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Agriculture and Rural Main Streets on the Agenda for Smart Growth

Agriculture and food system development were featured agenda topics at the recent New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, an annual conference sponsored by the Local Government Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and several other public and private organizations.

I went to the Smart Growth conference on behalf of USDA Rural Development to demonstrate USDA’s commitment to investing in the future of rural communities.  Smart Growth principles can offer innovative strategies for using scarce federal dollars efficiently to promote sustainable and sound investments on main streets everywhere, and are valuable in helping rural communities consider how to creatively use existing resources and infrastructure to serve and celebrate their unique identities. Read more »

U.S. Soybeans Support Sustainability in Afghanistan

Minnesota soybean farmers and representatives from the Albert Lea Seed House, the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) and Minnesota-based Shelter for Life International gather in Minnesota before the soybean seeds depart for Afghanistan. The shipment is part of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress Program and will provide Afghan farmers with 68.5 metric tons of early maturing soybean seeds to plant. (Photo by Dan Lemke, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council)

Minnesota soybean farmers and representatives from the Albert Lea Seed House, the American Soybean Association’s (ASA) World Initiative for Soy in Human Health (WISHH) and Minnesota-based Shelter for Life International gather in Minnesota before the soybean seeds depart for Afghanistan. The shipment is part of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress Program and will provide Afghan farmers with 68.5 metric tons of early maturing soybean seeds to plant. (Photo by Dan Lemke, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council)

Minnesota soybean farmers recently gathered at a local seed house to witness final preparations for a shipment of U.S. soybean seeds about to make a 7,000-mile journey to Afghanistan. The shipment is part of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress Program and will provide subsistence farmers in Afghanistan with 68.5 metric tons of early maturing soybean seeds to plant. Read more »

With USDA Assistance, a Historic Mississippi Courthouse gets a New Lease on Life

The inside of the newly restored courthouse and the attendees at the Grand Opening Ceremony. USDA photos.

The inside of the newly restored courthouse and the attendees at the Grand Opening Ceremony. USDA photos.

In 2009, Bolivar County, Mississippi, Administrator William Hooker and a board-delegated crew of local leaders traveled to meet with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., to rally for the financial support to restore the Bolivar County courthouse in Rosedale, MS. They received funding for the project and on April 2, 2012 a ground breaking ceremony was held for the First Judicial District Courthouse located in Rosedale. USDA Rural Development awarded a $350,000 Recovery Act Community Facilities grant. The project also received a $350,000 Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Economic Grant, a $300,000 grant from the MS Department of Archives and History, and $300,000 from the Bolivar County Board of Supervisors. A majority of the money went towards improving the building’s weakening foundation. Installing a new roof and a number of interior retouches were also big parts of the restoration. Read more »

Organic 101: Strengthening Organic Integrity through Increased Residue Testing

From produce, like these vine-ripened tomatoes, to processed foods like cheese and milk, additional testing requirements will help certifying agents identify cases where prohibited methods and substances are being used. Photo courtesy Jess Sanson.

From produce, like these vine-ripened tomatoes, to processed foods like cheese and milk, additional testing requirements will help certifying agents identify cases where prohibited methods and substances are being used. Photo courtesy Jess Sanson.

This is the tenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

In late 2012, the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) announced a strengthened residue testing program to help increase consumer confidence in the $32 billion organic industry worldwide. Consumers purchase organic products expecting that they maintain their organic integrity from farm to market, and USDA is committed to meeting these expectations. This program will provide additional verification that organic farmers are following the rules and not using prohibited substances. Read more »

Forest Service Offers Practical Advice for Using Insect-Killed Trees

A new manual released by the U.S. Forest Service offers solutions for using the millions of dead and dying urban trees infected by invasive insects in the eastern United States. 

The free publication, developed by the Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory and the University of Minnesota Duluth, offers insight into the wide variety of products and markets that are available, and practical advice for considering the many options. Uses for insect-killed wood include lumber, furniture, cabinetry, flooring and pellets for wood-burning energy facilities. Last year, commemorative ornaments were made from beetle-killed trees for the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree celebration.

: Since its discovery in 2002, the emerald ash borer has killed tens of millions of ash trees in 13 states. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

: Since its discovery in 2002, the emerald ash borer has killed tens of millions of ash trees in 13 states. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Read more »

Sweet News about Sugar Beets

\Sugar beet pulp is mixed with melted polylactic acid and passed through a twin-screw extruder. This results in pastalike strands (the brownish solid tubes coming out of the front of the machine) of composite material, which are then cooled, chopped into pellets, and injection molded. Photo courtesy of ARS.

Sugar beet pulp is mixed with melted polylactic acid and passed through a twin-screw extruder. This results in pastalike strands (the brownish solid tubes coming out of the front of the machine) of composite material, which are then cooled, chopped into pellets, and injection molded. Photo courtesy of ARS.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but the scientists of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) still have some sweet news to share:  In a classic case of turning trash into treasure, they’ve created a biodegradable plastic made from sugar beet pulp. Read more »