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Working the Night Shift – Bats Play an Important Role in Pollinating Crops

Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Bracken Bat Cave. Photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer

Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Bracken Bat Cave. Photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer

Most people associate pollination with bees and birds but often forget the work of their furry colleagues: bats. Bats take the night shift, playing a major role in pollinating crops and spreading seeds.

One important bat is the Mexican long-nose bat, which dwells in large colonies. Their range includes the southern parts of Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona. Read more »

Building Local Food Systems, Cooperatively

John and Trudi Kretsinger of KW Farms promoting their grass-fed beef products at one of La Montanita’s stores.

John and Trudi Kretsinger of KW Farms promoting their grass-fed beef products at one of La Montanita’s stores.

As part of USDA’s ongoing celebration of National Cooperatives Month, please join us for an upcoming webinar exploring the intersection of two important economic trends: a new wave of cooperative development and the rapid growth in demand for local foods.

This webinar – The Role of Cooperatives in Local Food Systems Development, on Thursday, Oct. 30, 1 pm Eastern Time – will feature national cooperative leaders and development specialists and USDA experts discussing the critical role co-ops play in developing local and regional food systems. Among the USDA staff on the panel will be Ag Economist Jim Barham; Elanor Starmer, our national coordinator for local and regional food systems; and Margaret Bau, a co-op development specialist who has helped launch over 30 co-ops nationwide. Also joining the panel will be Jan Tusick, director of the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center in Montana; Karl Sutton, a farmer/member of the Western Montana Growers Cooperative; and Robin Seydel, Community Development for La Montanita, a retail and consumer co-op in New Mexico. Read more »

Under Secretary Bonnie Tells World Congress of Scientists Their Work will Light the Way to Better Forest Management

Nino Reyos and Twoshields Production Co. perform native dances for the opening ceremony at the International Union of Forest Research Organizations in Salt Lake City. (U.S. Forest Service)

Nino Reyos and Twoshields Production Co. perform native dances for the opening ceremony at the International Union of Forest Research Organizations in Salt Lake City. (U.S. Forest Service)

Confronting climate change will be substantially cheaper and easier if we conserve forests, and the key to that is expert knowledge and science, Undersecretary of Natural Resources and the Environment Robert Bonnie told thousands of attendees at the recent 24th World Congress of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“A healthy and prosperous planet depends on the health of our natural resources and, in particular, on the conservation of the world’s forests,” Bonnie told the crowd, which included 2,492 delegates from 100 countries.  “But our success in conserving, managing and restoring our forests depends to a significant degree on a solid foundation of science and research.” Read more »

‘Dig In to Local School Meals;’ Maine Celebrates Farm to School with Local Harvest Week Menu Competition

Celebratory events in recognition of National Farm to School Month are taking place across the country, and in many forms! Here in the Northeast, the Maine Department of Education chose to develop and execute their first ever Maine Harvest Lunch Week Menu Contest.

Schools were invited to submit a menu from a meal that was served to students during the designated Maine Harvest Lunch Week in late September. The theme this year was “Dig In to Local School Meals,” and participating schools and districts did just that! Schools incorporated local items across the lunch tray in creative and appetizing ways. The menu and photos of students’ trays were submitted to the department to be considered in the contest. Stephanie Stambach coordinated the effort and said that she saw it as one way “to promote the use of local foods in our schools… and to recognize schools for the work they are currently doing with Farm to School.” Read more »

Forests a Fascination Since High School for Legislative Affairs Specialist

Katie Armstrong prepares to board the Glacier Discovery Train operated in partnership by the U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Railroad. (Courtesy Katie Armstrong)

Katie Armstrong prepares to board the Glacier Discovery Train operated in partnership by the U.S. Forest Service and the Alaska Railroad. (Courtesy Katie Armstrong)

When Katie Armstrong read “So You Want to be a Forester,” like many high school students she wasn’t sure what career path she wanted to follow. So she decided to attend a summer forestry camp offered by Michigan Tech. After the camp she was hooked.

Then she set her goal on attending Michigan State University to study forestry.

“During my time at MSU one of my professors introduced me to urban forestry. I loved it so much I went back for a master’s degree in Forestry and Urban Studies,” said Armstrong. Read more »

Organic 101: The National Organic Standards Board – Representing the Organic Community

Given the breadth and scope of the NOSB’s responsibilities, members have to demonstrate a commitment to the integrity of the organic industry. The NOSB is as diverse as the organic community they serve. Photo courtesy of AMS.

Given the breadth and scope of the NOSB’s responsibilities, members have to demonstrate a commitment to the integrity of the organic industry. The NOSB is as diverse as the organic community they serve. Photo courtesy of AMS.

From Shayla Bailey, USDA:  This is the twentieth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations. To mark the 20th milestone, USDA invited Dr. Jean Richardson, Chair of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), to be a guest author. The NOSB provides critical support to the USDA and the organic community.  We thank the NOSB for their commitment to the organic community, and the integrity of the organic label.

Twice a year, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meets to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on what substances should be allowed or prohibited in organic agriculture.  The NOSB recommends standards, policies and guidance that help shape the organic regulations to the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.

The NOSB was established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, and in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Made up of dedicated volunteers, the 15-member board includes four organic farmers, two handlers, three individuals with expertise in environmental protection or resource conservation, three representatives of public interest or consumer interest groups , a scientist, an organic retailer and an organic certifying agent. Earlier this year, I was honored when my fellow board members elected me as the Chair. Read more »