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Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 10/17/12

U.S. Winter Wheat Progress, October 14, 2012

U.S. Winter Wheat Progress, October 14, 2012. (Click to enlarge image.)

Visit for the latest information regarding USDA’s Drought Disaster response and assistance.

According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, valid October 9, nearly two-thirds (63.55%) of the contiguous U.S. remains in drought.  However, this is down nearly two percentage points from the late-September peak of 65.45%, as recent rains across the South and East have chipped away at the drought.  At the same time, drought continues to gradually intensify across the northern Plains, where rangeland and pastures remain in dismal condition and winter wheat emergence has been hampered by a lack of soil moisture. Read more »

US Teens Win Third Prize at International Jr. Foresters’ Competition

While most teens were enjoying a much deserved summer break, South Tahoe High School seniors Emily Barnett and Tyler Myers were prepping for an international competition. With the support of their teacher and Forest Service (FS) employees, they presented their field research project, “The Effects of Fire and Forest Thinning on the Biodiversity of Understory Plants in the Lake Tahoe Basin,” at the 9th Annual International Junior Foresters’ Competition.

Apparently hard work does pay off…they won Third Prize amongst 52 projects presented by students from around the world. The students were honored during a concert celebrating “Day of the Forest Worker” in Moscow, during which the host and Head of the Russian Federal Forestry Agency, V.N. Maslyakov, presented their prizes.

The competition held Sept. 12_14, is an annual event that brings together young scientists from many nations to promote and reward their efforts in the environmental field and encourage international dialogue concerning forestry issues.  This year, close to 100 students from 35 countries competed.  The students’ projects (a written report and a 10 minute presentation) were judged by an international panel of fifteen forestry experts.  This was the first time the United States participated in the competition. Read more »

Early Warning and Detection System to Help New Mexico Communities

Buck Mountain precipitation gage with solar panel, radio stand, and electronics—Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire, N.M.

Buck Mountain precipitation gage with solar panel, radio stand, and electronics—Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire, N.M.

New Mexico experienced in June two catastrophic wildfires—the Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire and the Little Bear Fire. One consequence of those fires has been flash flooding. Water runs off more quickly during rainstorms in areas where fires have stripped the landscape. These floods can happen with very little notice, endangering communities downstream. Read more »

USDA Official Encourages Female Students to Pursue STEM Education and Careers During “Latina Day”

On September 26, 2012, I addressed a group of 8th grade female students and their mothers at the conference luncheon held by the University of Texas-Pan American. The event was part of Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) week.

During Latina Day, participants discussed the opportunities for women and girls to advance academically by entering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. There were activities that included participation from hundreds of mother/daughter teams.  One key theme and highlight of the event was to celebrate women in the STEM fields, hear their success stories, and to encourage children to continue their education.

Earlier in the week, the Obama Administration announced the Equal Futures Partnership, which is a new collaboration with private and non-profit stakeholders to reverse the historic underrepresentation women in STEM education and careers and promote public leadership. Read more »

More Than 30,000 Pounds of Watermelon Collected and Donated By Earth Team Volunteers

Volunteers unloading the gleaned watermelons at a food bank in Missouri.

Volunteers unloading the gleaned watermelons at a food bank in Missouri.

What do the National Resource Conservation Service , Farm Service Agency, Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and 16 tons of watermelons have in common? These USDA agencies have joined together in Southeastern Missouri to donate literally tons of watermelon to the food banks in Sikeston and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. This massive donation is the result of gleaning, which is the act of collecting excess foods from farmers markets, farms, stores, restaurants, gardens and elsewhere and donating that food to those in need. Read more »

World Food Day’s Scientific “Call to Action”

On October 16, World Food Day, it is hard to not be struck by how lucky we are in the United States. We have abundant food that costs us less to produce, on a per unit basis, than almost any other country in the world. Our farmers and ranchers produce more than we need, allowing us to be a powerhouse in global exports. And our food supply is among the safest of all the world’s nations.

All that abundance and security has been underpinned by science and know-how.  Between the 1940s and the 1970s, agriculture science blossomed in what has become known as the Green Revolution. Thanks to the research done by Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Revolution,” working with researchers around the world, developed high-yielding varieties and modern production practices that helped save untold numbers of people from starvation. Read more »