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April’s Face of Food Safety Has Heart: Meet Veterinarian Dr. Nancy Atkins

Dr. Nancy Atkins’ devotion to animals is deep-rooted and widespread. She says she knew she wanted to be a veterinarian before she even knew what a veterinarian was, and now she oversees the welfare of poultry and livestock across ten states. Dr. Atkins is a District Veterinary Medical Specialist at the Food Safety and Inspection Service, which means she applies her compassion and 40 years of veterinary experience to make sure the animals intended for food in the western United States are handled humanely.

Dr. Atkins admits her job is tough, but she considers her position “the best job in the agency.” She is inspired by Dr. Temple Grandin, a fellow veterinarian and animal welfare advocate whose work continues to influence the way FSIS views animal handling. Dr. Atkins’ philosophy is, “Be vigilant and diligent. Animals are giving up their lives for us and they should be treated with the greatest respect and kindness under these circumstances.” Read more »

Community Baby Cafés: A Great Benefit for Moms, Children and Families

As Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service, I know that our 15 nutrition assistance programs help a wide variety of people around the country. But there’s nothing like getting out of the office to personally witness the boots on the ground efforts by those who administer and promote our programs on a daily basis. I recently traveled to the FNS Southwest Regional Office in Dallas to meet federal and state personnel and partners and to tour several centers that make up the first line of defense in creating our nation’s safety net against hunger.

One place that I found particularly impressive during my travel was the Dallas Community Baby Café, sponsored by the City of Dallas WIC program. The Women Infants and Children or WIC program provides aid to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding mothers, and their children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. Conveniently co-located next to a WIC clinic that serves over six thousand participants a month, the café is the newest member of a family of 12 centers located around the United States. It provides a relaxed, non-clinical place for pregnant and breastfeeding moms to get advice about lactation from professional and certified consultants free of charge. Read more »

Eager to Plant

Illinois field office director Brad Schwab examines a field of early planted corn in central Illinois. (NASS)

Illinois field office director Brad Schwab examines a field of early planted corn in central Illinois. (NASS)

Of the many factors that make farming risky, weather is particularly important. With this year’s unseasonably warm March, some farmers are taking a risk they hope pays off in a big way. Despite the peril of a spring frost, many farmers are planting corn almost a month earlier than the usual mid-April planting dates.

As they wait to see what happens with the weather, these farmers, along with analysts, policymakers and others interested in U.S. agriculture, will pay close attention to the Crop Progress report issued weekly by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Read more »

Project Protects Priceless Birds, Bats and Butterflies

 

An American Redstart sings from his perch deep within the Chippewa Flowage Watershed. Photo by Eric Olsen.

An American Redstart sings from his perch deep within the Chippewa Flowage Watershed. Photo by Eric Olsen.

The Wisconsin Chippewa Flowage Forest Legacy project was selected March 15 to receive a U.S. Forest Service Wings Across the Americas award for their efforts in wild-bird habitat management.

Every year, the Forest Service recognizes outstanding work by partners and local Forest Service employees in conserving habitat for birds, bats and butterflies. This award highlights the outstanding partnership of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the Trust for Public Land, and the U.S. Forest Service for work in land stewardship and bird conservation in northwestern Wisconsin. Read more »

Crafting New Opportunities for a Local Economy One Fiber at a Time

Shearing time at Cider Hill Farm in North Haven Island.  This photo will be featured in the online Maine Fiber Resource Guide.  Photo courtesy of Maine Fiberarts,  Topsham, Maine, <a href="http://www.mainefiberarts.org" rel="nofollow">www.mainefiberarts.org</a>

Shearing time at Cider Hill Farm in North Haven Island. This photo will be featured in the online Maine Fiber Resource Guide. Photo courtesy of Maine Fiberarts, Topsham, Maine

In an age where shopping malls and retail establishments dominate many urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods, most people’s knowledge about fibers comes from their clothing tags. However, Maine Fiberarts is working hard to change this. Read more »

Meet USDA’s Youngest Ally in the Fight against Invasive Species: Ben Shrader, Invasive Hunter

In the battle to preserve agriculture and the environment, Ben Shrader is Luke Skywalker and invasive species are Darth Vader.

Ben, a young man from central Texas, first became interested in invasive species after reading a newspaper article about plants wreaking havoc on native ecosystems. Also known as “Commander Ben,” he describes it as a “battle in nature, like good versus evil” and decided that he wanted to help the “good guys” win.

In his first of many spars with invasive species, Ben conducted a science fair project on giant reed (Arundo donax), an invasive plant that is damaging riparian ecosystems in his home state of Texas. But Ben didn’t stop there. Combining his love for filmmaking with his passion for science, Ben created a blog entitled “Commander Ben-The Invasive Hunter,” where he records his exploits and posts videos and other content to teach kids about the fight against invasive species. Read more »