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USA Pears Enter the Chinese Market for the First Time

Even the weather cooperated on February 23, 2013.  With a brilliant blue sky overhead and bright sunlight streaming into the warehouse, the first shipment of pears grown in the United States and destined for the Chinese market arrived in Dalian, China.

The three containers of pears did not slip into the port of Dalian, a city of over six million people located in Liaoning Province in the northeast of China, unnoticed.  Instead, a crowd of onlookers consisting of journalists, invited guests, U.S. and Chinese officials, all gathered to witness the first pallets of Red and Green Anjou pears from Ft. Hood, Oregon being offloaded. Read more »

Bird Health Webinar Available Online – Around 300 Bird Enthusiasts Participated Live!

Scott Kravetz participates in the Bird Health Awareness Week webinar. USDA photo.Scott Kravetz participates in the Bird Health Awareness Week webinar. USDA photo.

Scott Kravetz participates in the Bird Health Awareness Week webinar. USDA photo.

As part of Bird Health Awareness Week, USDA recently hosted a webinar on “Growing Chicks into Healthy Chickens.”  Dr. Martin Smeltzer, Andy Schneider (aka the “Chicken Whisperer”) and Dr. Claudia Dunkley spent an hour helping backyard bird owners learn more about keeping their flocks healthy.  Around 300 people participated in the webinar, most of who are just getting started with backyard birds. Read more »

The Least Expensive Kilowatt is the one You Don’t have to Produce

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Rural Utilities Service Administrator John Padalino, right, moderates Energizing Rural Economies breakout session of the 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, VA on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Rural Utilities Service Administrator John Padalino, right, moderates Energizing Rural Economies breakout session of the 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, VA on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

We all like to save a buck.  But what if you not only saved a buck today, but one tomorrow, and the next day and for the rest of your life?

Hopefully, that’s a lot of bucks. Read more »

USDA Builds on International Collaboration at Open Data Conference

I am excited to report that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will lead the U.S. delegation for an important conference at the end of April at the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture in Washington.  I will join the Secretary at the conference to launch the G8 countries’ collaborative effort to make our agriculturally-relevant research and statistical data accessible to users in Africa and around the world. Read more »

Audit-Based Beef Grading Can Mean Better Efficiency, Lower Costs

Consumers and industry look for the USDA grade shields as trusted symbols of wholesome, high-quality American beef. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the agency responsible for grading, continues to explore ways to more efficiently conduct business. Most recently, we used beef instrumentation grading technology to initiate an audit-based Beef Grading Pilot Program at a facility in Toppenish, Washington in August 2012.

Although beef instrumentation grading technology has been in use for several years, it has not reduced the number of graders required at each grading facility until now.  By working with the Meat Graders’ Union, we were able to come to an agreement to pilot a program that would have beef industry employees trained to interpret and apply the Official USDA Standards for Grades of Carcass Beef under the oversight of a USDA meat grader. Read more »

Threatened Sea Bird with a Catchy Name

A Marbled Murrelet floats on the sea. (Photo by: Martin Raphael, U.S. Forest Service)

A Marbled Murrelet floats on the sea. (Photo by: Martin Raphael, U.S. Forest Service)

Marbled murrelets are not the background singers in a ‘60s band. Rather, they are a native sea bird species whose population south of Canada is declining.

Like the Pacific Northwest’s iconic northern spotted owl, this small seabird’s nesting habitat may be threatened by the loss of coastal old-growth forests in that region, according to a report co-authored by scientists from the U.S. Forest Service and published in The Condor. Read more »