Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

And the Winner of the Smokey Bear Poster Contest is…

Audrey Morga, national winner of the 2015 National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster, standing with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl

Audrey Morga, national winner of the 2015 National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster, stands with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl. (Photo by Dominic Cumberland, U.S. Forest Service)

For 54 years, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Garden Clubs Inc., have worked together to sponsor the National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster contest that reaches elementary children throughout the U.S.

This year’s grand prize winner is Audrey Morga, an 11-year old, and a fifth grader at St. Bernardine of Siena School in Woodland Hills, California.

“When I found out that I won, I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming,” said Morga. Read more »

Partnerships Bring Rural Health Care to South Dakota

Dan Friedrich, Director of HealthPOINT at Dakota State University, moderating the health financing workshop

Dan Friedrich, Director of HealthPOINT at Dakota State University, moderated the health financing workshop.

“We wouldn’t be all that we are today if it weren’t for USDA”, said Verne Hansen, Board President of the Faulkton Area Medical Center (FAMC).  With help from Rural Development, South Dakota, FAMC leveraged $5 million in loans and loan guarantees to build a state-of-the-art 12-bed facility serving as the Critical Access Hospital for Faulkton (population 744) and the surrounding community.  This new facility has yielded a 500% increase in patient revenues and improved the level of care. Due to overwhelming demand, FAMC is planning an expansion to continue meeting the health care needs of rural South Dakotans.

Recently, South Dakota’s Rural Development office teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services, the State of South Dakota, the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, Dakota State University, and East River Electric Cooperative to bring together providers and funders to generate concrete plans improving access to rural health care in our state. One concrete outcome was workshop on the collaborative Rural Health Financing Initiative, where we focus on maximizing and utilizing the resources we currently have at our disposal to best meet the needs of today and the future. To illustrate the path to success, Faulkton Area Medical Center CEO Jay Jahnig gave a first-hand example of how USDA was able to provide the financial support that allowed FAMC to significantly increase its quality and quantity of service to the community. Read more »

It’s Time to Talk about the Birds and the Bees — and the Butterflies, Bats and Beetles

Cross-posted from the Department of Interior blog:

From birds and bees to butterflies, bats and beetles, pollinators are a diverse group and are critically important to terrestrial life on our planet. Without our help, however, their populations will continue to decline as a result of numerous stressors including loss of habitat, pests and pathogens, and exposure to pesticides.

Bees and other pollinators are essential to America’s agricultural economy and maintain the beauty of our iconic landscapes. Without them, we wouldn’t have most of our vegetables, flowers, fruits or nuts. Honey-bee pollinations alone contribute more than $15 billion in value to U.S. agricultural production each year, but beekeepers reported losing just over 23 percent of honey bee colonies last winter. Other pollinators that help sustain food production and the environment—such as native bees and bats—also are declining. Read more »

Pollinator Week Brings Focus on Honey Bee Health

A bumblebee on top of a flower

Pollination by honey bees alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. It is possible that pesticide residue exposure may play an indirect role in pollinator decline, which is why analyzing residue continues to be an important part of the puzzle. USDA Photo Courtesy of Teresa Prendusi.

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.

The buzz of a honey bee and the flutter of a butterfly bring happy thoughts of beautiful gardens. These pollinators are also hard at work providing vital services that are critical to our national and global food supplies. Honey bees to native bees and birds, bats and butterflies help ensure the production of plentiful fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Pollination by honey bees alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year. Unfortunately, the number of pollinators has been declining in recent years due to many factors. Read more »

Conserving Monarch Butterflies and their Habitats

A monarch butterfly on flowers

Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed species. Photo credit: Bugwood.org

With more than 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants relying on pollinators, their importance to natural ecosystems and agriculture cannot be overstated. However, populations of pollinators, including bird, bat, butterfly, beetle and bee species, have been declining around the world. Recognizing the importance of pollinators, Secretary Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proclaimed June 15 to 21, 2015 as National Pollinator Week.

To celebrate Pollinator Week, we are sharing some of the Forest Service’s work to conserve one iconic pollinator species and its habitat – the Monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies complete incredible migrations of hundreds to thousands of miles each year across North America. Along their migratory paths, Monarchs rely on habitats that contain milkweed species, which is the only plant that they lay their eggs on. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, which contains chemical compounds that make them poisonous to potential predators. Read more »

It’s National Pollinator Week! Celebrate Bees, Bats and Other Pollinators on Friday, June 19, at USDA’s Pollinator Festival

National Pollinator Week Festival sign

USDA will be celebrating National Pollinator Week on Friday, June 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside USDA Headquarters along 12th St., Washington, D.C. AMS photo.

It’s National Pollinator Week, June 15-21! Join us on Friday, June 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., to learn about bees, birds, bats and other pollinating animals at the sixth annual Pollinator Festival outside USDA Headquarters along 12th Street in Washington, DC. More than 14 USDA agencies, other federal departments and partners will celebrate the significance of pollinators.

Pollinators like honey bees, native bees, birds, bats, butterflies and other animals perform vital but often unnoticed services. They pollinate crops like apples, blueberries, strawberries, melon, peaches, potatoes, vanilla, almonds, coffee and chocolate. Without pollinators our diets would lack diversity, flavor and nutrition. An estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees alone. Read more »