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Shirley Brown Wins USDA’s Annual Chili Challenge

At the 2011 Hispanic Heritage Food Fiesta, Shirley Brown was named this year’s “Chili Champion.” Reigning champion Randolph Wilkinson will pass on the famous sterling silver chili bowl trophy, which is annually engraved to display the victor of each year’s challenge. As a chili connoisseur, Shirley Brown was ecstatic when announced as winner. She understands that the US Department of Agriculture takes chili seriously.

Despite being a great opportunity to socialize and taste a variety of chili recipes (from white chili to spicy chili with jalapeño corn bread) the Chili Challenge is more than just a friendly competition. Standing as a tradition within the USDA since 2003, the Annual Chili Challenge is intended to bring together participating individuals of diverse cultures and backgrounds to share in a spirit of fellowship. This year’s event was a success. Ten chefs brought their homemade chilis for the enjoyment of USDA employees. The event also hosted the Black Minority Employee Organization, Organization of Professional Employees at USDA, Blacks in Government, and Federally Employed Women, all of which gathered around the Whitten Patio to celebrate our diversity and commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month. Read more »

Going to the Source—FAS International Staff Experience U.S. Agriculture Firsthand

LES participants Amit Aradhey (India), Jennifer Wilson (United Kingdom), Fana Sylla (Senegal), Junyang Jiang (China), and Asmat Raza (Pakistan) discuss cattle feed with Jim Rohe while on a tour of the Rohe Dairy Farm in Freeport, MN.  LES participants Amit Aradhey (India), Jennifer Wilson (United Kingdom), Fana Sylla (Senegal), Junyang Jiang (China), and Asmat Raza (Pakistan) discuss cattle feed with Jim Rohe while on a tour of the Rohe Dairy Farm in Freeport, MN.

LES participants Amit Aradhey (India), Jennifer Wilson (United Kingdom), Fana Sylla (Senegal), Junyang Jiang (China), and Asmat Raza (Pakistan) discuss cattle feed with Jim Rohe while on a tour of the Rohe Dairy Farm in Freeport, MN.

Some of USDA’s international employees were in the United States last month, exchanging information with their stateside counterparts and learning firsthand how U.S. agricultural systems and processes work. Read more »

Faith-based Partner Puts Healthy Food Within Seniors’ Reach

In 2009, thousands of seniors experienced hunger in Ohio because they didn’t know about USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This means they are at risk for food insecurity and malnutrition. For many years now, eligible seniors across America have not participated in SNAP, so when I heard Toledo Area Ministries (TAM) was out in the community helping change that, I had to learn more.

Since receiving a three-year USDA SNAP outreach grant in 2009, TAM has partnered with Lucas County Jobs and Family Services (LCJFS) to identify and enroll eligible seniors in SNAP. LCJFS provides the critical data to target outreach efforts, and TAM goes out into the community to find underserved seniors. The result? Fewer hungry seniors in Lucas County. Read more »

Preservation Kentucky Awards Daniel Boone National Forest for their Rock Shelter Protection Efforts

A hiker explores a rock shelter in the Red River Gorge (photo courtesy of Daniel Boone National Forest).

A hiker explores a rock shelter in the Red River Gorge (photo courtesy of Daniel Boone National Forest).

In the Red River Gorge, archaeological evidence indicates human inhabitance of rock shelters beginning at least 12,000 years ago. The artifacts found at these sites represent the daily lives of Native Americans who once lived in Kentucky. The rock shelters also include the remains of many historic period industries, such as saltpeter mining and moonshining. Read more »

California Tree to Shine Christmas Cheer on the Capitol

Last year's Capitol Christmas Tree from the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming was lit on Dec. 7, 2010.

Last year's Capitol Christmas Tree from the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming was lit on Dec. 7, 2010.

In less than two months, a 65-foot Californian white fir from Stanislaus National Forest will grace the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Have you ever wondered how the Capitol Christmas Tree is selected? Read more »

New Technology Means Increased Consistency and Efficiency in Grading for Beef Industry

A screenshot from the electronic grading system showing USDA Choice, Yield Grade 2 beef. The left is the natural color view of the cut; the right is the instrument enhanced view that details the amount of marbling, size, and fat thickness. Beef grading is a complex and detailed process, requiring graders to think and calculate quickly with great accuracy.  Using technology to compliment and supplement the onsite human graders generates an efficient and more precise process.

A screenshot from the electronic grading system showing USDA Choice, Yield Grade 2 beef. The left is the natural color view of the cut; the right is the instrument enhanced view that details the amount of marbling, size, and fat thickness. Beef grading is a complex and detailed process, requiring graders to think and calculate quickly with great accuracy. Using technology to compliment and supplement the onsite human graders generates an efficient and more precise process.

The USDA Choice and USDA Prime grade shields are highly regarded, both domestically and internationally, as symbols of high-quality American beef.  Cattle producers and feeders increasingly rely on USDA grades to determine payments for their cattle—a vital link to supporting and sustaining rural America. Read more »