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Smooth Sailing to Grand Canyon West with the Hualapai Tribe

Hualapai Bird Dancers perform at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Diamond Bar Road. (USDA Photo)

Hualapai Bird Dancers perform at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Diamond Bar Road. (USDA Photo)

There were many things to celebrate about the newly paved nine-mile stretch of the Diamond Bar Road in Western Arizona, a road that links state and county roads to Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Reservation. At the ribbon cutting celebration for the completed road, Tribal, state and federal officials all noted the obvious benefit of the paving: The trip for the thousands of visitors every year to Grand Canyon West would be smoother and faster. Hualapai Tribal member Rory Majenty, who emceed the road celebration, pointed out another benefit for tribal members, “We probably won’t have to buy a new truck every few years like we used to have to do because of the rough road!” Tribal members weren’t the only ones dogged by the undulating washboard road. Visitors and tour buses were plagued by flat tires, bent oil pans and hubcaps that flew off into the desert.

The Hualapai Tribe operates the popular Grand Canyon Skywalk over Grand Canyon West. The glass platform juts out in a horseshoe 70 feet over the canyon and is an attraction that draws over 700,000 visitors from around the world annually. Read more »

Missouri Farmers Bring Agriculture to Local Population

Show me farms!! Missouri has lots and lots of farming – almost 100,000 according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Check back next week for a focus on another state and the Census of Agriculture.

Show me farms!! Missouri has lots and lots of farming – almost 100,000 according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Check back next week for a focus on another state and the Census of Agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Thanks to the fertile lands along the Missouri river, farming has always had a major presence in the Show Me State. As of 2012, only Texas has more farms than Missouri. The latest Census of Agriculture counted more than 99,000 farms in our state, which produced more than $9 billion in agricultural products, nearly equally divided between crop and livestock products.

Missouri farmers are always looking for innovative ways to connect our state’s residents with local agriculture and to find new markets. That’s why, in 2012, there were nearly 4,000 farms selling value-added products, such as cheese, preserves, or locally-produced wine. That year, 844 farms in Missouri also offered agritourism and other recreational services, such as hay rides. And for those residents who want to receive fresh local products, Missouri also had 291 farms participating in the local community-supported agriculture programs. Read more »

Donating Wholesome Unsold Food

Liability Concerns Stop Many Restaurants and Supermarkets from Donating Wholesome Unsold Food – Join USDA for a Nov. 12 webinar and learn more about Liability, Food Safety & the Good Samaritan Act.

Liability Concerns Stop Many Restaurants and Supermarkets from Donating Wholesome Unsold Food – Join USDA for a Nov. 12 webinar and learn more about Liability, Food Safety & the Good Samaritan Act.

14.3% of American households found it difficult to put food on the table at some time in 2013, yet 31% of food at the consumer and retail level goes uneaten (USDA ERS).  Of the estimated 133 billion pounds of food that goes uneaten every year, much of it is perfectly safe and nutritious and could have been donated to hunger relief organizations to feed hungry people.  Sadly, much of this perfectly good food ends up in landfills.

How can we change this situation? Many managers at farms, food processors, supermarkets, dining facilities, and restaurants say they are worried about donating wholesome unsold food because of fear of liability.  Some say they don’t have the proper food safety processes in place to handle food recovery and donation programs. Read more »

Streamlined Approach for Including a “Non-Genetically Engineered” Statement on Certified Organic Meat and Poultry Products

This is the twenty-first installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Organic meat and poultry producers can now use a streamlined process to get approval for labels verifying that their products do not include genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released new procedures for including a “non-genetically engineered” statement on the label of organic meat and poultry products.  This is consistent with organic regulations, which have always prohibited the use of GE in all organic products.  Now, with the new process, it will be easier for certified organic entities to add these claims to existing FSIS-approved products, speeding up the label review process. Read more »

Two Years after Sandy: USDA Continues to Aid in Recovery and Disaster Prevention Efforts

Only the dock remains from a Bay Point, New Jersey residence after Hurricane Sandy hit.

Only the dock remains from a Bay Point, New Jersey residence after Hurricane Sandy hit.

About two years ago, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on several states in the Northeast, causing $68 billion dollars’ worth of damage to critical infrastructure, businesses, homes and landscapes. Since 2012, multiple agencies, including the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), have remained committed to helping the region build back stronger and better prepared for future storms.

To help the victims recover from Sandy and prevent future devastation in vulnerable flood areas, NRCS has invested about $120 million in Emergency Watershed Floodplain Easement Program, a program that helps restore and protect lands vulnerable to flooding. Read more »

On the Road with the Hypoxia Task Force

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills and Adlai Schetter in front of a test plot. NRCS photo

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills and Adlai Schetter in front of a test plot. NRCS photo

If you ever wonder about the future of agriculture, go no further than Brighton, Illinois.  Just 10 minutes with 15-year-old Adlai Schetter will reinforce that stewardship of private working lands is in good hands. It will also convince you that cover crops and second generation biofuels are a dynamic part of our agricultural future.  On the day I visited with Adlai at his parents’ farm, he summed up his vision in a professional PowerPoint presentation to an audience of more than 20 state and federal officials.

Adlai spends a lot of his free time researching the effectiveness of different cover crop seed mixes that include rye and radishes. After his formal presentation, we walked over to his test plots.  I asked him if he’s determining which cover crop work best and he responded that “they are like players on a football team, they each have important roles.”  Adlai understands how to make these cover crops work for him.  While other farmers may be looking at bare fields this winter and early next spring, Adlai and his parents get to watch their cover crops scavenge nutrients, improve soil porosity and suppress weeds. This frees up time for Adlai to spend on another passion – the second generation biofuel miscanthus.  Adlai puts his harvested miscanthus to work fueling a burner that heats a cavernous building that houses farm equipment and the farm’s office.  Ten bales a day of miscanthus and corn stover keep the building a comfortable 72 degrees throughout the cold Illinois winter.  This winter he will experiment with using even less fuel.  Asked if he gets any school credit for all this work, Adlai responds, “not really.” Read more »