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USDA-EPA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets September 15-17

2015 USDA/EPA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets graphic

2015 USDA/EPA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets graphic. (Click for the registration link)

For most people, water quality markets are probably a new concept. They are not something you hear about on the news every day, even though reports frequently cover the need to clean up rivers and lakes. But to some—like states, utilities, and farmers—they represent an opportunity, and should be on the radar.

Water quality markets can reduce costs of cleaning up waterways by allowing sources with high costs of meeting water quality requirements to purchase credits from sources that have lower costs of making the same water quality improvement. Agricultural producers often have lower costs of improving water quality, which makes farmers and ranchers prime candidates to supply water quality credits. Read more »

Taking Note of Paper’s Popularity

Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds campaign infographic

Through its Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds campaign, the Paper and Packaging Board reminds us of the many ways we are connected to paper. Photo courtesy of the Paper and Packaging Board. (Click to enlarge)

Kindle, iPad, and Surface—oh my! It’s fascinating to think about the increasing number of electronic tablets in the marketplace. However, a recent survey suggests that students and educators alike grab another notepad when it comes to comprehending what they’ve read. And that notepad is made of paper.

In fact, 74 percent of college educators surveyed in the 2015 Annual Back to School Report said that their students are more likely to stay focused when they are using a notebook and textbook rather than a laptop. Almost 80 percent of the K-12 teachers in this same survey also said that their students comprehend information better when they read on paper. As such, 63 percent of the teachers surveyed indicated that their courses involved paper-based learning. Read more »

Keeping Foods Safe For a Successful School Year

Food Safety and Back-to-School infographic

If you bring your lunch, here are some safe handling tips to prevent foodborne illness. (Click to enlarge)

As the days get shorter and the month of August winds down with the appearance of back-to-school sales, we recognize the telltale signs that signal the “official” end of summer and the beginning of a new school year.  For USDA professionals interested in food safety, nutrition and health, thoughts of safe food preparation and school lunches packed at home, come to mind. 

It is estimated that each year in the U.S., there are more than 48 million cases of foodborne illness, with 128,000 people hospitalized from these illnesses and nearly 3,000 deaths.  It is startling that one in six Americans will become ill from foodborne illness each year since most are preventable.  The most vulnerable members of our population are pregnant women, children, the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised by other diseases and illnesses.  That’s why care must be taken to assure that the foods consumed are safe. Read more »

New Sage Grouse Conservation Strategy Good for Cattle Ranches, Good for Birds

Sage-grouse on land

USDA today unveiled Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0, its roadmap to guide voluntary conservation efforts on private grazing lands in the West. Photo courtesy of Ken Miracle.

Today, USDA released its new long-term investment strategy for sage grouse conservation—Sage Grouse Initiative 2.0 (SGI 2.0). USDA’s planned investments will complement the great conservation work already happening throughout the West and build on the work of the Sage Grouse Initiative, a partnership between USDA, ranchers and conservation groups that began in 2010. SGI 2.0 provides our partners a roadmap to fill unmet needs by rallying around a cohesive, partnership-focused conservation strategy that is good for cattle ranches, good for the bird, good for rural economies and good for sustaining the Western way of life.

The SGI 2.0 investment strategy is intended to be a living document, shaped by the best available science and the priorities of our partners. SGI 2.0 and other strategic partnership initiatives like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program underscore the growing demand for a new conservation philosophy of putting local partners in the driver’s seat and allowing them to set priorities and develop strategies that make sense for their operations and communities while still meeting conservation goals. Read more »

Alaskan High School Students Learn Valuable Skills at “Fish Boot Camp”

The Twelvemile Creek restoration monitoring crew and Fish Tech Boot Camp students and instructors posing for a photo in front of a screw trap

The Twelvemile Creek restoration monitoring crew and Fish Tech Boot Camp students and instructors pose for a photo in front of a screw trap, which captures coho and steelhead smolt that our migrating out to the ocean. The fish are released after being measured and marked with a coded wire tag. Students from Port Protection, Thorne Bay, and Klawock, Alaska, joined the crew composed of staff from the U.S. Forest Service, Sitka Conservation Society and the University of Alaska Southeast Fish Tech Program. Photo credit: Scott Harris, Sitka Conservation Society

This post was co-authored with Andrew Thoms, Executive Director of the Sitka Conservation Society.

“The thing that our forests grow best is salmon!” is the local phrase that a visitor is most likely to hear when visiting some of the 32 communities that live near the Tongass National Forest of Southeast Alaska. 

Tongass National Forest staff, local school districts, a local conservation organization, and the University of Alaska have undertaken a joint project to figure out how a forest can be managed to create jobs and other economic opportunities and guarantee the long-term sustainable yield of the Tongass’ fisheries resources. Read more »

School Lunch Equipment Grants Help Provide Healthier Meals to Students Nationwide

Flowing Wells employee using the oven unit

Flowing Wells employee use the oven unit they bought with NSLP equipment grants funds.

USDA supports our tireless school nutrition professionals as they work to provide kids the nutrition they need to learn and develop into healthy adults. To further assist schools, USDA announced the availability of $25 million in National School Lunch Program (NSLP) equipment grants for Fiscal Year 2015. These grants help schools obtain much needed infrastructure to better serve nutritious meals, support food safety efforts, improve energy efficiency, and expand participation in school nutrition programs.

Here are some examples of how these grants have benefitted schools in the past: Read more »