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Under Secretary Takes a Walk Down Memory Lane at a Wisconsin Cheese Plant

On a recent trip to Wisconsin, USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager had an opportunity to revisit a specialty cheese plant in Montfort, Wis. that he had helped to establish about ten years ago.

In 2002, the Wisconsin Farmers Union hired a cheesemaker and took steps to begin the start-up of a specialty cheese plant in Montfort, Wis. to add value to milk produced by Wisconsin dairy farmers and to create the WI Farmers Union Specialty Cheese Company. To ensure success of the endeavor, the Wisconsin Farmers Union sought assistance from Golden Plains Ventures, an organization founded by Under Secretary Tonsager. Read more »

USDA StrikeForce: Expanding Partnerships and Opportunity in Rural Communities

Cross posted from The Huffington Post:

Rural Americans face many unique challenges – and every day, the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides assistance to help grow American agriculture and increase opportunity for rural communities. Unfortunately, 90 percent of America’s persistent poverty counties are in rural America–and we can’t allow these areas to be left behind. This week, USDA is further expanding a program to partner with rural communities and regions on projects they support to promote economic growth. Through this initiative, known as the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, USDA helps communities leverage their resources to access programs, promote economic development and create more jobs. Read more »

With USDA SuperTracker, Customer Experience Comes in 1st!

This screen shot depicts the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SuperTracker application on Jan. 11, 2013. The application allows users to track the foods they eat and compare it to their nutrition targets.

This screen shot depicts the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SuperTracker application on Jan. 11, 2013. The application allows users to track the foods they eat and compare it to their nutrition targets.

From the start of the SuperTracker project, meeting the needs of our nearly two million users has been our top priority. We pride ourselves on our ability to quickly respond to feedback on everything from tweaks to the site’s layout and design to suggestions for new features—such as the recently added a function that allows users to set a personal Calorie goal. We were even recognized as one of the government’s best in customer service by the Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council! Read more »

USDA and National Weather Service Team Up to Provide 2013 Weather Outlook

USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum featured a weather outlook for 2013 during the final session of the two-day event in Arlington, Virginia.  Prior to the 2013 outlook—which was presented by National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Anthony Artusa—USDA meteorologists Brad Rippey and Eric Luebehusen recapped some of the key U.S. and Northern Hemisphere agricultural drought highlights, respectively, from the summer of 2012.  In particular, the U.S. heartland suffered through its worst agricultural drought in a generation, with effects similar to those observed in 1988.  Grain corn was the hardest-hit U.S. row crop, while the livestock sector was severely affected by a lack of feed due to drought-ravaged rangeland and pastures.  Meanwhile, a hotter-, drier‐than‐normal summer impacted crops from southern Europe into central and eastern Russia.  Hardest-hit crops included corn in Italy, Romania, and Bulgaria, as well as spring wheat in Russia’s Siberia District. Read more »

Spring for Food Safety

Food safety is a key ingredient for a successful meal. Visit FoodSafety.gov for more information on the four key food safety steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.

Food safety is a key ingredient for a successful meal. Visit FoodSafety.gov for more information on the four key food safety steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.

Ahh, Spring! This week, a new season is getting a nice kick-off with Passover and Easter holidays. These celebrations are filled with traditional meals that have unique food safety considerations that may or may not be included in the family recipe book. The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline has some food safety tips and steps here that, if added to your favorite recipes, can reduce the risk of food poisoning.  As with any food preparation, always remember to Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. Read more »

Forest Service Innovation is Helping Make the Forever Stamp Stick, Well, Forever

A set of self-adhesive Forever Stamps (Steve Schmieding/U.S. Forest Service)

A set of self-adhesive Forever Stamps (Steve Schmieding/U.S. Forest Service)

Twenty years have passed since the U.S. Postal Service first started transitioning from lickable stamps to the peel-and-stick squares used today, thanks to the research by the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis.

The two agencies first research collaboration focused on developing the peel-and-stick – or pressure-sensitive adhesives – that didn’t gum up the equipment used to recycle paper. By using this adhesive an additional 20 million tons of waste paper can be recycled annually. Read more »