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Beginning Rancher Applies Tribal Traditions and USDA Risk Management Tools to Help Grow Her Business

James McCuen, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Shawna Kalama

James McCuen and Shawna Kalama discuss business opportunities available for beginning ranchers. USDA-RMA photo by Jo Lynne Seufer.

Shawna Kalama is a proud member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She’s also a beginning rancher, pursuing her dream the past few years near the Cascade Mountains on the Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington State. Kalama has successfully leveraged several USDA programs to simultaneously support both her entrepreneurial education goals and her growing livestock operation.

She began earning her business degree at Heritage University, and recently participated in a risk management education program, sponsored by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). This week, the agency announced that $8.7 million in cooperative agreement funding is available for the risk management education program for fiscal year 2016. The program introduces the agency’s risk management tools, crop and livestock insurance programs and educational partnerships to new and beginning, and traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers. The curriculum includes an overview of RMA’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis tool, which identifies potential problems, and finds solutions and resources to help beginning farmers and ranchers manage risks. Nearly 90,000 producers participated in risk management education events in 2015. Read more »

Bringing up Better Biofuel

A mobile pyrolysis system for on-farm production of bio-oil from agricultural waste

Agricultural Research Service scientists are testing a mobile pyrolysis system for on-farm production of bio-oil from agricultural waste. USDA-ARS photo by Mark Schaffer

The idea of replacing fossil-based fuel, such as petroleum, with a renewable energy source is enough to get any environmentalist excited. Now, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have advanced a process to produce crude liquid fuel called “bio-oil” from agricultural waste. The bio-oil is produced by a process called “pyrolysis,” which involves chemical decomposition of plant and other organic matter at very high heat without oxygen.  This new technology for producing renewable fuels is called “tail-gas reactive pyrolysis” or TGRP.

The TGRP method might be considered a new generation of pyrolysis because it holds promise for processing and improving bio-oil as an intermediate product toward finished biofuel. Read more »

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Joyce Hunter

Joyce Hunter, USDA Deputy Chief Information Officer for Policy and Planning

Joyce Hunter, USDA Deputy Chief Information Officer for Policy and Planning, speaking at FCW.

In an effort to lift up the opportunities available for women in the agricultural field, USDA shares stories of women who are leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. In this post, USDA Deputy Chief Information Officer for Policy and Planning Joyce Hunter shares her perspective as a woman in the technology field and how she puts her unique experience and skills to work at USDA.

Ms. Hunter oversees the Department’s strategic technology planning initiatives, establishes policy framework, and lays the track for the future. With over 30 years’ experience in the information technology industry, Ms. Hunter has a strong ability to build and sustain relationships with public/private stakeholders and lead innovative projects and inter-agency initiatives.  Earlier this year, she was selected by the editors of FedScoop as one of “D.C.’s Top 50 Women in Technology.” Read more »

Summer Meal Programs Fight Hunger with Nutritious Food and Innovation

Smiling group of diverse children

Summer meals help close the nutrition gap children face when schools let out for summer — when children no longer receive school meals they relied on throughout the school year.

The following guest blog discusses the importance of USDA Summer Meals Programs, which provide children with healthy food during the summer, when the school meals they depend on disappear.  Childhood memories shared by the writer demonstrate how critical healthy meals are to the growth and development of children.  USDA’s approaches to making summer meals accessible are also highlighted.

By Jesus Garcia, Special Assistant, Office of Communications, Administration for Children and Families (HHS)

When I was young, summers seemed to last forever. Days were long and hot in rural South Texas.

One thing I looked forward to after riding my bicycle all over the neighborhood was a nice lunch prepared by my grandmother Angelita. Meals like arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) or carne guisada (stewed meat) with a side of beans provided the energy I needed to keep up with an adventurous summer.

Good food not only helps your body climb hills when you’re a kid, but it helps your brain develop in order to learn new stuff.  For some children in our communities, though, not enough healthy food is available for them to enjoy and help them grow. Luckily, a very helpful program exists that communities can use to tackle this problem: USDA’s Summer Meal Programs. Read more »

USDA Celebrates National Small Business Week

Grand Union Hotel owner Cheryl Gagnon giving Under Secretary Lisa Mensah a tour of the renovated historic hotel in Fort Benton, Montana

Grand Union Hotel owner Cheryl Gagnon gives Under Secretary Lisa Mensah a tour of the renovated historic hotel in Fort Benton, Montana. The Gagnons used a Business & Industry Loan Guarantee to finance the rehabilitation, along with financing from a revolving loan through Bear Paw Development funded by USDA’s Intermediary Relending Program. Just another example of how USDA Rural Development helps America's rural small businesses.

America’s economy rides on the wheels of small businesses.

The U.S. Small Business Administration says more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. The contributions of these firms will be honored May 1-7 during National Small Business Week — #DreamSmallBiz — and USDA Rural Development is proud to join in the celebration.

As the leading federal agency working exclusively to foster economic opportunity in rural America, Rural Development knows Main Street businesses drive the rural economy. Money earned and spent at a small town “mom-and-pop” store, or a small-scale manufacturer gets re-invested locally. Read more »

Rabies and Vampire Bats

A vampire bat in Mexico

A vampire bat in Mexico. Photo by Luis Lecuna, USDA APHIS, International Services, Mexico.

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. For APHIS, changes in environmental conditions will increase the likelihood of shifts in the distribution and nature of current domestic diseases, invasive species and agricultural pests.  These changes will likely influence the dynamics of invasion and establishment of these diseases and pests, and therefore much of APHIS’ work. Understanding and adapting to these changes is therefore critical to meeting our mission.

Vampire bats rank high on the list of animals that scare us the most. Spooky Halloween tales of their blood-sucking, nocturnal, and secretive habits have likely led to their bad reputation. The fact that some also carry and spread the deadly rabies virus doesn’t help.

The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of Central and South American wildlife and livestock. They also sometimes bite and feed on the blood of people. Recently, vampire bats have been documented within 35 miles of the Texas border. This has caused concern and speculation about the potential movement of vampire bats to areas within the United States as a result of rising global temperatures. To gain a better understanding of the likelihood of such movement, USDA-APHIS geneticist Dr. Toni Piaggio with the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center partnered with U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Mark Hayes to analyze and map the potential distribution of vampire bats under various climate scenarios. Read more »