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Terrestrial Broadband Connects Native Communities in Southwest Alaska to the World for the First Time

Recently, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell hosted the first live terrestrial videoconference between the State Capital of Juneau and Bethel’s Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation (YKHC), which administers a comprehensive health care delivery system for more than 50 rural, primarily Native communities in Southwest Alaska.  The videoconference utilized TERRA-Southwest which now provides terrestrial broadband service for the first time from Anchorage to 65 remote, rural communities in Bristol Bay and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Funding support was provided by USDA Rural Development through the Rural Utilities Service and the Recovery Act.

On the face of it, the news may not elicit much sensation, but let’s look at some facts.  The YKHC and those many, inaccessible villages are located in the Yukon–Kuskokwim Delta, one of the largest river deltas in the world, and at 75,000 square miles it’s roughly the size of Oregon.  Can you imagine the immensity of not only planning, but the logistics in actually constructing the system that made today’s videoconference possible? Read more »

Ring Profiler Gives Scientists a Luminous Look at Tree Rings

Suppressed growth trees can contain decades of growth rings in a half-inch section of wood.

Suppressed growth trees can contain decades of growth rings in a half-inch section of wood.

The Ring Profiler may sound like the title of fantasy novel but in fact it’s an innovative tool U.S. Forest Service scientists are using to better determine how much a tree grows annually. Read more »

Hawaii Showcases Its Ag Diversification – the Proof is in the Numbers

Plentiful taro fields in the Hanalei Valley on Kauai (Photo Credit: NASS Hawaii Field Office)

Plentiful taro fields in the Hanalei Valley on Kauai (Photo Credit: NASS Hawaii Field Office)

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 portfolio.

When America’s farmers and ranchers traveled from the U.S. mainland to the Aloha state for the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in early January, they had the opportunity to taste the joys of Hawaiian agriculture – some of the most diverse and specialized in our nation. Read more »

Keeping it Clear: Writing at USDA

The White House has called upon all federal agencies to “keep it simple” when it comes to writing. Here at USDA, we are committed to communicating clearly so that we can provide you with the most useful information possible.   As Secretary Tom Vilsack has said, “Using plain writing is indispensable to achieving our goals of providing first-class customer service and ensuring access to our programs.”

Officially implemented this past fall, the Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires all federal agencies to write “clear, concise, well-organized” documents “that the public can understand and use.” This is a part of the Obama Administration’s larger effort to create a transparent government that promotes public participation. To ensure that USDA meets our obligations, we are training our employees on writing techniques that avoid the complicated language that can confuse and frustrate the public we serve. Read more »

Flying Planes with Biofuels

Today, in Chicago, I joined Secretary Vilsack as he met with leaders from Boeing, United Airlines and Honeywell, to talk about support for the development of biofuels to power our jets.

In the United States alone, passenger and cargo airlines spend about $50 billion on fuel each year. If just a fraction of those billions were used to purchase American-produced aviation biofuels, we provide the opportunity to create thousands of good-paying jobs in communities across the nation. Read more »

MLK Day – A Day to Serve, Reflect and Chart a New Path For Civil Rights

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision and legacy by helping others in need.  USDA employees from across the country will observe this day through service projects in their communities, working to fulfill Dr. King’s belief that “everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”

As we take a moment to think about MLK’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement and his commitment to making this country a better place to live, USDA is reminded of the steps we have taken to correct errors, learn from past mistakes, and to chart a stronger path for the future where all Americans are treated with dignity and respect by USDA employees. Read more »