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Organic Trade in the Americas: Inter-American Commission for Organic Agriculture

Representatives from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, United States, Paraguay and Argentina met in Panama City, Panama to discuss topics that included international organic trade arrangements, as well as organic production and handling.

Representatives from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, United States, Paraguay and Argentina met in Panama City, Panama to discuss topics that included international organic trade arrangements, as well as organic production and handling.

Over the past decade, the production and market share of organic agriculture has increased globally, with significant growth in South and Central America. In 2008, the Inter-American Commission for Organic Agriculture (ICOA) was founded to support organic agriculture in the Americas and facilitate the trade of organic products. 

ICOA consists of agriculture officials from 18 member countries in Latin America and aims to harmonize organic standards, strengthen control systems and support market development in Latin America. The United States sources many organic products from Latin America including bananas, apples, pears, wine, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, coffee, mangoes, papayas, winter vegetables and more. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Investing in Conservation Innovation

Earlier this week, USDA announced $15.7 million in Conservation Innovation Grants to 47 organizations that will help develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to help farmers and ranchers continue to improve conservation practices on their operations.

More than half of this year’s awardees focus on preserving and improving soil health, which leads to improved water quality, increased soil water availability, enhanced resilience and nutrient cycling, captured carbon, among many other vital natural resource needs. Read more »

USDA Pledges Support to Restore Water Quality in Vermont’s Lake Champlain

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will commit $45 million for on-the-ground conservation activities to protect and improve soil and water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin in Vermont over the next five years.  Senator Patrick Leahy (right) and Rep. Peter Welch look on.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA will commit $45 million for on-the-ground conservation activities to protect and improve soil and water quality in the Lake Champlain Basin in Vermont over the next five years. Senator Patrick Leahy (right) and Rep. Peter Welch look on.

Lake Champlain has been plagued by blue-green algae blooms caused by a large amount of phosphorous and other nutrients in the New England lake. Recently, USDA launched a special initiative in the Lake Champlain basin, which is composed of New York and Vermont, to invest $45 million in protecting and improving soil and water quality over the next five years.

“Our work helps farmers prevent phosphorus laden runoff which leads to the blue green algae blooms,” said Vicky Drew, the state conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Vermont. “NRCS conservationists work with farmers to ensure that manure is properly stored, and we provide assistance in the application of manure to their fields according to a nutrient management plan.”  Read more »

Look to Idaho’s Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway for Fall Color Vistas

State Highway 21, the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, winds across slopes between Idaho City and Lowman on the Boise National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service/ Edna Rey-Vizgirdas)

State Highway 21, the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway, winds across slopes between Idaho City and Lowman on the Boise National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service/ Edna Rey-Vizgirdas)

One of the first excursions Idaho locals recommend to newcomers is the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway along Highway 21 from Boise to Stanley, Idaho. The popular route traverses foothills, high-elevation forests and scenic river canyons in the heart of the Boise National Forest and Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

Although beautiful in any season, fall is my favorite time of year for exploring Highway 21. The combination of sunny, cool days melding into together with cold-but-not-freezing nights help intensify the forest’s autumn hues. Color is often good in September but generally peaks in in early to mid-October, depending on elevation.  Read more »

Team Up for Success! USDA and Partners Help Secure a Healthier School Day

With kids now back in the classroom, USDA wants to help schools continue to build a healthier, more nutritious environment for their students.  At the same time, we’re deeply committed to ensuring these same schools maintain financial stability and strong student participation in their meal programs.  We’re seeing more and more schools move forward with new and innovative healthy school meals, but we also understand there is a need to share best practices across the country.

Thanks to our partners at the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI), we hope to fill that void.  To make this a reality, the group will pilot the Team Up For Success Training Initiative with the assistance of USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service Southeast Regional Office.  Together, they’ll work with school food authorities (SFAs) to identify challenges and provide nuanced resources to promote a healthier school day. Read more »

USDA Works to Bring Conservation, Other Assistance to a Remote Georgia Island

One of the major partners in the Sapelo Island Red Pea Project is SICARS which has a facility on Sapelo Island. NRCS photo.

One of the major partners in the Sapelo Island Red Pea Project is SICARS which has a facility on Sapelo Island. NRCS photo.

Sapelo Island off the coast of Georgia has a handful of residents, some of whom make their living raising livestock, farming produce and managing forests. While the barrier island is isolated and only accessible by ferry or private boats, USDA agencies in Georgia recently held a meeting on the island to talk about available assistance.

“This workshop was a great opportunity for many of our partner agencies to come together to meet these coastal area residents, discuss their needs and provide information and assistance to a group of individuals that have worked very little with us in the past,” said Karri Honaker, a district conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »