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Forest Service Unveils Web Application Identifying At-Risk Forests

The Forest Health Advisory System screenshot

Using pest and tree photos, tables, and interactive maps, the Forest Health Advisory System provides vital information on future risks to forests across our nation. (U.S. Forest Service)

As our nation’s forests grow older and denser they are at greater risk of attack by pests, which can devastate some of more cherished national wildlands. Healthy forests not only provide a beautiful setting for our outdoor activities, they are at lower risk for catastrophic wild fires, and are more resilient to changes in climate and to insect and disease attack.

To address myriad issues facing our nation’s aging landscapes, the U.S. Forest Service has developed the Forest Health Advisory System, a web-based application that highlights potential future activity of more than 40 major forest pests and pathogens across 1.2 billion acres of treed lands. Read more »

Land of 10 Thousand Lakes and 20 Million Turkeys

Minnesota: 19.5 million, number of turkeys in Minnesota in 2012. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Minnesota ranked #1 in turkey production.

Minnesota may have 10,000 lakes, but it has a lot more turkeys! Check back next Thursday for another state spotlight drawn from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

As we’re bracing for another arctic winter blast here in Minnesota, it is the perfect time for me to get indoors and introduce you to our state’s agriculture with the help of the results from the most recent Census of Agriculture.

While, according to the Census Bureau, less than 1 percent of our state’s population are involved in agriculture, our state ranks fifth in the United States for the value of agricultural products sold. In 2012, Minnesota farmers sold nearly $21.3 billion worth of products. Read more »

Culinary Boot Camps: Designed to Foster a Healthier Next Generation

USDA Team Nutrition grants support initiatives designed to improve children’s lifelong eating habits.

USDA Team Nutrition grants support initiatives designed to improve children’s lifelong eating habits.

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories! To learn more about FNS nutrition assistance efforts, follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/usdanutrition

By Stewart Eidel, School and Community Nutrition Programs, Maryland State Department of Education

USDA Team Nutrition Grants support initiatives designed to improve children’s lifelong eating habits. Thanks to this funding, and by incorporating the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and with recipes from the Food and Nutrition Service Team Nutrition website, Maryland’s State Department of Education School and Community Nutrition Programs, where I work, developed new training for our school food service professionals called “Culinary Boot Camps.” Read more »

2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum Preview: International Trade

USDA is committed to addressing the challenges of international trade, and providing solutions.  As we look forward to USDA’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, Feb. 19-20, 2015, in Arlington, Virginia, speakers and attendees will have the opportunity to discuss relevant issues on a wide range of international as well as domestic topics.

We live in a world where domestic agriculture and international trade are inseparable.  We can’t talk about one without discussing the other. In 2014, American ag exports soared to a record $152.5 billion, and accounted for 20% of U.S. agriculture income.

Trade and foreign market access affect not only rural economies, but the overall economic health of nations – including ours. In that spirit, I’m happy to welcome Phil Hogan, the European Commissioner of Agriculture and Rural Development, to the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum.  He will join our own Secretary Tom Vilsack during the plenary session for a discussion that promises to be insightful. Read more »

Early-Season Forecast Shows Rain – Not Snow – Keeping Pacific Northwest Wet

Wind rearranges the early season snowpack on Mount Hood, Oregon. NRCS photo by Spencer Miller.

Wind rearranges the early season snowpack on Mount Hood, Oregon. NRCS photo by Spencer Miller.

Something about January’s water supply forecast confused me. Current condition maps of the Pacific Northwest are a discouraging spread of red dots, meaning the snowpack contains less than half the normal amount of water. But water supply forecasts for the same region predict normal streamflow in the spring and summer. How can that be? Less snow means less snowmelt, right? Well…maybe.

To rise above my simple, linear thinking, I met with Rashawn Tama with USDA’s National Water and Climate Center. Tama, a hydrologist and forecaster for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, produces forecasts for the Columbia River basin. His forecasts are built around prediction models that help transform tables of raw data into meaningful maps and colorful dots. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: New Approach to Conservation Creates New Partnerships, New Jobs

Patrick Graham, State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Arizona (left) and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday near Phoenix.

Patrick Graham, State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Arizona (left) and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday near Phoenix. The Secretary announced that 115 projects across all 50 states, will receive more than $370 million in Federal funding as part of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program. NRCS photo.

When USDA unveiled the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program last year, I said that this effort would pioneer a new era of conservation. As of today, the program is doing just that—leveraging an unprecedented three-quarters-of-a-billion dollar investment in projects to preserve clean land and water and create new jobs across the country.

One of the innovative programs in the 2014 Farm Bill, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program brings a wide variety of new partners together—from private businesses, to universities, to local and Tribal governments, to non-profit organizations and more—to develop their own action plans and to pledge their own resources to the project. Local organizations are in the driver’s seat, setting priorities and developing conservation projects that make sense for their communities. Read more »