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The Future of Mahogany

Field assistants measure mahogany tree diameter near the agricultural town of Agua Azul in southeast Pará, Brazil.  Photo by J. Grogan

Field assistants measure mahogany tree diameter near the agricultural town of Agua Azul in southeast Pará, Brazil. Photo by J. Grogan

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The very name mahogany is synonymous with luxury and sophistication. This beautiful wood has been traded internationally since the Spanish discovered natural forests around 1500 during colonization of Mexico and Central America. Mahogany is more than a pretty plank – its strength, light weight, resistance to rot, and structural stability made it an ideal timber for ocean-going vessels as well as furniture. Mahogany also occupies an important position in the ecosystem insofar as it is a large tree that emerges above the forest canopy. Many other species depend on it for habitat and survival. Read more »

A Day in the Life of a USDA Photographer

A day in the life of a U.S. Department of Agriculture photojournalist is never the same. This one was no exception.

It started out testing a new memory card that transmits photos from a digital camera to our Flickr social media gallery (www.USDA.gov and click the Flickr link).  After making the card work in the office , a field test was in order.

Sunflowers  in the People's Garden at the Department of Agriculture, in Washington, DC, on Monday, August 1, 2011. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Sunflowers in the People's Garden at the Department of Agriculture, in Washington, DC. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

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USDA Science Lab Buzzing With “Sweet” Results

In an intense around-the-clock operation, more than 60,000 worker bees have churned out 30 pounds of raw honey from a USDA laboratory in Gastonia, N.C.

The People’s Garden Initiative beehives are managed by the staff of National Science Laboratory (NSL), a part of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). To support the 2011 Feds Feed Families initiative the team has donated all of the honey to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina, which encompasses the Charlotte, N.C., metropolitan area.

The honey is a product of local poplar and Tupelo trees. In a process known as centrifuge extraction, the sweet nectar was spun from honeycomb and then poured into 1-pound bottles and labeled as shown below. Read more »

USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program Finances 1st Flex Fuel Pump in Minnesota’s McLeod County

The line of cars stretched out of the parking lot and onto the street at the Glencoe Co-op Association on a recent warm afternoon in August. With financing from the USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), the co-op recently installed the first flex fuel pump in McLeod County, and several  flex fuel vehicle owners in the area wanted to be among the first to fill up.

“We’re glad to help stimulate the economy and support clean air and agriculture. That’s what the co-op is all about,” said Dale Heglund, Co-op Director. Read more »

Rural Champion Helps Tribal Farmers with Development and Land Management

Ross Racine, Executive Director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Montana

Ross Racine, Executive Director of the Intertribal Agriculture Council, Montana

Cross posted from the White House Rural Champions of Change website:

Ross Racine is the Executive Director of Intertribal Agriculture Council. He assumed those duties in January 2001. He served as the IAC Natural Resources Director beginning in 1991, and as the IAC Director of Programs since 1999. Read more »

What’s Hot about COOL?

Whether shoppers stroll through a grocery store or visit a local farmer’s market, they often wonder where meat or produce comes from.

The Country of Origin Labeling program, or COOL, began as an amendment by Congress to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 in the 2002 and 2008 Farm Bill. However, COOL did not officially take effect until March 2009. This regulation requires retailers, such as grocery stores, supermarkets, and club stores, to provide accurate country of origin information on all covered commodities, including muscle cuts and ground beef (including veal); pork, lamb, goat, and chicken; wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish; fruits and vegetables; peanut, pecans, and macadamia nuts; and ginseng. Read more »