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Innovative Farmer Works with NRCS to Save Energy and Water

Roger Barton’s center pivot irrigation system is running on green renewable energy. The hydroturbine system was funded by a NRCS in Utah through a Conservation Innovation Grant.

Roger Barton’s center pivot irrigation system is running on green renewable energy. The hydroturbine system was funded by NRCS in Utah through a Conservation Innovation Grant. Photo credit Roger Barton.

Like other farmers in the West, Roger Barton must irrigate the alfalfa hay he raises for horse owners. And like many farmers, Barton has to be creative to make ends meet. He has an off-farm job to support his family and is always trying to think of ways to keep his farm costs down.

When diesel costs rose to $4.25 per gallon a couple of years ago, Barton came up with a new, non-diesel-powered way to power his center pivot irrigation system, which creates those crop circles you may have noticed when flying over rural America. (The center pivot also saves lots of water by spreading just the right amount evenly over the land.) Read more »

Deputy Under Secretary Encourages Michigan USDA Home Loan Borrowers to Explore a Streamlined Refinancing Pilot Program

Last week, USDA Rural Development in Michigan got an early start on Homeownership Month by promoting a pilot refinancing program, announced in February by Secretary Tom Vilsack, to help residents with current USDA home loans reduce their payments.

Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien and USDA Rural Development State Director for Michigan James Turner made the announcement at the Portage office of AmeriFirst Home Mortgage, a leading partner with USDA’s Guaranteed Home Loan program. Read more »

Vermont Small Businesses Make Inroads in Canadian Market

Helping small- and medium-sized businesses export their products is a cornerstone of the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI), which aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014. The partnership between the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), non-profit U.S. agricultural trade organizations (called cooperators) and state regional trade groups (SRTGs) is essential to achieving that goal. The power of this partnership was clearly highlighted at the SIAL Canada trade show in Montreal, May 9-11, where the majority of the exhibitors at the USA Pavilion were small U.S. companies.

Among the SIAL Canada participants were the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM), and six Vermont food companies that produce products including artisan cheeses, croutons, jams, jellies, dips, sauces, specialty packaged maple syrups and premium spaghetti sauces. Although many of the companies are located less than an hour away from the Canadian border, few had previously considered exporting their products to Canada. Read more »

Keeping Terrapins Away from JFK

An adult Diamondback terrapin too close to the JFK runway. Courtesy of Jenny Mastanuono.

An adult Diamondback terrapin too close to the JFK runway. Courtesy of Jenny Mastanuono.

It’s been a busy spring for USDA Wildlife Services’ biologist Jenny Mastantuono and her staff, who work at John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport solving wildlife conflicts with people and planes. Read more »

Ancient Treasures Discovered on National Forest in Southern Illinois

A recent archaeology project shed light on the history of the Shawnee National Forest, uncovering the remains of a 19th Century home and an ancient cemetery.

Archaeologists Mary McCorvie and Heather Carey, and AmeriCorps VISTA team member Eraina Nossa worked with 23 volunteers from across the country on this five-day project to inventory 140-acres of the Illinois Iron Furnace Historic Site and to create a more complete picture of what life was like there. Built around 1837, the Illinois Iron Furnace is the only remaining iron furnace structure in the state. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Healthy, Affordable Meals for Our Children This Summer

As final school bells ring and students across our nation start summer break, the last thing on a parent’s mind should be how they’re going to provide nutritious meals for a child.

During the school year, USDA plays an integral role in being sure our children have enough to eat. Through the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs, USDA helps families by providing nutritious school meals to 32 million kids each day.

But when school’s out for the summer, low-income families can have trouble providing food for their children. Read more »