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Public Service Recognition Week: Thank You, AMS!

Associate Deputy Administrator Melissa Bailey (center) with staff from Fort Worth, Texas PACA division

Associate Deputy Administrator Melissa Bailey (center) with staff from our Fort Worth, Texas PACA division. Since implementation, over 3,700 claims worth more than $66 million have been resolved by our Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) division, which helps protect the American produce industry.

At USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), our 4,000 employees work hard every day to support the country’s diverse agricultural operations. Whether it’s individual farmers or international businesses, we have a long tradition of collaborating, innovating, and evolving to keep American agriculture competitive in the global marketplace.

As part of Public Service Recognition Week, I would like to introduce you to some of our employees and tell you about the remarkable work they do each and every day. Read more »

Connecting with Local Farmers, One Savory Dish at a Time

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS) Deputy Under Secretary Alexis Taylor speaking with local growers.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS) Deputy Under Secretary Alexis Taylor speaking with local growers.

There’s nothing better than talking about food over a delicious meal of fresh, locally produced ingredients.  I had the chance to do that recently, when I visited Central Foods, a Spokane, Washington, restaurant that sources from local farmers and ranchers.  There, I met with stakeholders and producers who are taking advantage of new economic opportunities created by the growing consumer demand for local food. We had a great conversation about how USDA supports local food systems and how we can continue to do so in the future.

In communities across America, entrepreneurs like Beth Robinette and Joel Williamson from Spokane’s LINC Foods and Teri McKenzie from Inland NW Food Network are invigorating rural economies by connecting local farmers and consumers. They are opening up new markets for farmers, drawing young people back to farming, and increasing access to fresh foods for consumers. That’s why USDA has identified strong local and regional food systems as one of four pillars for rural economic development, and we’ve stepped up our support for this important sector of agriculture. Read more »

Addressing Climate Change Today for a Healthier Tomorrow

Ned Wood looking out at land

Photo: Ned Wood began a life long dream of ranching and he now leads a thriving family business that has endured and will improve the lives of hundreds of his cows, calves and yearlings that graze the approximately 4,000 acres of drought stricken range land in the 6,255 acre East Bay Regional Park District’s Briones Regional Park in Contra Costa County, CA. Image: USDA Results Badge.

USDA is bringing tools and solutions to farmers, foresters and ranchers so they have help confronting climate change while working to produce a global food supply adequate to feed the 9 billion people estimated by 2040 while still protecting the earth’s natural resources.

Today, USDA is launching the fifth chapter of USDA Results, telling the story of how USDA has been working since 2009 with partners across the country and around the world to curb the effects of climate change for a healthier tomorrow. Throughout May, we will be announcing new projects and highlight the progress we’ve made under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, which has made this issue one of his top priorities. Here in the Climate Change Program Office and in Agencies across the Department, we have been busy. Read more »

Wheat Blast, Bangladesh, and Biosecurity: NIFA-Funded Research Works for Global Food Security

Wheat blast

Wheat blast is a fungal pathogen that can devastate a crop and ruin entire harvests. Photo courtesy of Guillermo Isidoro Barea Vargas

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.

An epidemic of wheat blast is underway in Bangladesh, published reports say, and losses may be substantial in the six southeastern districts where it has been reported. Wheat blast is a crop disease caused by the Triticum pathotype of the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae (MoT). In nations where broad wheat blast epidemics have occurred, 30 percent losses have been noted, but localized areas have experienced 50-100 percent losses, according to Dr. Barbara Valent, fungal molecular geneticist at Kansas State University (KSU).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), through its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), has provided nearly $5.4 million since 2009 to support research on wheat and rice blast. KSU leads a multi-institutional research project that brings together expertise from University of Arkansas, University of Kentucky, the Ohio State University, Purdue University, and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Read more »

Get a Little Wild with Flowers on National Forests, Grasslands

Wild blue phlox

Wild blue phlox (phlox divaricata) - Wild blue phlox is a native wildflower commonly encountered on the Mark Twain National Forest. Photo credit: Larry Stritch

Hiking along the peaceful Greer Spring Trail in the Mark Twain National Forest the pathway is decorated with abundant wildflowers in bloom—vibrant yellow trout lily, Jacob’s ladder and white harbinger of spring. Look up and you may see Indian pipe, bird’s-foot violet, and firepink scattered along the ridgetops.

The reward for your near-mile-long hike is a specular view of Greer Spring, Missouri’s second largest spring. Through the mist you will find beautiful smooth waters cascading over rocks and plentiful ferns and mosses. Bishop’s cap, Ebony spleenwort, and wild columbine are scattered along the dolomite cliffs that surround the spring. Following the spring’s path you will find horned pondweed, elodea, and waterthread pondweed. Read more »

USDA Helps Small Business Grow Into Something Big

USDA Rural Development RBS Administrator Sam Rikkers and USDA RD State Director Basil Gooden, Ph.D at Shenandoah Organic Valley

USDA Rural Development RBS Administrator Sam Rikkers and USDA RD State Director Basil Gooden, Ph.D., visit the Shenandoah Organic Valley, a VAPG grant recipient, on April 18th, 2016.

Corwin Heatwole describes himself as quite the stubborn – though innovative – teenager. Leaving home at 17 years of age, this hardworking young man from Harrisonburg, Va. started several successful businesses in his early 20s before he discovered that there was a growing demand for organic chicken in the U.S. In 2013 he bought 300 chickens with not one buyer yet in sight. Now, with the help of USDA, he has more demand than he can handle.

Since that day, Corwin has grown the business from 35 employees to nearly 350 in just 25 months with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In October of 2014, Corwin received $200,000 in a working capital Value Added Producers Grant from USDA Rural Development and in January of this year, he also received a $600,000 Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan (B&I). He used the guaranteed loan to upgrade a very old plant with state-of-the-art packaging and processing machines. Without the packaging machines in particular, he noted, he would have never been able to fulfill his growing orders from Costco and Whole Foods. And through this growing business, he has been able to increase his farmers’ end-of-the-year net income by 75 percent. Read more »