Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Setting the Record Straight on Beef

As the head of USDA’s public health agency, I am responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe for American families. I approach this role not only as a food safety expert and a physician, but also as a mother. And I want to address the national conversation over the last few weeks about the safety of Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB).

I believe it is important to distinguish people’s concerns about how their food is made from their concerns about food safety. The process used to produce LFTB is safe and has been used for a very long time.  And adding LFTB to ground beef does not make that ground beef any less safe to consume.  Read more »

Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means

This is the third installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Organic certification requires that farmers and handlers document their processes and get inspected every year. Organic on-site inspections account for every component of the operation, including, but not limited to, seed sources, soil conditions, crop health, weed and pest management, water systems, inputs, contamination and commingling risks and prevention, and record-keeping. Tracing organic products from start to finish is part of the USDA organic promise.

Organic certification requires that farmers and handlers document their processes and get inspected every year. Organic on-site inspections account for every component of the operation, including, but not limited to, seed sources, soil conditions, crop health, weed and pest management, water systems, inputs, contamination and commingling risks and prevention, and record-keeping. Tracing organic products from start to finish is part of the USDA organic promise.

Amidst nutrition facts, ingredients lists, and dietary claims on food packages, “organic” might appear as one more piece of information to decipher when shopping for foods.  So understanding what “organic” really means can help shoppers make informed choices during their next visit to the store or farmers’ market. Read more »

Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook Announces Obama Administration Accomplishments Supporting Renewable Energy

David Fink, owner of Heidel Hollow Farm, described the farm’s energy savings from the 896 panel solar array funded by USDA Rural Development to USDA officials and others gathered at his farm.

David Fink, owner of Heidel Hollow Farm, described the farm’s energy savings from the 896 panel solar array funded by USDA Rural Development to USDA officials and others gathered at his farm.

The sun shone brightly on the 896 panel solar array at Heidel Hollow Farm in Germansville, Penn., as USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl L. Cook, other USDA officials and guests celebrated the farm’s successful renewable energy project and the announcement of a new USDA Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Report. Heidel Hollow Farm, a family-owned, 1,600 acre hay farm, was awarded two USDA  Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants in 2010. The grants were used toward a solar energy project that provides approximately 252,800 KW of electricity used in the hay compressing operation of the farm and an energy efficiency project that replaced one diesel engine with five electric motors, saving over 8,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year.  The compactor increases the density of baled hay by 2 1/2 times for more efficient shipping to overseas customers. Read more »

Increasing Access to Locally Grown and Healthy Food

Cross posted from the White House blog:

Three years ago, I was asked to participate in the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, out of which grew the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative. In May 2010, we submitted a report to the President that made a series of recommendations for addressing the challenges of obesity and hunger, both of which stem from a lack of access to good, healthy food.  The report identified local food systems as a strategy to combat food access problems, and specifically called upon the USDA “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” Initiative to provide technical and financial assistance to help communities grow and process their own food, and create jobs at the same time.

I’m pleased to report that we’ve made a lot of progress since 2009 – and we have two new tools to help communities learn about what we’ve done and tap into USDA resources to develop their own solutions. The new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass is a document packed with photos, video and case studies of communities building strong local food systems. Farmers’ markets, mobile produce vendors, farm to school initiatives, and food hubs are just a few of many examples highlighted by the Compass. The Healthy Food Access section shows how communities are using USDA resources to promote health and the local economy. Read more »

Got Questions about Women in Science, Tech, Engineering, or Math (STEM)? Tweet us!

Join us tomorrow for a Twitter chat to discuss womens’ increasing role in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We’ll be sitting down with Jenna Jadin, Ph.D, Office of the Chief Scientist and Dionne Fortson Toombs, Ph.D., National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to answer your questions from our USDA Twitter handle, @USDA. We look forward to seeing you, and check out the Department of Energy’s blog for additional info!

Got Questions about Women in Science, Tech, Engineering, or Math (STEM)? Tweet us! Read more »

Forest Service Recovery Act Funds Benefit Rhode Island

Two years of work is nearly complete on a project to eradicate what is considered one of the worst invasive exotic plants in parts of the eastern U.S.

An effort to grow and market locally sourced, locally grown and genetically diverse native plants (Rhody Native) in cooperation with nursery industry has been made possible with Forest Service Recovery Act funding. Photo Credit: Hope Leeson.

An effort to grow and market locally sourced, locally grown and genetically diverse native plants (Rhody Native) in cooperation with nursery industry has been made possible with Forest Service Recovery Act funding. Photo Credit: Hope Leeson.

The Japanese knotweed grows in thick, dense colonies that completely crowd out native species. Forest Service Recovery Act funds helped to tackle the infestation in the largest contiguous forest block in Rhode Island where the invasive occurs. Read more »