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From Camouflage to Crops – USDA Offers Veterans New Career Opportunities

From left, U.S. Army Veteran Jody Schnurrenberger, Hock-Newberry Farm operations owner;  U.S. Coast Guard Veteran Erica Govednik; and U.S. Army Veterans Christine and David Hale Jr. at Hock-Dewberry Farm

From left, U.S. Army Veteran Jody Schnurrenberger, Hock-Newberry Farm operations owner; U.S. Coast Guard Veteran Erica Govednik; and U.S. Army Veterans Christine and David Hale Jr. at Hock-Dewberry Farm, an organically-managed, multi-species, rotational-grazing farm on rented land in Marshall, Va. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

At USDA, we are thankful for the military men and women who are serving or have served this nation.  We are committed to providing them with opportunities for their next career to be in agriculture.

USDA employs more than 11,000 veterans and since 2009 have provided more than $505 million in direct farm loans to more than 7,400 veterans to start, maintain or grow their farming operations. USDA has service centers across the country where veterans can find out about farming and other USDA programs and services. Read more »

A Root Beer-Based Discovery that Saved Lives

Allene Jeanes

A one-time high school science teacher, ARS chemist Allene R. Jeanes was instrumental in developing a blood plasma extender that saved lives and a compound used to thicken household products ranging from steak sauces and cough syrups to skin lotions. (USDA-ARS Photo)

Science can do more than improve people’s lives; sometimes it can save them.

Consider the contributions of the late Allene Rosalind Jeanes, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist at what is now the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois. Her efforts are particularly worth celebrating this Veteran’s Day.

Jeanes studied polymers (large molecules composed of many repeated subunits) found in corn, wheat and wood. She spent long hours investigating how bacteria could produce polymers in huge fermentation vats. Eventually, she found a way to mass produce dextran, a type of polymer, so that it could be used as a blood volume “expander” to sustain accident and trauma victims who have lost massive amounts of blood and need to get to a hospital for a transfusion. Read more »

Shaping Forests from the Bottom Up: It’s All About Root Disease

Root disease tree failure

Root disease tree failure resulted in the loss of this car.

The old proverb: “You can’t see the forest for the trees” should have continued with a line saying that it’s even harder to see below the trees. Because seeing under trees, their root system to be exact, is how scientists understand and appreciate the things that will determine what we all see in our future forests. A new publication just released by the US Forest Service seeks to help forest managers recognize important root diseases and provide the best management strategies.

Ordinarily, we depend on decay organisms to break down wood to recycle enormous amounts of above ground materials such as leaves, limbs, and tree trunks. Without these subterranean decomposers, we would find ourselves buried in forest debris. But what makes beneficial decay organisms go bad and attack the root systems of living trees?  In a word, disease. Read more »

Environmental Markets Help Improve Water Quality

Environmental Markets graphic

Environmental trading markets are springing up across the nation.

Environmental trading markets are springing up across the nation with goals of facilitating the buying and selling of ecosystem services and helping more private landowners get conservation on the ground.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy joined Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in December 2014 to announce the state’s first trade under its nutrient trading program for stormwater. Read more »

High-Tech Agriculture Continues to Reap Rewards for Farmers and Society

A team of researchers with an unmanned aerial system

With a new view from above, diverse teams of researchers help deliver information to farmers using useful, inexpensive unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

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.

Just like a smart phone helps users learn, communicate and make important decisions, smart technology—known as precision agriculture—helps farmers know and apply critical information about the right investments in fertilizer, seed, pesticide and water needed to produce their crops. Through new technologies, farmers produce more efficiently and see an increase in profits while improving stewardship of ecosystems and local communities.

To talk about precision agriculture is to talk about mapping the amount of a crop grown per acre (yield) or the types of soils in a given area. It also includes the technology that automatically guides farm machines and controls variables like the rates of seeds, fertilizers or chemicals. Read more »

USDA Helps Eastern North Carolina Recover after Matthew

Under Secretary Michael Scuse, North Carolina FSA State Executive Director Bob Etheridge, and FSA County Executive Director Kenny Johnson standing with farmer Kent Smith

Under Secretary Michael Scuse, North Carolina FSA State Executive Director Bob Etheridge, and FSA County Executive Director Kenny Johnson stand with farmer Kent Smith to assess flood damage to his sweet potato crop in Tarboro, North Carolina.

When Hurricane Matthew hit last month, disaster struck as high flood waters devastated communities up and down the East Coast. Agricultural producers in Eastern North Carolina were hit especially hard and suffered devastating losses to crops, livestock, and property.

Secretary Vilsack recently designated 39 counties in North Carolina as primary natural disaster areas, in addition to 15 contiguous counties. This week, I traveled to the state to visit some of the communities that were affected. I saw a peanut farm littered with uprooted plants and cracked shells. I met with an organic tobacco producer whose top soil had completely washed away. I visited a sweet potato and soybean farm that suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses. We drove by washed out roads and gutted homes with waterlogged furniture piled high on the side of the road. Read more »