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USDA and DHS Scientists Receive Top DHS Award for Animal Disease Research

Pictured left to right: First row—DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, Lavanya S. Ratnam (OCG, Washington DC), Teresa de los Santos and Luis Rodriguez (ARS PIADC), Robert M. Webb (OCG Washington DC), Michelle Colby (DHS, Washington DC) and  DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Second row—Lawrence Barrett, John Nielan, Christopher Schutta, Jeffrey Babcock and Michael Santillo (DHS PIADC). Photo by:  Barry Bahler/DHS

Pictured left to right: First row—DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, Lavanya S. Ratnam (OCG, Washington DC), Teresa de los Santos and Luis Rodriguez (ARS PIADC), Robert M. Webb (OCG Washington DC), Michelle Colby (DHS, Washington DC) and DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Second row—Lawrence Barrett, John Nielan, Christopher Schutta, Jeffrey Babcock and Michael Santillo (DHS PIADC). Photo by: Barry Bahler/DHS

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.

When people think about keeping our homeland safe, they don’t usually think about animal diseases that threaten our nation’s economy and food supply, but USDA scientists do. Years of dedicated research on foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is paying off.

A team of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and their U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collaborators received the DHS Secretary’s Exceptional Service Gold Medal Award at a recent ceremony in Washington, D.C. The award recognizes outstanding leadership or service distinguished by achievements of national or international significance that improves our homeland security. The team successfully developed and licensed the world’s first molecular FMD vaccine for cattle—the most significant scientific accomplishment in FMD vaccine development in the past 50 years and the first FMD vaccine that can be manufactured in the United States. Read more »

Vanished Rabbit Reappears on Central California’s Dos Rios Ranch

The riparian brush rabbit is state and federally endangered, with all known populations in the northern San Joaquin Valley facing significant threat of extinction. Declines of brush rabbits have largely been attributed to loss of habitat. Photo courtesy USFWS Pacific Southwest Region.

The riparian brush rabbit is state and federally endangered, with all known populations in the northern San Joaquin Valley facing significant threat of extinction. Declines of brush rabbits have largely been attributed to loss of habitat. Photo courtesy USFWS Pacific Southwest Region.

Some exciting news recently came from a large wetlands restoration project now underway in Central California. River Partners, a nonprofit conservation organization, documented the first occurrence of a state and federally endangered rabbit on its habitat preserve at Dos Rios Ranch, a key piece of riverfront habitat located at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers in Stanislaus County.

Thanks to a generous loan of wildlife cameras from a professor at the University of California, Davis, River Partners’ summer interns captured images of riparian brush rabbits at Dos Rios Ranch in July in remnant riparian habitat along the Tuolumne River. Riparian brush rabbits are a critically endangered subspecies of rabbit that was thought to be extinct following catastrophic flooding in 1997. Read more »

Ready, Set, Lights! U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Delivered, Decorated and Ready to Shine

Workers use a crane to lift an 88-foot spruce tree harvested from the Chippewa National Forest to its final resting place on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The scaffolding surrounding the dome is part of a multi-year restoration project to repair deficiencies. (U.S. Forest Service/Mary LaPlant)

Workers use a crane to lift an 88-foot spruce tree harvested from the Chippewa National Forest to its final resting place on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The scaffolding surrounding the dome is part of a multi-year restoration project to repair deficiencies. (U.S. Forest Service/Mary LaPlant)

After a 2,700-mile, 30-stop journey from Minnesota, the 88-foot white spruce tree harvested from the Chippewa National Forest is delivered, set up in Washington, D.C., decorated by Architect of the Capitol employees and ready for the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2.

Speaker of the House John Boehner will light the tree on the Capitol’s West Front, where it will remain lit from dusk until 11 p.m. daily through Jan. 1. The tree is a gift from the American people, hence the moniker “The People’s Tree.” Hundreds of people attend the lighting ceremony. Read more »

The Other Holiday Shopping: Grocery Shopping

During the holiday season, it seems that all we do is shop, shop, shop. While not paying attention when you purchase holiday gifts places your wallet at risk, not paying attention when you purchase groceries can place your health at risk.

If you don’t take certain safety steps while grocery shopping, you can risk food poisoning. Grocery shopping is where safe food handling should start, by following these recommendations you can make sure the food you bring home is safe. Read more »

From Scientist to Farmer, Today’s Agriculture Producers Come from All Walks of Life

Richard McGinley farms 950 acres fulltime in central Florida.  According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming. NRCS photo.

Richard McGinley farms 950 acres fulltime in central Florida. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming. NRCS photo.

In the past, full-time farmers were the norm and children of farmers followed in their parent’s footsteps. That’s not the case today. Now, data from the Census of Agriculture show more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming.

Richard McGinley is a good example of today’s Florida farmer. He spent his early years living the city life until his dad moved the family to Ocala, located in central Florida, to begin farming. But McGinley had other interests that took him far from farming. He established a career in the nuclear industry and even started his own consulting business. Read more »

USDA Keeps Dairy Exports Flowing to Morocco

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and its sister agencies work to keep markets open to U.S. products.  Recently, an interagency team resolved an issue with Morocco, keeping a $126 million market open for American butter, cheese and other dairy products.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and its sister agencies work to keep markets open to U.S. products. Recently, an interagency team resolved an issue with Morocco, keeping a $126 million market open for American butter, cheese and other dairy products.

U.S. agricultural exports continue to be a bright spot for America’s economy, worth a record $152.5 billion in fiscal year 2014.  That’s why USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and its sister agencies work so hard to keep these export markets open.  So in 2011, when Morocco requested that USDA use a new dairy export certificate that we could not endorse, we launched into action.  Our goal was to protect an export market worth $126 million annually while preserving our close relationship with a valued trading partner.

Morocco is the 13th largest export market for our dairy products, and U.S. dairy exports are the fastest growing export category to that country.  U.S. companies export many dairy commodities to Morocco, such as butter, cheese and skim milk powder, as well as dairy ingredients such as milk protein and whey protein products. Read more »