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Secretary’s Column: Conserving and Restoring America’s Natural Resources

Every day, the work of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conserve America’s lands and natural resources stretches across our nation. As President Obama and I work together to boost the rural economy and create jobs across America, it’s important to recognize the strength we draw as a nation from our forests, grasslands, farms, ranches, rivers and wilderness areas.

And it’s even more important that we all work together to protect them.

In 2010, President Obama established the America’s Great Outdoors initiative to help reconnect Americans to the land, promote recreation and tourism that bring jobs to rural communities, and build on America’s long history of conservation. Read more »

Wine Barrels Become Wood Flooring with Help from US Forest Service

Forest Products Lab engineer John Hunt (left) and Jubliee Flooring owner Joe Triglia inspect flooring milled from discarded wine barrel staves.

Forest Products Lab engineer John Hunt (left) and Jubliee Flooring owner Joe Triglia inspect flooring milled from discarded wine barrel staves.

Joe Triglia, owner of Jubilee Flooring in Long Island, N.Y., has spent years working out a way to turn discarded wine barrels into wood flooring.  Now, with help from the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory , his vision is turning into a promising business venture. Read more »

Hunger Doesn’t Stand a Chance in Michigan

Lori Cook, aka TV-personality “Maranda,” interviewed me about the importance of the Summer Food Service Program.

Lori Cook, aka TV-personality “Maranda,” interviewed me about the importance of the Summer Food Service Program.

Hunger doesn’t take a summer vacation, and the State of Michigan is making sure that nutrition assistance programs don’t either. I recently traveled to the west side of the state to see some of the inspiring work our partners are doing to make sure that no one in their community has to face hunger. Read more »

Newly Constructed Bridges Improve Access and Create Jobs in Alabama’s National Forests

Roads and bridges are vital links that connect communities to their national forests. For residents living near the Bankhead and Talladega National Forests, their drive to the woods is now safer while also protecting natural resources thanks to recent construction projects for two forest bridges.

The Forest Service replaced the Pine Glen Bridge near Helflin, Ala., on the Talladega National Forest with funding support from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.  The Forest Service also supported the construction of the Brushy Creek Bridge near Double Springs, Ala., on the Bankhead National Forest. The projects employed local community workers who built the bridges which are now helping to improve habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms, reducing sediment deposits in the local streams and rivers, and improving access for visitors. Read more »

Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 7/12/12

U.S. Corn Areas Experiencing Drought. Reflects July 10, 2012 U.S.

U.S. Corn Areas Experiencing Drought. Reflects July 10, 2012 U.S. (click to enlarge)

On July 11, USDA’s World Agricultural Outlook Board cut the estimate for the 2012 U.S. corn crop by 1.82 billion bushels to “reflect expected impacts of persistent and extreme June and early-July dryness and heat across the central and eastern Corn Belt.”  The 12% cut, which left the projected U.S. corn production at 12.97 billion bushels, is a direct result of the nation’s worst drought in a generation—since 1988. Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also announced that more than 1,000 counties across in 26 states would be designated as disaster areas due to the worsening drought. Read more »

Iowa Senator Visits Wiota Wind Energy Project Receiving USDA Rural Development Funding

An American flag flies next to a new wind turbine, funded in part through USDA support. USDA photo.

An American flag flies next to a new wind turbine, funded in part through USDA support. USDA photo.

Recently, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin got an up-close look at Iowa’s newest community-owned wind turbine.  With an American flag snapping in the breeze, he marked the project, the investors and the opportunity for wealth creation via renewable energy in a town of 116 in southwest Iowa. Read more »