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FACT from FICTION on Pilot Project to Enhance Quality, Timeliness and Cost-Effectiveness of Environmental Analyses and Documents Related to Biotechnology

We have seen several stories and concerned comments circulating on blogs regarding USDA’s pilot project to examine ways to enhance quality, timeliness and cost effectiveness of environmental analyses and documents related to biotechnology. We want to separate fact from fiction and ensure that the public knows exactly what this pilot program will do and what it will not do.

The pilot program will test an approach where USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will work closely with petitioners and outside experts while maintaining responsibility for scope and content of its environmental analyses. The pilot program will not allow biotechnology firms to conduct their own environmental assessments (EA) or environmental impact statements (EIS). Read more »

Repair the World: USDA Hosts its First Food and Justice Passover Seder

Matzah, the traditional flatbread eaten by Jewish people to commemorate Passover, decorated six circular tables, along with bitter herbs (maror), “mortar” for bricks (haroset), and green leafy vegetables (carpas).  Around the tables, USDA employees, Administration officials, and a host of guests from the non-profit and Jewish community gathered to celebrate the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Justice Passover Seder this week.

A traditional seder is a ceremonial Jewish meal commemorating the Passover holiday and Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt after being freed from slavery.  Held in partnership with Jewish Funds for Justice and the Progressive Jewish Alliance, USDA’s modernized symbolic seder was held after Passover and focused on issues where food and justice intersect. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack Talks about “Building the Clean Energy Economy with Equity” at Environmental Justice Conference

Building a clean energy economy with equity was the topic of this year’s “The State of Environmental Justice in America” conference held this week in Washington.

In opening remarks on Thursday, Vice Admiral Melvin Williams Jr. (retired), associate deputy secretary, U.S. Department of Energy, said that the key to a new energy economy can be summed up by “commitment, fairness and collaboration.”  He noted that the mission of the Department of Energy is to “help ensure the security and prosperity of America” and environmental justice is integral to that commitment. Read more »

A Great Day at Delaware State University

Last week, I got the chance to address students at Delaware State University’s first-ever Graduate Research Symposium. Delaware State is part of the land-grant university system that is called an “1890 institution,” because it was founded through the second Morrill Act, passed in that year to extend the education system of the land-grants to African-Americans.

I’m a former dean of an agriculture school (at Iowa State University), so talking to students is one of my favorite parts of my job as USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary of Research, Education and Economics. I had to agree with Provost Alton Thompson who said, in my introduction, “It’s a great day to be at Del State!” Read more »

USDA Official Hails Michigan Project to Improve Water Quality in Lake Huron

Earlier this month we were honored to have Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Agriculture Doug O’Brien join USDA Rural Development Michigan State Director James J. Turner at our Earth Day ceremony in Buena Vista Township.  The township board of trustees was there and Township Supervisor Dwayne A. Parker served as our master of ceremonies.

Locally known as “BV Township,” Buena Vista is located next to Saginaw and like many rural communities, its sewer infrastructure was in a state of disrepair when they approached USDA for help. Read more »

High Tourism Area in Pennsylvania to Benefit from New USDA-Funded Wastewater System

A herd of elk, part of the largest wild elk herd in the Northeastern United States, can continue to graze in their natural habitat due in part to to a new Rural Development funded wastewater treatment system that will clean up two watersheds.

A herd of elk, part of the largest wild elk herd in the Northeastern United States, can continue to graze in their natural habitat due in part to to a new Rural Development funded wastewater treatment system that will clean up two watersheds.

USDA Rural Development officials and Congressman Glenn Thompson celebrated Earth Day this week in Benezette Township, Elk County, Pennsylvania.   Benezette Township, home of the largest wild elk herd in the Northeastern United States, lacks public sewer, preventing economic growth and damaging two watersheds with run-off from malfunctioning on-lot septic systems. Read more »