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World Ag Expo Invites Visitors to Experience Agriculture

An antique truck serves as an exhibit booth during the expo.

An antique truck serves as an exhibit booth during the expo.

On February 8, I was excited to work at the World Ag Expo, billed as the largest agricultural trade show in the world. As a newcomer to such events, when I saw the huge line waiting to get through the main gates on opening day, the first thing that popped into my mind was the word “incredible.” Read more »

USDA 2011 Agricultural Outlook Forum: Export Sessions

Exports will be the focus of two highly anticipated sessions on Thursday, Feb. 24 during this year’s Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va. USDA’s latest quarterly export forecast will be released that same day and will surely serve as a springboard for a lively discussion on the benefits of exporting as well as the role of agriculture in President Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI). Read more »

What Birds Tell us About Bird-Strikes

Just like a page out of a detective novel or the next episode of CSI, USDA-APHIS researchers at the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) are using forensic science to help unravel the mystery behind bird-strikes. Between 1990 and 2008, more than 87,000 bird-aircraft collisions involving 381 different bird species were reported to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The most common species struck by aircraft were gulls, doves and pigeons. Read more »

A Wellness Community Achieves the HealthierUS School Challenge

Cross posted from the Let’s Move! blog:

On a sunny October morning at Columbia School in El Monte, California, Allen Ng, our Regional Administrator at the USDA Food and Nutrition Service presented El Monte City School District with the first HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC) Awards in California since the Challenge joined the Let’s Move! initiative one year ago.

When asked why El Monte City School District took the Challenge, Dr. Robert Lewis, Director of Nutrition Services, humbly explained his desire to highlight the collaborative nature found in El Monte’s wellness community.  It’s no surprise Dr. Lewis points to the consistent teamwork and partnership among school district folks, community members, parents, teachers, principals, school nurses, district office administrators, and students as the key to achieving Silver HUSSC awards for 14 of El Monte’s elementary schools. Read more »

A USDA Community Connect Grant Brings Brownington, Missouri to the Digital Age

A small rural community half way between Kansas City and Springfield is the Village of Brownington, possibly the best kept secret of Henry County.  Nestled comfortably along the Harry S. Truman Lake, the Village consists of 119 residents with 68 housing units covering a land area of only 0.15 sq. miles.  Their numbers may be small, but their courage and determination to revive their community is remarkable.

To the delight of the residents, the Village was recently awarded a grant for access to broadband service and the construction of a Community Center.  The broadband service is a result of a program administered by USDA Rural Development.  The program known as “Community Connect” provides grants to eligible applicants to establish broadband service in rural communities that are not currently served. Read more »

Perennial Grains are Getting Bigger

Deputy Secretary Merrigan beside a banner comparing the shallow roots of annual wheat with the deep roots of its perennial relative, wheatgrass.  The banner hung in the Patio of the Whitten Building for three months time and was viewed by thousands of USDA employees and stakeholders.

Deputy Secretary Merrigan beside a banner comparing the shallow roots of annual wheat with the deep roots of its perennial relative, wheatgrass. The banner hung in the Patio of the Whitten Building for three months time and was viewed by thousands of USDA employees and stakeholders.

President Obama stressed the importance of innovation in his State of the Union address – and reminded us, “We do big things.”  Wes Jackson, who lent USDA the banner pictured here, founded The Land Institute around the “big idea” of using nature as a model for agriculture, including perennial grain crops whose deep roots hold soil in place and take up water and nutrients year-round, rather than the more typical annual grains that produce a big harvest and then die each year.  But perennial grains generally lack big seeds and high yields, and it has been difficult to breed grains that are both perennial and high-yielding. Read more »