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Category: Science

Deciphering County Estimates Process

2015 Soybean Yield graphic

2015 Soybean Yield graphic. Click to enlarge.

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.

Farmers love data. And while big picture items are great, growers tell us they really want and can use local data. In addition to national and state-level statistics, some of our most popular data are the county-level agricultural production information that we collect and publish.

Collecting local data is not an easy task. For example, in Iowa, where I oversee agricultural statistics, to determine 2015 county-level numbers, we surveyed 11,500 farmers in December and January to supplement data from nearly 3,000 Iowa farmers surveyed for the January 12th Crop Production Annual Summary report. These statistical surveys are designed so all farmers in the state have a chance to be selected for participation. In order to publish county data, we need responses from at least 30 producers in each county or yield reports for at least 25 percent of the harvested acreage in a county. Luckily, here in Iowa, we received 50 or more farmer reports for many counties but we still had a couple of counties that did not make the 30 report requirement for publication. Read more »

‘Bee’ing at White House Day at the Lab

Students from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. schools trying out different scientific careers like ARS bee researcher at the White House Day at the Lab

Students from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. schools try out different scientific careers like ARS bee researcher at the White House Day at the Lab.

“Whoa! Do you have bees in there?” is not something the Secret Service asks every day, even of scientists when they come to the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which sits next to the White House West Wing and houses most of the staff offices.

It was just a month ago that agronomist Eton Codling, from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Crop Systems and Global Change Lab, and I, research leader of the ARS Bee Research Lab, were on our way into the White House. We were there to represent USDA at the White House Day at the Lab to give young students a taste of exciting science careers they may never have considered or even known about otherwise. Read more »

Public Engagement as Necessary as Math, Science

King Whetstone, (right), regional director of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service Northeastern Regional Field Office, meeting with attendees

King Whetstone, (right), regional director of USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service Northeastern Regional Field Office, meets with attendees, Jan. 15, at the 2016 Pennsylvania Farm Show, the largest indoor agricultural exposition in the United States.

It goes without saying a successful statistician must have strong math, analytical and technical skills. You might be surprised to learn, then, just how much of my time is dedicated to listening to and talking with people. To be sure, I still use math and science daily. Two decades into my career, however, it’s those intentional, important interactions with farmers who answer my agency’s requests for information, as well with those who use my agency’s data, researchers, analysts and farmers themselves that keep me busiest.

Why? Because NASS is the “go to” source for official government statistics on U.S. agricultural production, economics, land, water, energy, environmental management and farmer demographics. Part of my job includes making sure farmers want to respond to our surveys and censuses and that researchers choose to use our data because it is the most accurate and unbiased. Read more »

Bridging Nutrition and Tradition: Abriendo Caminos

A girl eating her lunch with other kids in background

Hispanic children are more prone to health risk than other ethnic groups and 22 percent are obese by the age of four. The NIFA-funded project Abriendo Caminos helps fight food insecurity and its associated challenges.

When preparing your meal, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? Do you have the right ingredients to create a meal that is both fulfilling and packed with enough nutrients to meet the daily requirements? But, what if the only foods that were available were unhealthy?

According to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), 30 percent of Hispanic households with children are food insecure, meaning they have limited or uncertain access to healthy food. Many of the options that are available to these families do not meet the standard requirements for a sufficient healthy, balanced diet. Read more »

Connection Between Children’s Emotions, Mental Skills and Eating Habits

Kids eating

Agricultural Research Service scientists are studying the relationship between eating behaviors and cognitive control as an avenue to address childhood obesity. ARS photo by Scott Bauer.

American children are gaining weight. Obesity now affects one in six children and adolescents in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s a major concern because extra pounds can increase risk for developing serious health problems in children, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

While strategies to reduce childhood obesity include improving diet and increasing exercise, USDA scientists are looking for ways to prevent behaviors in children that may lead to obesity. Nutritionist Kevin Laugero, who works at the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Western Human Nutrition Research Center in Davis, California, recently investigated the relationship between obesity, unhealthy eating behaviors and decreased mental skills in 3- to 6-year-olds. Read more »

Roadmap Sets the Table for Nutrition Research

USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Woteki speaking

USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Woteki served as Co-Chair of the Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research (ICHNR), which released the National Nutrition Research Roadmap earlier this month.

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.

I serve as Co-Chair of the Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research (ICHNR), which on March 4 released the first-ever National Nutrition Research Roadmap. This document will help guide government, academia, and the private sector to more effective collaboration on federally funded human nutrition research. Accordingly, the Roadmap itself is the result of more than a year of collaboration among 10 different federal departments and agencies, more than 90 federal experts, and numerous public comments.

The American people are keenly interested in knowing which dietary choices will help them to be healthy and prevent chronic diseases. Research on this relationship between nutrition, dietary choices, and health is important, because even a small impact on health could have large economic benefits to society. In fact, improved nutrition could be one of the most cost-effective approaches to address many societal, environmental, and economic challenges facing the US and nations around the globe. The Roadmap will help make federally supported nutrition research more effective and productive by identifying knowledge gaps and breakthrough opportunities that can be addressed through coordination and collaboration. Read more »