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Working Lands for Wildlife Initiative Helps to Improve Gulf of Mexico Too

Steve Barlow standing in the longleaf pine forest that he is restoring.

Steve Barlow standing in the longleaf pine forest that he is restoring.

Levy County, on Florida’s “Nature Coast,” is home to a variety of ecosystems, from dense hardwood forests and marsh lands to sand hills and Gulf Coast waters.

The historic Suwannee River borders the north end of the county, while the meandering Withlacoochee River winds through the southern part. Both eventually drain into the Gulf of Mexico, and runoff from agricultural land ending up in the two rivers can carry soil, pesticides and nutrients to the Gulf. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Investing in America’s Rural Communities

As producers face an historic and ongoing drought today, President Obama and I are doing all we can to help farmers and ranchers mitigate its effects – while helping communities to overcome the economic challenges posed by the drought.

To carry out our work on behalf of communities and producers, USDA has relied on programs authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill. Parts of that law, including authorization of USDA disaster assistance for livestock producers, expired last year. Other aspects of the law expire on October 1st and over the next few months if Congress fails to act. Read more »

Ask a School Meals Expert: What do the New Calorie Standards Mean for my Child?

You may have heard this year’s back to school season is a little different than in past years. There is a new, healthier look for the school lunch menu.  These updates represent the first major changes to school meals in 15 years, and we know that these changes come with questions.  We’ve promised to keep the dialogue open, and we are working to ensure that we answer them all.

The vast majority of students, parents, teachers and school service professionals have had great positive feedback on the new, healthier lunches.  However, a few parents have expressed concerns that kids will come home from school hungry or not get enough to eat during the day because their kids have higher caloric needs – in particular, kids who are athletes. Schools and families have – and have always had – multiple options for addressing their needs. Read more »

Chef Corps to Help Build Bridges through “Culinary Engagement”

“Food isn’t traditionally thought of as a diplomatic tool, but sharing a meal can help people transcend boundaries and build bridges in a way that nothing else can.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton

Some of the nation’s top chefs have signed on to help promote American food and culinary traditions around the world through the new American Chef Corps. The corps is part of the Diplomatic Culinary Partnership Initiative, launched earlier this month by the Department of State and the James Beard Foundation. USDA is delighted to support this initiative, which is an excellent complement to our ongoing work highlighting the quality, variety, safety and sustainability of U.S. food products to our customers around the world. Read more »

UPDATE: Drought Code Sprint Deadline Extended to October 24

After hearing from many of you, we are extending the deadline to submit your apps for the Drought Code Sprint to Wednesday, October 24 at 5 p.m. ET apps using this form.

Do you have any questions about our data or would you like to learn more about our drought assistance in general? Let us know, we’d love to help as you start coding! Read more »

Rocky Mountain Region Leads Effort to Address Watershed Health on White River National Forest

In the wake of the 2012 summer fires, Colorado’s most precious natural resource, water, is a top priority for state, municipal, and federal agencies. Denver Water and the U.S. Forest Service are leaders in addressing water issues and growing concerns over watershed health. Just under two years ago, both partnered to combine approximately $33 million in funding to target specific areas for restoration and mitigation work to reduce potential fire impact in key watersheds that supply water to Front Range communities.

Two new projects of the Denver Water partnership are underway on the White River National Forest on the Dillon Ranger District near Breckenridge, Colo. These projects target “zones of concern” identified by the Blue River Watershed Assessment in collaboration with the Forest Service and Denver Water. Cary Green, the East Zone timber management assistant said, “The partnership is hugely beneficial to cost-sharing vegetative treatments in the Blue River Watershed. Together, we are able to improve forest health, forest vegetative diversity, and achieve substantial fuels reduction in and around high priority watersheds.” Read more »