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Discovering U.S. Agriculture Products Abroad

Deputy Secretary Harden examines Pacific Northwest cherries on sale at the Jiangnan Fruit and Vegetable Wholesale Market in Guangzhou.

Deputy Secretary Harden examines Pacific Northwest cherries on sale at the Jiangnan Fruit and Vegetable Wholesale Market in Guangzhou.

U.S. agricultural exports are a bright spot in our economy – the past five years represent the strongest in history for agricultural trade.  We export everything from soybeans and dairy to specialty products and fresh produce, all adding up to revenue and jobs back home in the United States. On a recent trip to China, I was able to see the wide range of products we are exporting, met with Chinese importers of American agricultural products and visited USDA staff working to get U.S. products into the Chinese market.

China is the largest market for American agricultural products, accounting for nearly 20 percent of all foreign sales of U.S. exports. These exports include bulk commodities like soybeans, cotton and wheat, but a wide variety of specialty items are also bought, like ginseng and Washington cherries. The diversity of American agricultural products represented in China was very impressive, as well as the innovative ways U.S. products are being used overseas. Read more »

On the Road to Success for Local and Regional Food

Finding creative ways to navigate transportation issues is critical to meet the increasing demand for local and regional food. A new report by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service serves as a resource for strategies and solutions to help small- and mid-size farm operations, food hubs, agribusinesses and researchers solve these issues. Photo courtesy David Ingram

Finding creative ways to navigate transportation issues is critical to meet the increasing demand for local and regional food. A new report by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service serves as a resource for strategies and solutions to help small- and mid-size farm operations, food hubs, agribusinesses and researchers solve these issues. Photo courtesy David Ingram

Rivers, roads and rails—the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line. Finding the best path forward can be difficult as city traffic gets worse each year, frustrating commuters and thwarting deliveries. Also in the transportation mix are farmers traveling the same roads trying to bring the freshest produce to city markets.  With the $7 billion-per-year market for local and regional food continuing to grow, more and more goods are being transported along local routes.

Developing creative ways to navigate transportation challenges is critical for farmers and consumers alike to meet the increasing demand for local and regional food.  Farmers relying on local and regional food systems may not have the scale or capacity to use established food freight systems. That’s why USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has taken a fresh look at food distribution issues, especially for the local and regional markets. Read more »

Florida Team Wins State Envirothon Title, Bound for National Competition

The Jupiter High School “Pine People” take a test during the state Envirothon competition. NRCS photo.

The Jupiter High School “Pine People” take a test during the state Envirothon competition. NRCS photo.

They tried year after year for four years at county-level competitions. And as they watched other teams take top honors, they kept at it.

This year their hard work paid off, and those five students from Jupiter High School in Palm Beach County, Florida, made it to the state-level competition and won the Florida Envirothon this spring.

“We couldn’t pull this off without the volunteers who developed the tests and gave them,” said Jennifer Abbey, district conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Plant City, Fla. Read more »

Conservation Efforts Help Protect Longleaf Forests for Future Generations

A private landowner in Hancock County, Miss. is restoring a longleaf pine forest on his land.

A private landowner in Hancock County, Miss. is restoring a longleaf pine forest on his land.

I have a few decorative items on my desk at work, and some of those are longleaf pine cones. Even though I only learned of the rare longleaf pine forest – and the large pine cones that fall in them each year – a few years ago, it was love at first sight.

Longleaf pine forests once covered the coastal landscape of the Southeast, and they’re home to nearly 600 plant and animal species.

But over the past two centuries, development, timbering and fire suppression reduced the longleaf’s range by almost 97 percent. And many groups, including USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are working to save and restore this landscape. According to the America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative, longleaf forests have increased from about 3 million acres to about 4.4 million acres in recent years, reversing a century-long decline across the region. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Help for Rural Californians Suffering Through Drought

This week, I visited the small town of Cameron Creek Colony in Tulare County, California and saw firsthand the challenges drought poses, particularly for those living in rural communities.

About 10 percent of Cameron Creek Colony residents have no access to water because their wells have run dry. Still others have only intermittent access to water. Many are in danger of losing access to water permanently in the near future. One long-time resident told me that until this drought, she’d never worried about water. Now, worrying about having enough water is constantly on her mind. Read more »

A ‘Plane’ View about Wildland Firefighters and a New Disney Movie

The U.S. Forest Service partnered with Disney, Ad Council, and the National Association of State Foresters to launch a series of wildfire prevention public service advertisements featuring scenes and characters from the animated film Planes: Fire and Rescue. An Educational Activity Book with a teachers’ resource guide is also available.

The U.S. Forest Service partnered with Disney, Ad Council, and the National Association of State Foresters to launch a series of wildfire prevention public service advertisements featuring scenes and characters from the animated film Planes: Fire and Rescue. An Educational Activity Book with a teachers’ resource guide is also available.

This week’s opening of Disney’s animated movie, Planes: Fire & Rescue is especially exciting for the U.S. Forest Service because the agency played an important role in the production of the film.

Actually, no Forest Service employees appear in the new comedy-adventure, which features a dynamic crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting the mythical Piston Peak National Park from wildfire. The agency’s role was an advisory one, giving access to firefighting facilities for Disney animators so that even as a cartoon, the movie has a degree of authenticity. Read more »