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Volunteers Make a Difference on the Historic Iron Goat Trail

Dennis Evans, 2011 Forest Service Pacific Northwest regional Trails Volunteer of the Year.  Photo courtesy Volunteers for Outdoor Washington.

Dennis Evans, 2011 Forest Service Pacific Northwest regional Trails Volunteer of the Year. Photo courtesy Volunteers for Outdoor Washington.

Located near Skykomish, Wash., the Iron Goat Trail occupies the upper and lower sections of an abandoned Great Northern Railway grade.  Hikers enjoy the trail today, thanks to the vision of Volunteers for Outdoor Washington and the Forest Service.

About 10,000 people a year walk the historic trail which wanders through nine miles of lovely forests of ferns, alders, and evergreens and is barrier-free for nearly two-thirds of its length. Read more »

The Business of Local Foods

Cross posted from the Huffington Post Food blog:

This week I was at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago to talk about the business of local food. The conversation focused on how USDA and other federal agencies can work together with the private sector to harness the economic potential of local food across the Midwest. Joining me were executives, economic developers, and experts from businesses you may have heard of — Sysco, Chartwells, SuperValu, General Electric, Feeding America, Whole Foods Market and FamilyFarmed.org. There were also representatives from local, state and federal government ranging from USDA’s agencies to the Illinois Commerce Department — each recognizing how investments in local food can help stimulate the economy, create jobs and complement our country’s current agricultural system.

According the USDA’s own research, local food sales made through direct marketing sales like farmers markets, CSAs, and farm stands plus via supermarkets, restaurants and institutional buyers were close to $5 billion. Fruit, vegetable and nut growers selling into local and regional markets employ 13 fulltime workers per $1 million in revenue earned. Why is this? Part of it is consumer demand. In 2011, over 85 percent of the customers polled by National Grocers Association said they chose grocery stores based in part on whether they stock local products. Part of it is flexible business models that can nimbly and quickly respond to the market. Farms selling locally may grow a wider variety of crops, they may pack or process on the farm or use workers to transport and market their products. Regardless, local food has big potential for job creation and economic opportunity. Read more »

With USDA’s Help, a Midwest Grocer Cuts his Energy Bill

Pat Longmire has owned a grocery store in Spring Grove, Minn., for 22 years. He knows customers want fresh produce, quality meats and weekly deals that save a buck here and there.

But he wasn’t sure how customers would react after he put glass doors on the coolers in the store. Longmire didn’t have to worry for long, however. “The response was overwhelmingly positive,” he said. Read more »

Super Bowl Concessions Go Organic and Local

Fans at the Lucas Oil Stadium, pictured here, will be served three flavors of chili made from organic and locally grown ingredients.  The USDA’s National Organic Program oversees the certification of USDA organic products.  (Photo by Carl Van Rooy)

Fans at the Lucas Oil Stadium, pictured here, will be served three flavors of chili made from organic and locally grown ingredients. The USDA’s National Organic Program oversees the certification of USDA organic products. (Photo by Carl Van Rooy)

There’s a new menu item in town for the Super Bowl: white bean chili made with organic beans and vegetables.  The push to bring organic and locally-grown options to the concession stand came from a partnership between non-profits that support family farms, celebrities and Centerplate, the NFL’s largest concession provider.

The USDA National Organic Program—within the Agricultural Marketing Service—oversees the certification of USDA organic products.  We also certify third-party agents around the world to uphold the integrity of the organic label. Read more »

Home on the Range –What Type of Livestock Graze on National Forests and Grasslands?

Cow herd is tended on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona.  The Ranch was a recent winner of the Forest Service’s Outstanding Rangeland Management External Partner Award. (Photo Credit:  Photo taken by Wink Crigler for X Diamond Ranch)

Cow herd is tended on the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. The Ranch was a recent winner of the Forest Service’s Outstanding Rangeland Management External Partner Award. (Photo Credit: Photo taken by Wink Crigler for X Diamond Ranch)

When thinking about national forests and grasslands, your thoughts may at first focus on the incredible abundance of recreation opportunities, wilderness and solitude or perhaps the precious water resources that flow from forest to faucet.  But did you know that livestock grazing is also permitted? Read more »

Praise for Charting a New Direction on National Forests

Cross posted from the Council on Environmental Quality blog:

Last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and I announced our intent for finalizing a new planning rule to govern management of the National Forest System. The 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands are critical to President Obama’s vision of an economy built to last, providing clean air, clean water, habitat for wildlife, opportunities for healthy outdoor recreation, jobs and growth in rural communities, and a range of other benefits for all Americans.

When finalized, a new rule will replace outdated procedures that have been in place since 1982 that no longer reflect the best science, public values, or agency expertise. Land management plan revisions under the preferred alternative would cost less money and take less time, while protecting and restoring our forests, water and wildlife and supporting vibrant rural communities. Read more »