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2015: A Banner Year for School Meals and the Health of our Nation’s Schoolchildren

It’s been another outstanding year for healthier school meals programs and the millions of American students that benefit from them.  Today, more than 97 percent of schools nationwide report they are meeting the updated school meal standards, which are based on pediatricians’ and nutritionists’ recommendations. The new meals provide children more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium.  There are numerous examples of how schools are providing a healthier school environment with more nutritious options to students across the country, but below are just a few: Read more »

THIS JUST IN: USDA Issues Permit for Santa’s Reindeer to Enter the U.S.

As Christmas Eve draws close, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is helping clear the way for a smooth trip for special visitors from the North Pole.  (USDA Photo)

As Christmas Eve draws close, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is helping clear the way for a smooth trip for special visitors from the North Pole. (USDA Photo)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today issued a movement permit to Mr. S. Claus of the North Pole, a broker with Worldwide Gifts, Unlimited.  The permit will allow reindeer to enter and exit the United States between the hours of 6 PM December 24, 2015 and 6 AM December 25, 2015, through or over any northern border port.

“During this season of giving, we agreed to waive the normal application fees and entry inspection/overtime costs,” said Dr. John Clifford, USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer.  “USDA wants to do everything in its power to help Santa.”  Read more »

Growing Areas of the Law

The USDA National Agricultural Library’s Agricultural Law Information Partnership website is a resource to help people find information relating to agricultural law. (Illustration credit: Jody Shuart, ARS).

The USDA National Agricultural Library’s Agricultural Law Information Partnership website is a resource to help people find information relating to agricultural law. (Illustration credit: Jody Shuart, ARS).

Success in any part of agriculture today means being able to successfully navigate local, state and federal laws and regulations — from water rights to food safety regulations, from crop insurance to organic certification.

To help people find such legal information, the National Agricultural Library (NAL) has recently developed the Agricultural Law Information Partnership website. This partnership is a collaboration between NAL, the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture (NALC), and the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at the Vermont Law School. Read more »

NIFA-funded projects help improve quality of life in Indian Country

When the 1994 land-grant universities began to form there was a hint that something different and special was underway.  The new land-grant system would teach in a cultural context that empowered students by drawing on the strength of their peoples’ history, indigenous knowledge, and traditions.  There are now 34 tribal land-grant institutions that have made great strides in their ability to serve their communities.  The following blogs and publication illustrate the positive outcomes of NIFA-funded research, education, and extension programs in Indian Country.

Maple syrup collection in a sugar bush. NIFA grants support camps that allow tribal youth to experience cultural tradition while learning about plant science. (iStock image)

Maple syrup collection in a sugar bush. NIFA grants support camps that allow tribal youth to experience cultural tradition while learning about plant science. (iStock image)

 A sweet camp for native youth

For some Native American children, a well-loved tradition is gathering maple syrup in early spring.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Nutrition provides grants to support a unique camp where reservation youth can experience their cultural traditions while learning plant science.  Camp instructors teach the youth about the science of xylem and phloem (the systems of transporting water, minerals, food, etc., throughout a plant) and why the trees produce the sugar sap. Tribal elders explain the cultural and historic significance of maples to the campers.  It’s all part of a bigger initiative to promote food security in an area where grocery stores are scarce.  Read more. Read more »

Soils in the Classroom: Celebrating the Discovery and Donation of a Historic Soils Collection

Susan Fugate, Head of Special Collections, NAL; Sally Schneider, ARS Deputy Administrator, Natural Resources & Sustainable Agricultural Systems; Stan Kosecki, Acting Director, NAL; Jill Guenther, Schoolteacher and others

The donation of Important Soils of the United States, Bureau of Soils, 1916, was highlighted in a ceremony hosted at the National Agricultural Library in Beltsville, Maryland. Pictured are (l to r): Susan Fugate, Head of Special Collections, NAL; Sally Schneider, ARS Deputy Administrator, Natural Resources & Sustainable Agricultural Systems; Stan Kosecki, Acting Director, NAL; Jill Guenther, Schoolteacher; Kirk Hanlin, USDA-NRCS Assistant Chief, and David Smith, USDA-NRCS Deputy Chief of Soil Science and Resource Assessment (SSRA). USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated science teacher from New Jersey, a valuable piece of soil science history is now available for viewing and research among the special collections at USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) in Beltsville, Maryland.

Jill Guenther, who has taught Earth and space science for 29 years, discovered the antique soils collection tucked away in a classroom cabinet. “I knew it was something special, and I wanted to use it as a display when teaching erosion and conservation issues,” she explained. Read more »

Shelter Dogs Given Better Life, New Mission at USDA

APHIS Wildlife Services program specialist Mario Eusi and his dog Cain at their graduation ceremony

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Wildlife Services program specialist Mario Eusi and his dog Cain at their graduation ceremony certifying them for Nutria Detection at the Blackwater National, Wildlife Refuge, MD.

Mya, Hektor and Cain are seated on the floor, next to their handlers and partners, waiting for their names to be called. It’s a big day for the three shelter dogs and their handlers.  You may be surprised to learn that many of the dogs trained at APHIS’ National Detector Dog Training Center are rescues.  Mya and Cain are from Maryland’s Montgomery County Animal Services & Adoption Center and Hektor is from the Fulton County Animal Shelter in Atlanta.  They are all officially graduating from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) detector dog training program, and will join two other rescue dogs trained last year and currently part of other detector dog teams as part of the effort to find and eliminate the last of the nutria from the Delmarva Peninsula.

Nutria are invasive, semi-aquatic rodents that live in marshes throughout the country. They weigh between 12 and 20 pounds and were brought to Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore from South America for their fur in 1943. However, their dark brown pelts were not profitable, and they were either released or escaped from fur farms. With no natural predators, the nutria population at Maryland’s Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge exploded. Read more »