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Celebrating Stakeholder Diversity is Essential for Success

Organic certifiers auditing an operation in Mexico

Given the size and growth of the U.S. Hispanic population and its purchasing power, the Hispanic community is a key driver of the growth of U.S. consumer markets, including our organic market.

On behalf of the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP), please join us as we continue celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.  The month-long observance, that occurs every year from September 15 through October 15, celebrates the cultures and traditions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.  At the NOP, increasing our appreciation of Hispanic cultures as well as our connections with Hispanic people are essential for our success.

There is much that we have done and continue to do in serving Hispanic stakeholders.  The USDA organic regulations, as well as the National Organic Program Handbook – which contain USDA organic standards, guidance documents, policy memos and instructions – are available in Spanish.  In addition, our recent Sound and Sensible initiative resources, which are helping make organic certification more accessible, attainable and affordable for small producers and processors, also include resources in Spanish. Read more »

El Celebrar la Diversidad de Participantes es Esencial Para el Éxito

Organic certifiers auditing an operation in Mexico

Dado el tamaño y el crecimiento de la población hispana en los Estados Unidos y su poder adquisitivo, la comunidad hispana es un motor clave del crecimiento de los mercados nacionales de consumo, incluyendo nuestro mercado de productos orgánicos.

De parte del Programa Nacional Orgánico (NOP, por sus siglas en inglés) del Servicio de Comercialización Agrícola (AMS, por sus siglas en inglés), por favor, únase a nosotros a medida que continuamos celebrando el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana.  La observancia de un mes, realizada todos los años del 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre, celebra las culturas y tradiciones de los estadounidenses que tienen sus raíces en España, México y países de habla hispana de América Central, América del Sur, y el Caribe.  En el NOP, el aumentar nuestra apreciación de las culturas hispanas igual que nuestras conexiones con los hispanos es esencial para nuestro éxito.

Es mucho lo que hemos hecho y seguimos haciendo para servir participantes hispanos.  Las regulaciones orgánicas del USDA, así como el Manual del Programa Nacional Orgánico – que contienen los estándares orgánicos, documentos de orientación, memorandos de política e instrucciones – están disponibles en español.  Además, nuestra reciente iniciativa orgánica “Sound and Sensible,” que ayuda a que la certificación orgánica sea más accesible, alcanzable y asequible para pequeños productores y procesadores, también incluye recursos en español. Read more »

NIFA Programs Key to Reducing U.S. Household Food Insecurity

A person holding a basket of food

Many NIFA-funded programs make it easier for low income families to access fresh, nutritious foods and stretch their food-buying dollars. (iStock image)

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) opened its doors on Oct. 1, 2009, created by the 2008 Farm Bill.  NIFA begins its eighth year as USDA’s premier extramural agricultural science agency by examining its role in helping reduce hunger in the United States.

As a nation, we are making great strides in combating food insecurity—the limited access to adequate food due to a lack of money and other resources. A recent household food security report issued by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) shows the lowest figures on record for food insecurity among children.

Funding and leadership from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) support many food and nutrition assistance programs that provide low-income households access to food, a healthful diet and nutrition education. Three such programs are the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI), Community Food Projects (CFP), and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Read more »

A Giant Crop-Scanner Is Turning Heads in Arizona

A giant electronic scanner in Maricopa, Arizona

ARS scientists and their partners are using a giant electronic scanner in Maricopa, Arizona to study the growth characteristics of sorghum plants as part of a project designed to speed biofuel crop development. Photo by Jeffrey White, Agricultural Research Service.

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.

With its 30-ton frame and 50-foot-high catwalk, the newest scanner for measuring crop plants in Maricopa, Arizona, can be seen for miles. It looms over a tract the length of two football fields and moves along steel rails.

“When people saw this big apparatus being built here, they started asking if we were going to be looking for space aliens,” says Jeffrey W. White, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist with the Arid-Land Agricultural Research Center in Maricopa. Rather than studying the heavens, the scanner is measuring the individual characteristics of thousands of energy sorghum plants growing underneath it. The effort could play an outsized role in meeting the Nation’s future energy needs. Read more »

Celebrating Progress: National School Lunch Week 2016

Cross-posted from the Food Research and Action Center blog:

Last week, children from more than a dozen schools and child care centers across the nation joined First Lady Michelle Obama for her final harvest of the White House garden. This event was more than just photo ops and shaking hands; kids got their hands dirty, harvesting the produce they later used to prepare a healthy meal. This was a neat experience for the students who participated, but it was also representative of the types of activities students are participating in all around the country. School gardens, nutritious snacks, farm to lunch tray meals, and nutrition education are all part of the healthier school environments students are experiencing each and every day.

Today kicks off National School Lunch Week 2016 and continues our month-long observance of Farm to School Month, and this year, there’s a lot to celebrate. More than 50 million children around the country attend schools that participate in USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Not only are their meals full of nutritious foods – with 99 percent of schools nationwide reporting that they are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards – their entire learning environment fosters healthy habits now and throughout the rest of their lives. The Smart Snacks Final Rule aligned the standards for snacks offered to students during the school day with the nutrition standards that apply to lunch and breakfast. In addition, the recently published Local School Wellness Policy Final Rule ensures that any food and beverage marketing kids are exposed to during the school day must adhere to the Smart Snacks standards, sending a consistent, positive message to students about the importance of healthy eating. Read more »

Getting a New Perspective on the Great Lakes’ Water Quality

A watershed

Different watershed land uses – such as the Lake Michigan forests and recreational area pictured here – affect regional water quality in lakes, which researchers can estimate using satellite imagery. Photo credit: US Forest Service

The Great Lakes cover over 95,000 square miles and contain trillions of gallons of water. These vestiges of the last Ice Age define immense. But their greatness makes water quality monitoring difficult.

In 2010, Titus Seilheimer, a US Forest Service research ecologist at the time, led a project funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that parsed the vastness of the Great Lakes to estimate water quality in different basins. This information can identify which areas are likely to receive high nutrient inputs – which can cause harmful algae blooms and dead zones – and where resource managers should invest in restoration efforts. Read more »