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Recovery Act and NRCS Help Tennessee Town Fight Erosion

Recovery Act funding saved this bridge, the only direct thoroughfare to the town of Ripley, Tenn.

Recovery Act funding saved this bridge, the only direct thoroughfare to the town of Ripley, Tenn.

Steve Koonce, a Civil Engineering Technician with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), remembers swimming in Tennessee’s Cane Creek as a youngster, when he and friends would jump from a bridge into the water 15 feet below. But today, because of a catastrophic erosion problem, that activity would be a lot more dangerous. Read more »

USDA Rural Development Helps Make Holidays Merry for Pennsylvania Children

The Pennsylvania Rural Development staff and the toys that were donated to local children in need through the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Toy Drive.

The Pennsylvania Rural Development staff and the toys that were donated to local children in need through the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots Toy Drive.

Rather than the traditional office name exchange this year, the Pennsylvania USDA Rural Development State Office staff added a new twist.  Each employee made a list of toys they enjoyed as children. The lists were exchanged and employees purchased toys for an eight year old version of their co-worker.  The wrapped toys were recently distributed at an office holiday gathering.

The staff enjoyed opening baby dolls, remote control helicopters, games and puzzles. As children, the staff may have had a difficult time handing over their new “toys” to strangers.  However, smiles were all around as over 30 unwrapped toys were picked up by two uniformed Marines to be delivered to their local distribution center. Read more »

Planting a Holiday Tradition

One of the many celebrations and traditions that people still practice is the burning of the yule log and singing yuletide carols. Photo courtesy of Penny Stritch.

One of the many celebrations and traditions that people still practice is the burning of the yule log and singing yuletide carols. Photo courtesy of Penny Stritch.

Many holiday traditions are celebrated during the season surrounding the winter solstice, or the time when the sun is at its lowest point above the horizon.

For communities and families, plants play a central role in these traditions. Yet, most people are unaware of the origins of how plants like holly and yule logs became part of holidays and traditions. Read more »

First Generation Conservationist

Pat Maples works with Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist Mitchell Schroeder to identify new vegetation.

Pat Maples works with Natural Resources Conservation Service District Conservationist Mitchell Schroeder to identify new vegetation.

It was 1993 when Pat Maples and her husband made a ranch outside of San Saba, Tex. their home.

With advice from a neighbor, the Maples’ purchased Angus cattle and leased out  land for hunting. But that was not enough to keep the ranch viable. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: An Update on Exports

The past four years have been tremendously positive for America’s efforts to export more agricultural goods and products around the world.

The brand of American agriculture is soaring worldwide. In fact, 2009 to 2012 represents the best four years in our nation’s history for agricultural exports. Exports have grown more than 50% over that period of time.

We have reason to believe that more good news is ahead. Recently, USDA economists forecast agricultural product exports for next year to exceed $145 billion. That would set yet another new record – and it would allow agricultural exports to continue supporting more than a million jobs. Read more »

The Smart Grid and Smart Growth

Smart grid technology, coupled with renewable energy production is increasing energy efficiency on America’s electric grid.”

Smart grid technology, coupled with renewable energy production is increasing energy efficiency on America’s electric grid.”

Two new smart grid projects in North Dakota and South Dakota will help improve electric service for consumers at Northern Electric Cooperative and West Central Electric Cooperative, Inc. by implementing advancements in communications technology.  A smarter electric grid can help improve service by increasing reliability and better managing costs. Read more »