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Michigan Earth Team Volunteer Enjoys Giving Back

Twice a week, Susan Anderson volunteers a morning or afternoon at the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Big Rapids, Mich. She calls it “giving back.” As a member of NRCS’ Earth Team, the agency’s volunteer workforce, Anderson assists clients, files and helps staff inventory and analyze the resource concerns of area farmers and landowners.

Anderson started volunteering with NRCS seven years ago, shortly after retiring from the Michigan Department of Education, where she was director of School Support Services, with statewide responsibilities and a budget of $500 million a year. She administered Michigan’s non-academic education programs, including child nutrition, food distribution, drivers’ education and pupil transportation. Read more »

Fresh from the Garden

I get to learn about a lot of great local initiatives when I make visits around the country.  On a recent trip to Dallas, I visited Metrocrest Social Services, a community resource agency in Farmers Branch, Texas, that provides services to families in crisis and helps them make plans for the future. The purpose of the visit was to learn how outreach workers from the North Texas Food Bank come to this office to assist clients submit applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Camilla Zimbal, social services director, gave me a tour of the agency, and showed me some of the other services available to clients. One of the highlights of this one-stop shop is a food pantry at which pantry clients may select groceries once a week. In addition to the canned and boxed food, they can also select fresh-from-the-garden fruit and vegetables. Read more »

Uncovering USDA’s Deep Roots in Foreign Affairs

Louis Guy Michael, the "father of FAS."

Louis Guy Michael, the "Father of FAS."

The concept of ensuring access to foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products dates nearly to the founding of the Republic, when Thomas Jefferson was posted to Paris to, in his own words, ensure “the receipt of our whale-oils, salted fish, and salted meats, on favorable terms; the admission of our rice on equal terms with that of Piedmont, Egypt and the Levant; a mitigation of the monopolies of our tobacco by the Farmers-general, and a free admission of our productions into their islands.” Read more »

A Country Boy’s Journey

April 16, 2012, was a memorable day for Willie F. Cooper, state executive director (SED) for the Louisiana Farm Service Agency. Yesterday marked 40 years as SED for FSA and the former Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS). In August, Cooper will celebrate 55 years of total service to USDA. Prior to his appointment, Cooper had worked as a field reporter, county office trainee, county executive director, county office reviewer, assistant administrative chief and chief of the Administrative Division. Recently, he provided some thoughts and memories on his tenure.

Willie F. Cooper, state executive director (SED) for the Louisiana Farm Service Agency

Willie F. Cooper, state executive director (SED) for the Louisiana Farm Service Agency

Read more »

Go Purple and Save an Ash Tree

USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, along with Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance, discuss the damage that can be done by emerald ash borer and raise a purple trap for the 2012 EAB survey season.

USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, along with Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance, discuss the damage that can be done by emerald ash borer and raise a purple trap for the 2012 EAB survey season.

The Patuxent Wetlands Park is a lovely setting in Anne Arundel County, Maryland where vibrant tidal wetlands give way to the Patuxent River. It is a place where the community enjoys fishing, boating and nature. It is also the site of one of the 500 purple, prism-shaped traps hanging high in Maryland ash trees this spring and summer. The purple traps help State and Federal officials to uncover signs of the invasive, tree-killing emerald ash borer (EAB) beetle. Read more »

Organic 101: Complaints and How They’re Handled

This is the fourth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

When the National Organic Program (NOP) declared in late 2009 that it was the beginning of the “age of enforcement,” it renewed its mission to protect the integrity of the USDA organic seal and the products labeled organic.

Enforcement efforts are a critical part of that mission, and investigating violations of the organic standards alleged by complaints is an integral component of the NOP’s work. Read more »