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Secretary’s Column: Partnerships Power Conservation Efforts

When USDA launched the Regional Conservation Partnership Program several months ago, we talked about our hope that this new way of doing business would build coalitions of unlikely partners and bring new money and resources for conservation projects to the table.

The overwhelmingly positive response to this new approach has far exceeded our initial expectations. Over the past several months, nearly 5,000 partners have come together to submit nearly 600 pre-proposals to USDA. All told, these coalitions of partners requested more than six times the $394 million in funding available from USDA for the first round of conservation projects, in addition to bringing their own, matching resources to the table. Read more »

Small State Comes Up Big with Healthy Summer Meals and Engaging Activities for Kids

FNS Regional Administrator Pat Dombroski, with youth at a summer meals site run by the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford, Del.

FNS Regional Administrator Pat Dombroski, with youth at a summer meals site run by the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford, Del.

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to see the many happy faces of children playing on the recreational fields of the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club in Seaford, Del.  They were there as part of a Summer Food Service Program showcasing USDA’s Eat Smart. Play Hard Campaign. It was easy to get caught up in the excitement generated by the Power Panther, the campaign’s mascot, as he danced through the crowd of more than 500 young people. And after enjoying face painting and organized games, the kids were able to relax and enjoy a healthy cook-out style meal.

When school lets out, millions of our nation’s children no longer have access to healthy school breakfast or lunches. Of the 21 million children who receive free and reduced-priced meals through the National School Lunch Program during the regular school year, only 3.5 million participate in summer meal programs.   USDA’s summer meals programs aim to fill the hunger gap for our children, and by the looks of the impressive site in southern Delaware, they were meeting that goal. Read more »

#AgCensus and MyPlate Serve up Lessons in Math, Nutrition, and More

Map includes the following commonly eaten grains: oats, popcorn, rice, rye, wheat. Source: 2012 Census of Agriculture. Click to enlarge.

Map includes the following commonly eaten grains: oats, popcorn, rice, rye, wheat. Source: 2012 Census of Agriculture. 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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Where was the food on your plate grown? Do you know in which state the apple in your lunchbox was mostly likely harvested? Or where the milk from your milk carton was mostly likely produced?

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) is helping students, parents, and teachers get revved up for a healthy school year by exploring U.S. agriculture production and the food they eat. Using the maps to display learning the most recent Census of Agriculture results, NASS is showing where foods in the five main food groups, dairy, fruits, grains, proteins, and vegetables, according to USDA’s MyPlate, are grown in the United States.  And the conversation and learning opportunities continue online using the hashtag #AgCensus. Read more »

Local & Regional Data Added to USDA Market News

The Baltimore Farmers Market helps meet America's demand for local and regional food. Farmers markets, farmers auctions, and direct to consumer reports are now being produced by USDA Market News. The reports are available for businesses of all size to help level the playing field in the $7 billion a year local and regional food market. USDA Photo Courtesy of Lance Cheung.

The Baltimore Farmers Market helps meet America's demand for local and regional food. Farmers markets, farmers auctions, and direct to consumer reports are now being produced by USDA Market News. The reports are available for businesses of all size to help level the playing field in the $7 billion a year local and regional food market. USDA Photo Courtesy of Lance Cheung.

America’s hunger for locally and regionally grown food has become a $7 billion-per-year market.  That means more consumers are savoring farm-fresh food, and more farmers—especially small and mid-size farmers—are profiting from new markets for their products.  It also means that a trove of useful pricing and volume data about local and regional food markets is now available, ready to be collected and analyzed.  Thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA is making that data available to farmers and businesses of all sizes for free and helping to level the playing field.

USDA Market News has created a new series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products.  The reports—covering products from all commodity areas—are all available on the Local & Regional Food Marketing Information web page, which provides farmers, other agricultural businesses, and consumers with a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information for local and regional food outlets.  Three report categories are now online: Read more »

Why is Cogongrass So Successful at Invading the South?

Widely used in landscaping, the cold-tolerant cogongrass Red Baron variety does not produce viable seed, but its pollen could present problems in the future. (Auburn University/David Teem, Bugwood.org). Photo used with permission.

Widely used in landscaping, the cold-tolerant cogongrass Red Baron variety does not produce viable seed, but its pollen could present problems in the future. (Auburn University/David Teem, Bugwood.org). Photo used with permission.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Cogongrass makes kudzu look like a lightweight. A perennial grass, it grows on every continent except Antarctica and has earned a reputation as one of the worst weeds on Earth. In the South, cogongrass ranks among the top 10 plant marauders, invading forests, rights-of-way, and agricultural fields, literally taking over the landscape and altering ecosystems.

Native to Southeast Asia, the weed first arrived in the United States in 1912 as packing material in orange crates imported to Grand Bay, Alabama.  A few years later, farmers planted cogongrass in Mississippi as a possible forage crop. Since then, it’s spread to more than 66,000 acres throughout the South, its progress limited only by winter cold. Landowners and agencies have fought this weed for years with limited success. Read more »

Thousands of Reasons to Celebrate National Farmers Market Week

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo visits with Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Paul Soglin at the Dane County Farmers Market.  Alonzo kicked off National Farmers Market Week, sharing USDA’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo visits with Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Paul Soglin at the Dane County Farmers Market. Alonzo kicked off National Farmers Market Week, sharing USDA’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.

The 15th Annual National Farmers Market Week is off to a great start!

Farmers markets connect and unite people living in urban and rural environments, provide access to fresh, healthy and delicious foods, and—best of all—put a face to the farmers and ranchers who produce their wonderful wares. We, in turn, can support farmers and local communities with our purchases. Read more »