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Helping Communities Diversify Their Energy Sources

A truck is filled with wood chips as part of the process of turning wood into energy

A truck is filled with wood chips as part of the process of turning wood into energy

Cross posted from the White House CEQ blog:

Across rural America, biomass like wood pellets and wood chips is helping communities diversify their energy sources, create jobs, and save money on utility bills. At the Forest Service, we are working to support biomass projects that help us manage wildfire threats, and also serve as economic engines for rural communities. Last week, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced grants of $4 million for renewable wood energy projects that will provide 20 small businesses, tribes and community groups with the technical engineering and design services they need to explore installing wood heat and electricity projects. Read more »

USDA Under Secretary Sherman Unveils Nanocellulose Production Facility

The U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory recently opened a $1.7 million production facility for renewable, forest-based nanomaterials.  This facility is the first of its kind in the United States and one that positions the laboratory as the country’s leading producer of these materials, also called nanocellulose.

Nanocellulose is simply wood fiber broken down to the nanoscale. For perspective, a nanometer is roughly one-millionth the thickness of an American dime. Materials at this minute scale have unique properties; nanocellulose-based materials can be stronger than Kevlar fiber and provide high strength properties with low weight. These attributes have attracted the interest of the Department of Defense for use in lightweight armor and ballistic glass. Companies in the automotive, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, and medical device industries also see massive potential for these innovative materials. Read more »

USDA Business Administrator Visits a White House Recognized Wisconsin Small Business

Rural Business and Cooperative Programs Acting Administrator, John Paladino (center), tours Salm Partners, LLC, a sausage manufacturer, in Demark, WI, with Chris Salm, (left) owner, and Stan Gruszynski (right), Wisconsin Rural Development State Director.  Salm Partners, LLC partners with a number of local and regional producers and suppliers.

Rural Business and Cooperative Programs Acting Administrator, John Paladino (center), tours Salm Partners, LLC, a sausage manufacturer, in Denmark, WI, with Chris Salm, (left) owner, and Stan Gruszynski (right), Wisconsin Rural Development State Director. Salm Partners, LLC partners with a number of local and regional producers and suppliers.

Today, the diversity of businesses found in our rural communities closely mirrors that of metropolitan areas; coming in all shapes and sizes, small and large; start-up and existing, entrepreneurial and franchised; corporations, companies and partnerships. Both rural and metropolitan, businesses provide jobs, access to goods and services, and open doors to new opportunities for regional development and growth. Read more »

Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 8/3/12

Percent of Normal Rainfall, July 1-31, 2012

Percent of Normal Rainfall, July 1-31, 2012

Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA’s Drought Disaster response and assistance.

Historically hot, dry conditions covered many of the nation’s key agricultural regions during July.  Preliminary data provided by the National Weather Service indicated that July rainfall totaled less than 50 percent of normal in a broad area stretching from the central and southern Plains into the Mid-South and Midwest.  No measurable rain fell during July in several locations.  Meanwhile, monthly temperatures generally ranged from 4 to 8°F above normal across the northern and central Plains and the Midwest.  It was the hottest July on record in cities such as Rockford, Illinois; Denver, Colorado; and La Crosse, Wisconsin, breaking all-time records set in 1921, 1934, and 1936, respectively. Read more »

Los Padres National Forest Seeks to Preserve Remote Sacred Native American Sites

Deep inside the San Rafael Wilderness, employees from the Los Padres National Forest are working to inventory centuries-old Chumash sacred sites impacted by devastating wildfires.

Despite closure orders that restrict public access in America’s first congressionally designated wilderness, forest officials are concerned that site barriers and interpretive signs charred in the fires no longer adequately protect these vulnerable sites from further degradation.

Los Padres Tribal Liaison Pete Crowheart and Forest Archaeologist Loreen Lomax recently led a team of resource specialists on a 10-mile, nine-hour hike to evaluate two sites scorched in the 2007 Zaca Fire. They documented the extent of the damage and developed ideas for repairing the barriers and signs. One of California’s largest wildfires, the Zaca burned 237,000 acres over nine weeks. Fire-cost recovery funds recently secured by the forest are fueling restoration projects within the Zaca’s massive footprint. Read more »

What’s Ahead for Global Food Security?

Woman farmers in Kenya, a country where food security is projected to improve over the next decade Photo: World Food Programme

Woman farmers in Kenya, a country where food security is projected to improve over the next decade Photo: World Food Programme

The Economic Research Service (ERS) has, since the late 1970s, reported annually on food security in a number of developing countries. A key indicator is the number of food-insecure people (those who each consume less than a nutritional target of 2,100 calories per day). In the latest report, we estimate food security in 76 countries, in four regions. Read more »