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Secretary Vilsack Honors USDA Employees for Service in Iraq and Afghanistan

Patrick Broyles, a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee, cleans a locally grown potato Dec. 18, 2008, during a visit to a new irrigation project in Muehlah, Iraq. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Wendy Wyman/Released)

Patrick Broyles, a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee, cleans a locally grown potato Dec. 18, 2008, during a visit to a new irrigation project in Muehlah, Iraq. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Wendy Wyman/Released)

Since 2003, more than 200 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) employees have sacrificed months – sometimes years – away from loved ones to live and work in war zones, voluntarily lending their skills and knowledge toward the betterment of people halfway around the world.

On Monday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack honored nearly 70 of these men and women, all of whom have returned from serving as agricultural experts in Iraq or Afghanistan in the past year. These employees hail from across the United States and represent several different USDA offices and agencies. In their roles as agricultural advisors, they have worked side-by-side with everyone from top officials with Iraq and Afghanistan’s ministries of agriculture to the U.S. military, from farmers, ranchers and students to widows and children. Read more »

FSIS Details Roadmap of Strategies, Measurable Tactics to Reduce Foodborne Illness

At two town hall meetings in Minnesota this week with Food Safety and Inspection Service employees, I had the pleasure of unveiling a new plan for food safety over the next five years. I’m very excited about our new Strategic Plan for FY 2011 through FY 2016, which will serve as the agency’s roadmap to ensuring that food produced under FSIS’ authority is safe for the American public.

This Strategic Plan should allow every single person in FSIS to have a direct line of sight between what they do every day and our objectives, and each of us should see ourselves as accountable to the public for protecting them from foodborne illnesses. We are putting forward detailed strategies and measureable tactics to reduce foodborne illness and chart our progress over the next five years, so this will serve as a foundation document for both the long-range and day-to-day operations of the Agency. Read more »

Wenatchee People’s Garden Provides Fresh Produce, Sanctuary to Community

Members of the Wenatchee Lab’s People’s Garden team—Sid Tate, volunteer; Debbie Larson, volunteer; Taylor Millican, volunteer; Anne Conway, employee; Charles Carmody, employee; and Devi Davis, volunteer—proudly showcase produce harvested from the garden on August 12, 2011. The produce pictured here was donated to Wenatchee’s Veteran’s Stand-Down, an event where community members reach out to veterans in need and their families. (U.S. Forest Service, PNW Research Station)

Members of the Wenatchee Lab’s People’s Garden team—Sid Tate, volunteer; Debbie Larson, volunteer; Taylor Millican, volunteer; Anne Conway, employee; Charles Carmody, employee; and Devi Davis, volunteer—proudly showcase produce harvested from the garden on August 12, 2011. The produce pictured here was donated to Wenatchee’s Veteran’s Stand-Down, an event where community members reach out to veterans in need and their families. (U.S. Forest Service, PNW Research Station)

The Pacific Northwest Research Station’s Wenatchee Forestry Sciences Lab started our employee-tended People’s Garden in 2010. Since that time, we’ve harvested 3,976 pounds of fruits and vegetables that we’ve donated to Wenatchee-area food banks and community organizations, providing healthy produce to families that otherwise would not have them. Our harvest this year so far has totaled 1,476 pounds. Read more »

Hitting the Trail with a Trail Crew on a national forest in Oregon

Baker City, Ore., July 2011. Hitting the trail with the Trail Crew. From left to right: Todd Robinette, Cody Powell, Nathan Tanaka and Andrew Livingston.

Baker City, Ore., July 2011. Hitting the trail with the Trail Crew. From left to right: Todd Robinette, Cody Powell, Nathan Tanaka and Andrew Livingston.

Doing more with less is a phrase we have all become accustomed to in recent years. U.S. Forest Service trail crews embody this spirit.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend the day with a trail crew out of the Whitman district in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Half of the crew was tasked to a project on a different part of the forest, but the five of us effectively cleared three miles of trail in the foothills of the Wallowa Mountains. Read more »

NRCS Helps Renovate the Landscape at Nicollet Tower and Interpretive Center Area

Nicollet Tower, surrounded by a sea of native grasses and wildflowers.

Nicollet Tower, surrounded by a sea of native grasses and wildflowers.

South Dakota is in the middle of the Great Plains, a vast prairie ecosystem stretching across much of North America that two hundred years ago was covered in native grasses and wildflowers. Today, visitors can get a glimpse of the prairie of the past, with the help of NRCSConservation Technical Assistance Program. Read more »

Foreign Officials See Agricultural Diversity of the Pacific Northwest

Katsuhiro Saka of Japan (left) thanks Steve Sakuma (right) of Sakuma Brothers Farms for hosting the tour at his fruit operation.  Steve raises strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.

Katsuhiro Saka of Japan (left) thanks Steve Sakuma (right) of Sakuma Brothers Farms for hosting the tour at his fruit operation. Steve raises strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries.

This week, I am taking 21 representatives of foreign embassies in our nation’s capital to Washington state and Oregon for the Foreign Agricultural Service’s 26th annual orientation tour. These representatives are from Angola, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Fiji, France, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, and Switzerland. Their expertise ranges from agricultural to environmental affairs and economic to commercial affairs. Read more »