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Category: Environment

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 »

EPA and USDA Pledge Actions to Support America’s Growing Water Quality Trading Markets

Cross-posted from the EPA Connect blog:

In September of 2015, EPA and USDA sponsored a three-day national workshop at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska that brought together more than 200 experts and leaders representing the agricultural community, utilities, environmental NGOs, private investors, states, cities, and tribes to discuss how to expand the country’s small but growing water quality trading markets. Recently we released a report that summarizes the workshop’s key discussions and outlines new actions that we and others will take to further promote the use of market-based tools to advance water quality improvements.

Over the last decade, states and others have discovered that they can meet their water quality improvement goals through lower costs and greater flexibility by using a voluntary water quality trading program. Trading is based on the fact that sources in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant. Trading programs allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs (like a wastewater treatment plant or a municipality with a stormwater permit) to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing lower cost environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions (or credits) from another source, including farms that use conservation practices to efficiently reduce the movement of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from their fields into local waterways. For example, Virginia’s nutrient trading program to offset stormwater phosphorous loads from new development has saved the Commonwealth more than $1 million in meeting state water quality goals while providing economic incentives to local agricultural producers to reduce soil erosion and runoff. Read more »

Plenty! of Good Ideas for Growing and Sharing Healthy Food

Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.

Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.

In Southwest Virginia, a unique agricultural operation seeks to provide something that many in the community don’t have … plenty. The 18-acre combination vegetable farm/food bank/food hub on the Little River welcomes all to sample the bounty of sustainably-grown products.

Plenty! Farm began with a trip to a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I was interested in taking extra beet greens to the local food pantry and was surprised to learn that no one had the ability to receive the vegetables or a means to distribute them. That’s when McCabe Coolidge and I began to collect unsold or extra produce from local farmers and gardeners. Read more »

Crop Insurance Continues to Strengthen Rural Communities

The sweet potatoes harvest at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA

The sweet potatoes harvest at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA.

America’s farmers and ranchers work hard to provide food for the world, contributing to the nation’s economy, as well as to the strength of our rural communities. To support our nation’s hardworking producers, we’ve developed programs designed to help them stay at the forefront of global production, to adapt to market changes and protect their operations even after bad years.

Although many farm programs have come and gone, one program has continued to grow and become even more critical to the farm safety net. Federal crop insurance has become the preeminent risk management tool for our nation’s agricultural producers, and has adapted to meet the diverse needs now more than ever. In fact, even Congress recognized the importance of the federal crop insurance program in the 2014 Farm Bill. As other programs were eliminated or reduced, new requirements and expansions were mandated for the program as a cost-efficient and proven way to keep agriculture strong. Read more »

A Conversation with USDA Leader Lanon Baccam

Lanon Baccam, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison

Lanon Baccam, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison, helps connect veterans with opportunities in the field of agriculture.

Lanon Baccam serves as the Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS). Baccam oversees the domestic programs within FFAS, including Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency. Baccam also serves as the USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison. Being an Army veteran, he connects veterans with opportunities in the field of agriculture, providing information to returning veterans about services available to them through USDA.

This interview took place at Arlington National Cemetery, where scores of service men and women lay at rest after giving the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country. Read more »

USDA Launches a One Stop Shop for its “One Health” Approach to Zoonotic Threats

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) graduate student Jacquelyn Escarcha

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture Research Service (ARS) graduate student Jacquelyn Escarcha inserts samples developed from cattle fecal waste into a solution that detects Salmonella on Dec. 6, 2002. USDA photo by Peggy Greb.

At USDA, we use a One Health approach that embraces the idea that problems arising at the intersection of the health of humans, animals, and the environment can be solved only through a coordinated multidisciplinary approach.  This approach embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment only can be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions.

Because the One Health work that we do spans across many USDA agencies, we are launching a centralized web portal page to better help our stakeholders and the public better access our information.   This page features USDA’s collective body of work on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), avian influenza and swine influenza as well as other One Health resources. Read more »