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Category: Environment

Strengthening U.S. Farm Labor through Surveys

Farmers can help ensure there is enough agricultural labor in the United States at critical times in the production cycles by taking part in the Agricultural Labor survey.

Farmers can help ensure there is enough agricultural labor in the United States at critical times in the production cycles by taking part in the Agricultural Labor survey.

Throughout the course of the year, hired labor makes planting and harvesting of America’s farmland possible. On my family’s Illinois farm, we relied on both paid and unpaid friends and family to bring in our hay.   Nearby farmers however relied on seasonal migrant labor to harvest vegetables. 

Today I’m a statistician overseeing the analyses and publication of environmental, economic and demographic data on U.S. agriculture.  In that role, my team produces data on farm labor that provides the basis for employment and wage estimates for all farm workers directly hired by U.S. farms.  It is also used by the U.S. Department of Labor to administer the H-2A agricultural guest worker program.  Read more »

West Virginia: After the Flooding Neighbors Helping Neighbors Get the Food They Need

Venise LeGrande

Venise LeGrande, a Greenbrier County resident, awaits processing of her D-SNAP application.

It was late July in Greenbrier County, W.Va., almost one month to the day since torrential rain and flooding struck most of the state.  In response to the disaster, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service approved the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) request to operate a Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) in several of the most severely impacted counties, including Greenbrier.  At several of the D-SNAP application sites throughout the state, dozens of DHHR staff prepared for what they anticipated to be a busy week of conducting interviews, determining eligibility, and issuing D-SNAP benefits to residents who lost food, income and property due to the flooding. Read more »

Don’t be a Zombie – Prepare for Emergencies

Purdue Extension’s “Don’t Be a Zombie” exhibit

Purdue Extension’s “Don’t Be a Zombie” exhibit is traveling the country to illustrate the need to prepare for emergencies. Photo by Abby Hostetler

In this guest blog, Abby Hostetler urges people to prepare for emergencies and describes an innovative display that Purdue Extension used at the Indiana State Fair to drive home that point. Because September is National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to think about emergency planning.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan for you and your family because you just don’t know when disasters will impact your community.

By Abby Hostetler, EDEN Disaster Communications Specialist, Purdue University

Nearly 60,000 visitors to this year’s Indiana State Fair encountered zombies lurking around in the corners. Actually, they saw cartoon zombies that were part of an interactive exhibit, Don’t Be a Zombie – Be Prepared. The exhibit consists of a walk-though maze and interactive video game designed to simulate a zombie apocalypse.

The goal is to help families learn about disaster preparedness in a fun way. In 2011 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched their Zombie Preparedness campaign to much acclaim and success. The CDC campaign was a gory take on zombies and aimed at a teenage demographic. Once the Extension Disaster Emergency Network (EDEN) got permission from the CDC to adapt the materials into an interactive display, Purdue Extension used third grade classrooms to help tie into the rise of the zombie fad in pop culture while still keeping the materials friendly to all ages. Read more »

The Year of the Flood

Psylia King providing application information

Psylia King provides needed application information for D-SNAP benefits in Washington Parish, La.

Incidents described as “thousand year storms and floods” and “the worst U.S. disaster since Hurricane Sandy” claimed the lives of more than 58 people in Louisiana, West Virginia and South Carolina over the last year.  These disasters often remind us of the devastating impacts that families and their communities face after they strike.

After emergency life saving operations, food and shelter assistance are the most important priorities with which emergency managers must contend.  It was during these times that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) responded to 22 incidents by providing needed nutrition assistance.  More than half of these disasters involved severe and widespread flooding, including the most recent floods that affected residents in 22 parishes in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Read more »

RMA Engages Farmers at Annual Meeting of Southern Grassroots Cooperatives

Michael Alston speaking

Michael Alston speaking about the safety net RMA offers farmers and ranchers through crop insurance.

Recently, I had the honor of representing USDA at the annual Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Land Assistance Fund (FSCLA) annual meeting in Epes, Ala. It gave me a chance to speak with a phenomenal group of hardworking farmers and ranchers, to hear their stories and share some of the improvements that USDA, under the Obama Administration, has put in place to help uproot inequality. Over the past eight years, we’ve taken steps to change the culture of USDA to ensure all Americans who come to us for help are treated fairly, with dignity and respect.

As I stepped to the podium and looked out at a crowd of faces that resembled mine, I thought back to my early childhood growing up on my parent’s farm.  I remembered the hardships they endured trying to sustain a life for me and my siblings, and I wished that I could have offered the same information and opportunities to them as I was about to provide to the room full of individuals at the meeting. Read more »

Military Experience Opens Door for Soldier to Return to the Farm

Veteran Tracy Robinson

Veteran Tracy Robinson’s military experience counted toward farming experience, allowing him to access USDA microloan funding.

Graduating from high school in the small town of Blakely, Georgia, Tracy Robinson was required to take an armed forces aptitude test. When asked what he wanted to do with his life, Robinson said he wanted to farm. The Marine recruiter told him he would be a great field artilleryman.

“I heard the word field and thought it had something to do with farming,” said Robinson. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and after finding out field artillery had nothing to do with farming he stayed and fought for his country for 24 years, serving in Desert Shield, Afghanistan and Iraq. Read more »