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The Forest Legacy Program: 25 Years of Keeping Working Forests Working

A rancher and his son survey a swath of Dakota grasslands

A rancher and his son survey a swath of Dakota grasslands preserved by a conservation easement obtained with the help of Land and Water Conservation Funds.

Two million four hundred seventy thousand acres — equivalent in size to two Delawares — are protected through the Forest Legacy Program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Enacted through the 1990 Farm Bill’s Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, this voluntary program has proved popular and crucial to aiding states in meeting their forest conservation goals.

The first Forest Legacy project was located in Vermont, the 1660-acre Cow Mountain Pond property. Today, 53 states and territories participate. The map below shows program accomplishments through 2014. Read more »

April is National Garden Month

Vegetables growing in raised beds at Hollygrove Market and Farm (HGMF) in New Orleans, LA

Vegetables growing in raised beds at Hollygrove Market and Farm (HGMF) in New Orleans, LA. USDA photo by Karen Lawson.

Nothing says springtime more than the sprouts and shoots of a garden. Secretary Vilsack has declared April, 2015 as National Garden Month.  The official proclamation celebrates the great American tradition of gardening at home, at school and in the community.

USDA’s commitment to gardening has deep roots. The USDA People’s Garden Initiative, was launched in 2009 and since 2,116 gardens have registered as People’s Gardens in communities across the United States and its territories and in 12 foreign countries.  The First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative has great information about starting a kitchen, school or community garden and the Plant Hardiness Zone Map, developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, is a go-to guide for gardeners across the nation.   Have a gardening question? Visit eXtension for in-depth and research-based gardening and landscape advice from your local land grant university. Read more »

Steps Producers Can Take to Ensure They Meet Conservation Compliance Provisions

To be eligible to receive many USDA benefits, including loans, disaster assistance, federal crop insurance premium subsidies and conservation assistance, producers must comply with requirements for highly erodible lands and wetlands. The purpose of the conservation compliance provisions is to reduce soil loss on erosion-prone lands and protect wetlands. Use these steps to ensure you’re compliant.

Farmers seeking federal crop insurance premium subsidies for the 2016 reinsurance year must comply by June 1 by filing form AD-1026. Read more »

Investing in Collaborative Conservation to Address Global Food Security Challenges

This blog was cross-posted on the Chicago Council’s Global Food for Thought blog.

Farmers, ranchers and foresters have long understood the need to care for our land and water. We depend on them for food, clothing and shelter – and they depend on our natural resources for their livelihoods. 

The conversation about global food security rightly focuses on the most pressing issues of access, nutritional value, food safety, and productivity. Conservation and resource use are intrinsically tied to each of these challenges, but are not always a focal point. Read more »

Arizona 4-H Director Earns Awards for Leadership in Nepal

Kirk Astroth, center, in Nepal

Kirk Astroth, center, traveled to Nepal to teach a train-the-trainer program that led to Nepal’s first 4-H national organization. Astroth, director of the Arizona 4-H Youth Development program, won both the Volunteer of the Month and Volunteer Spirit of the Year awards from Winrock International for his efforts. (Photo from the Kirk Astroth archives)

With more than 6.5 million American youth actively involved in 4-H, it’s not unusual to think of 4-H as an “All-American” tradition – and that’s OK, but there’s more to the story.  The fact is, it is estimated that more than 7 million youth in 80 countries around the world are 4-H’ers.  Now, thanks to the efforts of a man from Arizona, the mountainous Asian nation of Nepal has joined the 4-H family.

Kirk Astroth, director of the Arizona 4-H Youth Development program within University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, spent August and September 2014 in Nepal teaching local youth development professionals the finer points of creating a 4-H program and laying the groundwork for three members of the Nepal National Youth Federation to attend the 1st Global 4-H Summit in South Korea.  As a result, the group in January received official government recognition for the Nepal 4-H national organization. Read more »

USDA Marketing Order Provides Ingredients for Olive Industry’s Success

Man working on family farm

A commitment to consistency, marketing, and research. These factors help the nearly 1,000 family farms from California supply 95 percent of the ripe olives grown in the U.S. Photo courtesy of the California Olive Committee.

Each industry has its own recipe for success. For the ripe olive industry, the recipe for success includes many ingredients. This includes a commitment to consistency, marketing, and research. These factors help the nearly 1,000 family farms from California supply 95 percent of the ripe olives grown in the U.S.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides the ripe olive industry many of the ingredients for its success. One of the ways we do this is by overseeing the federal marketing order for olives grown in California, which is administered locally by the California Olive Committee. Federal marketing orders and agreements are requested by various groups in the U.S. produce industry to help growers and handlers within a geographic region to overcome marketing barriers and increase awareness of the commodity. Industry groups get together to decide the tools needed to support the commercial and financial success of the businesses in the industry. Read more »