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Rural Electrification Celebrates 80 Years of Rural Productivity

REA 80th Anniversary - North Plains Electric Cooperative. The first home furnished with cooperative power in the North Plains EC service area was that of George Robbins (below) located in the southwest part of Lipscomb County, Texas. W.M. Good (above), first president of the Boards of Directors at North Plains Electric Cooperative threw the switch to energize the first 80 miles of line on February 5, 1946. Power was purchased from the City of Canadian, Texas. A very small 300 KVA substation located in Canadian served the first few miles of line for the cooperative members.

North Plains Electric Cooperative, located in Perryton, Texas, and serving the Northeast corner of the Texas panhandle, the co-op has “been lighting the Texas Plains since 1944.”

In the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7037 on May 11, 1935 establishing the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), a temporary agency tasked with deciding how to fund rural electric systems. The following year, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, giving statutory power to the new agency.

It didn’t take them long to get to work. In 1937, the REA noted the most spectacular increase of rural electrification in the history of the United States had been achieved. Thanks to this national commitment, more than 1.2 million farms had electric service and the gap between urban and rural standards of living was closing. Read more »

Delivering Benefits to the Public through Mitigating Wildfire Risk

Panorama of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew along forest road

Panorama of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) keeps watch on their burnout along a forest road. This will help stop the main fire when it comes to this location in the Big Windy Complex, approximately 15 miles west of Interstate 5 and northeast of Galice, OR, on Friday, Aug 9, 2013 in Oregon. The Geronimo Hotshots are from the San Carlos Apache Tribal Natural Resources Program, in San Carlos AZ. Hotshots are highly trained wildlands firefighters that normally work in remote locations under arduous conditions. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

During the month of May, we are putting a focus on delivering benefits to the public. While the U.S. Forest Service provides value to the American people in a variety of ways, I wanted to focus on how we mitigate wildfire risk as fire season is already upon us.

Some of you might not know this, but my very first job in the Forest Service was in fire. It was a way to get my boot in the door as a seasonal employee and allowed me be a part of something great. Early in my career, everyone participated in fire – certainly if you were on a fire crew – but when a large fire occurred, everyone pitched in when needed. Read more »

Former USDA/1890′s Scholarship Recipient Makes Career in Public Health at USDA

On Wednesday, Secretary Vilsack signed a renewed Memorandum of Understanding with the Council of 1890 Universities, reaffirming USDA’s partnership with all 19 1890’s Universities across the country. Through this memorandum the USDA is able to put forth a collaborative effort to encourage more opportunities for students and graduates to work at the USDA or in careers related to food, agricultural science and natural resources. In partnering with 1890 Universities we are able to set up an equitable exchange of expertise and resources that will help strengthen the overall capacity of each institution of learning, as well as the USDA.  The following story demonstrates how one USDA 1890’s scholarship recipient has made rewarding career in public health.

Nisha Antoine, a USDA microbiologist and Lieutenant Commander of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, has always understood the relationship between personal health and public health. As a child with asthma, she spent a lot of time in the emergency room, and she was inspired by her doctors and nurses to want to take care of other children as an adult. From elementary school through college at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Nisha enjoyed studying biology, a path she knew would eventually lead to a career of caring for others. When she was a senior in high school, an application for the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program came in the mail, and her mother encouraged her to apply. Today, she says receiving the scholarship and going to an 1890’s institution afforded her opportunities that she may not have experienced otherwise. Read more »

USDA Pilots New Strategy to Recruit Minority Serving Institution Graduates

As we’ve celebrated Public Service Recognition Week this week, Secretary Vilsack and employees all across the government have shared what an honor it is to work as a public servant. But, it’s no secret that the federal hiring process is a lengthy one, which can be especially frustrating for recent graduates eager to begin careers upon earning their degrees. To streamline this process and meet an important hiring initiative—bringing qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds and more young people into our ranks—USDA has been piloting a new on-site hiring strategy at Minority Serving Institutions.

Working directly with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), USDA has hosted five on-site events where USDA hiring managers collect applications, conduct interviews, and in some cases make job offers on the spot for internships and recent graduate positions. To date, USDA has collected 795 applications at these events, for a total of 276 available positions within 10 USDA agencies, including the Agricultural Marketing Service, Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Farm Service Agency, Forest Service, Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Risk Management Agency, and Rural Development. Read more »

Interactive Map Compares Past and Present Snowpack – Western Snowpack Levels Very Low

Current snowpack map

The new, interactive map lets you compare current snowpack data to historical records.

Western snowpack, where it remains, is in full melt.

All along the Cascades and Sierra Nevada are ski courses that never opened, bare mountains and snowless SNOTEL sites where snowpack is measured. Where snow accumulated, it melted prematurely during a warm March. One of the most common questions for snow surveyors has been: how does this winter compare to the past?

A new, interactive map shows you exactly how it compares. The online map, just released by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, shows regularly updated current conditions – alongside historical records – for the entire NRCS snow survey network. Read more »

USDA Celebrates Mothers, Farmers, and Industry Leaders

Kelly McKnight on horse

“Marketing orders keep farmers talking,” said Kelly McKnight. “Of course we have to think of our individual businesses, but it is essential we work together as well.” Photo courtesy of the Washington Potato Committee.

In honor of Mother’s Day, USDA thanks the nearly 100 wonderful women growers and handlers for dedicating their time and service to their respective industries through our federal fruit and vegetable marketing order committees and boards.  We spoke to a few about being a farmer, mother, and marketing order industry leader.

Kelly McKnight, of the Washington Potato Committee, is a mother of four and a fifth- generation farmer.  McKnight learned the ins and outs of marketing orders from her neighboring potato farmers, alongside an extended network of fellow farmers’ daughters recruited to the committee.  Although the industry is small, McKnight credits the marketing order presence and members for keeping it strong. The committee serves as a network of support, mentorship, and resources, and further builds relationships with related organizations. Read more »