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Celebrating Earth Day and Protecting the Environment in Rural America

Kids playing with hose

Nothing is a basic as clean pure water for this generation and generations to come.

It’s a fact most of us learned in grammar school.  More than seventy percent of the earth’s surface is water.  On this 45th Earth Day, I can’t help but be proud to recognize the work that USDA Rural Development is doing to improve water quality and availability in Rural America.  Today, USDA is announcing over $112 million in loans and grants to rural communities across the country for better water and wastewater systems.

To recognize Earth Day, today I visited the rural community of Henderson, Maryland. The town’s water system recently failed completely, leaving the 146 residents of Henderson without water. However, Rural Development stepped in to help. USDA is providing the town with a $175,000 Emergency Community Water Assistance Grant to make critically needed repairs to the system. Read more »

What You Need to Know About the Current Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Outbreaks

Today I had a press call with our USDA partner, Dr. Alicia Fry from CDC and Dr. David Swayne of USDA’s Southeast Poultry Research Lab to help get out some important information about the avian influenza event currently occurring in the United States.

Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi Flyways (migratory paths for birds). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in some backyard and commercial poultry flocks. Read more »

The Earth Day Confessions of a Soil Health Geek

Unlock the Secrets in the Soil graphic

Farmers throughout the country are growing a new hope in healthy soil, which is cause for celebration on Earth Day 2015. Illustration by Catherine Ulitsky, NRCS.

I am a soil health geek.

I didn’t seek to become a geek. But the more I learned about our living and life-giving soil, the more I became convinced this miracle under our feet holds the promise of our future.

We are all connected to the soil. Without it, life as we know it would not exist. However, for years it was believed that the best hope for our precious soil was to slow its rate of erosion—to retard its inevitable decline. Read more »

Food Waste Can Have a Large Impact on Your Nitrogen Footprint

Boy covering his mouth with his hand in front of a fountain

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture offers research grants to help respond to the world's water security issues. (iStock photo)

April 22 marks the 45th celebration of Earth Day, with its theme of “It’s our turn to lead.”  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is a leader in its support of cutting-edge sustainable and organic agricultural research.

The USDA estimated that 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten in the United States.  It’s not just people throwing away food after “super sizing;” food waste can begin at the farm, where crops are sometimes not harvested because they lack a perfect appearance.  Waste also occurs through spoilage or improper cooking.

As bad as this is in terms of not feeding the hungry, wasting food is also wasting energy, water, and everything else required to grow, process, transport, and prepare food. Improving resource efficiency would also decrease the amount of nitrogen released to the environment. Read more »

Bi-State Sage-Grouse Success Shows Importance of Voluntary Conservation Partnerships

Front view of a bi-state sage-grouse

Bi-State sage-grouse live at the California-Nevada border, and biologists estimate that between 1,800 and 7,400 of these ground-dwelling birds inhabit about 4.5 acres of sagebrush habitat. Bureau of Land Management photo.

We can achieve more when we voluntarily work together, and the decision today not to list the Bi-State sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act proves the power of partnerships. In this case, collectively, we were able to proactively conserve and restore habitat for this geographically distinct sage-grouse.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service works with conservation partners and ranchers in Nevada and California to take steps to benefit sage-grouse habitat while also helping ranchers improve their ranching operations. Meanwhile, this work helps connect public lands like national forests, where U.S. Forest Service is working to restore habitat, too. Read more »

Birds, Butterflies, Dragonflies and Bats

Jo Santiago, a U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist with a red-tailed hawk

Jo Santiago, a U.S. Forest Service Wildlife Biologist who educates the public on birds through live demonstrations, shows off a Red-tailed Hawk during the “Wings Across America” event. (Photo by Sean Kelley)

When it comes to the U.S. Forest Service, it’s not always about trees.

Sometimes it’s all about the birds, the dragonflies and the butterflies. Oh, and the bats.  At least, that’s what it was all about during a ceremony last month recognizing some great contributions from U.S. Forest Service and partner organizations to the Wings Across the Americas program in the past year.

In a festive event held in Omaha, Nebraska, as part of the 80th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, U.S. Forest Service employees and agency partners received shout-outs for outstanding efforts supporting migratory species across the nation and beyond. Read more »