totaled over $6.5 million. Read more »