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U.S. Forest Service Gets to the Heart of Wildland Firefighters

A crew of wildland firefighters begins their trek into a fire. Their specialty is wildfire suppression, but they sometimes perform other work, including search and rescue and disaster response assistance. (U.S. Forest Service)

A crew of wildland firefighters begins their trek into a fire. Their specialty is wildfire suppression, but they sometimes perform other work, including search and rescue and disaster response assistance. (U.S. Forest Service)

Morman Lake Hotshots check gear at a base camp. The backbone of U.S. Forest Service firefighting is the thousands of boots-on-the-ground men and women. (U.S. Forest Service)

Morman Lake Hotshots check gear at a base camp. The backbone of U.S. Forest Service firefighting is the thousands of boots-on-the-ground men and women. (U.S. Forest Service)

It takes a certain type of person to fight wildfires. It’s not what they look like. Or sound like. It’s not their heritage or their culture. It’s their heart.

 A seven-minute U.S. Forest Service recruitment video, “The Heart of a Firefighter,” takes viewers as close to being as firefighter as possible through a small screen. Read more »

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

A strong rural economy benefits the whole nation. Sales of specialty crops – which include everything from fruits and vegetables to tree nuts, cut flowers and nursery crops – total nearly $65 billion per year.  The success of specialty crop farmers and businesses creates opportunities for new jobs and is critical to the rural economy. That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is partnering with states to support the hardworking American farmers who grow these products.

 This week Secretary Tom Vilsack announced millions of dollars in grant funding authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, including $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) awarded by AMS.  The goal of the SCBG program is to promote and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers by supporting projects that create new business opportunities, boost productivity and improve food safety.  Every state department of agriculture receives a block grant that it can use to fund projects that support its specific priorities. This year’s specialty crop block grants fund 838 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. 

Read more »

How EDEN can help YOU prepare for disasters

With the annual hurricane season brewing and potential winter storms on the horizon – not to mention the ever-present tornadoes, earthquakes, drought and fire – federal agencies are joining forces this month to help Americans prepare for and survive disasters.

 September is National Preparedness Month and America’s PrepareAthon! is a national awareness campaign to get families and communities thinking about how to respond in the event of a disaster or other emergency.  Saluting the “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare” theme, the month’s events conclude on September 30 with National PrepareAthon! Day.  Are you getting involved? Read more »

North Dakota Agriculture: One Word – Diversity

North Dakota farmers don’t have to be Meek – they can brag about leading the nation in the production of Durum and spring wheat, as well as honey, pinto beans, canola, and other crops as well.  Check back next Thursday as we spotlight another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

North Dakota farmers don’t have to be Meek – they can brag about leading the nation in the production of Durum and spring wheat, as well as honey, pinto beans, canola, and other crops as well. Check back next Thursday as we spotlight another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Even before Lewis and Clark explored the Northern Plains in 1804 and 1805, agriculture was very prevalent in the area that later became North Dakota and it is still widespread today. The 2012 Census of Agriculture showed that farms and ranches occupy 39.3 million acres of land in North Dakota, which is an amazing 89-percent of the total land in the state.

North Dakota is a very diverse state when it comes to the number of commodities produced, especially for crops. In 2012, our farmers led the nation in the production of all dry edible beans, navy beans, pinto beans, canola, flaxseed, honey, Durum wheat, and spring wheat. North Dakota was also the second leading state in barley, lentils, oats, dry edible peas, sunflowers, and all wheat production. We also were in the top five for the production of multiple other crops. So as you can see, the state’s producers are varied in what they produce and the amount that they produce. Read more »

Organic Trade in the Americas: Inter-American Commission for Organic Agriculture

Representatives from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, United States, Paraguay and Argentina met in Panama City, Panama to discuss topics that included international organic trade arrangements, as well as organic production and handling.

Representatives from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, United States, Paraguay and Argentina met in Panama City, Panama to discuss topics that included international organic trade arrangements, as well as organic production and handling.

Over the past decade, the production and market share of organic agriculture has increased globally, with significant growth in South and Central America. In 2008, the Inter-American Commission for Organic Agriculture (ICOA) was founded to support organic agriculture in the Americas and facilitate the trade of organic products. 

ICOA consists of agriculture officials from 18 member countries in Latin America and aims to harmonize organic standards, strengthen control systems and support market development in Latin America. The United States sources many organic products from Latin America including bananas, apples, pears, wine, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, coffee, mangoes, papayas, winter vegetables and more. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Investing in Conservation Innovation

Earlier this week, USDA announced $15.7 million in Conservation Innovation Grants to 47 organizations that will help develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to help farmers and ranchers continue to improve conservation practices on their operations.

More than half of this year’s awardees focus on preserving and improving soil health, which leads to improved water quality, increased soil water availability, enhanced resilience and nutrient cycling, captured carbon, among many other vital natural resource needs. Read more »