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Forest Service Partners with Washington State Mountain bike Filmmakers

The U.S. Forest Service is tapping into its creative side to address illegal trail building on public lands by announcing an official partnership with a newly released mountain bike documentary.

The hour-long documentary, entitled “PEDAL-DRIVEN: a bikeumentary,” delves into the escalating conflict between mountain bikers hungry to ride and the federal land managers charged with protecting public lands. The growing trend of rogue trail building on public lands has become a national and international issue in recent years due in part to advancements in bicycle technology. Read more »

Supporting Those Who Go Green With a New Energy Efficiency Initiative

Reducing rental housing operating expenses, preserving the environment and promoting local energy sources is a priority for USDA Rural Development, demonstrated by green-energy initiatives like the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan Program. Rural Development is now offering the Multi-Family Housing Energy Efficiency Initiative as part of the existing application process for Section 515 Rural Rental Housing Program for New Construction, Section 514 Farm Labor Housing Loans and Section 516 Farm Labor Housing Grants for Off-Farm Housing, Section 522 Housing Preservation Grants, and Sections 514, 515 and 516 Multi-Family Housing Revitalization Demonstration Programs.  This new initiative aims to promote development projects that make an effort to reduce energy use, reduce energy required from the energy grid supply, have little or no net emission of greenhouse gasses, and are economically viable.

The Energy Efficiency Initiative focuses on three areas: energy conservation, energy generation, and green property management.  Points are given to applicants for energy efficiency certifications, use of energy efficient building materials and design strategies, generation of energy on site, and commitments to energy efficient post-construction operation and maintenance.  Through administration of this initiative combined with existing Rural Development programs, USDA hopes to reduce the need for outside energy sources, reduce energy costs, promote the economy, and ultimately secure a better environment for future generations. Read more »

How the Farm Business Has Changed

Two tractors plant in field. Research shows that two major farm inputs – land and labor – decreased over time, while output rose. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Two tractors plant in field. Research shows that two major farm inputs – land and labor – decreased over time, while output rose. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Over a relatively short time period, innovations in farms’ production practices, risk management, and business arrangements have allowed U.S. farmers to greatly increase their output without raising total input use.  These changes accompanied a shift in production to larger farms.  Drawing on a variety of data sources, the Economic Research Service recently examined the changes in farming during a 25-year period that ended with the most recent census of agriculture. Read more »

Native American Youths Improve Sage-Grouse Habitat

An important meadow is fenced to protect critical habitat for sage-grouse.

An important meadow is fenced to protect critical habitat for sage-grouse.

In the middle of Nevada, miles from anywhere, eight Native American young adults spent their summer working to improve sagebrush habitat for the greater sage-grouse. Habitat for this ground-dwelling bird, native to much of the American West, has been dwindling in recent years, due to fencing, wildfires and invasive species. Read more »

USDA’s Unwavering Commitment to Food Safety

Ensuring that Americans have access to safe, nutritious food is USDA’s top priority. Yesterday afternoon, USDA introduced plans to modernize and accelerate service delivery in all areas of the Department by introducing our Blueprint for Stronger Service. The plan will help USDA and rural America preserve and strengthen the significant investments we have all made to American agriculture over the past three years. It takes a realistic view of the needs of American agriculture in a challenging budget climate, and lays out USDA’s plans to strengthen service in all areas, particularly in ensuring the safety of America’s food supply.

The work of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, or FSIS, is critical to the safety of our food supply. As the public health regulatory agency within USDA, FSIS has nearly 10,000 employees scattered throughout the country, working in slaughterhouses, processing facilities, laboratories, or conducting surveillance. Each job is critical to public health. Through their inspection, testing or surveillance duties, FSIS staff make sure America’s meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled. Read more »

A Blueprint for Stronger Service

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presents USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service, a plan to Increase Efficiency in USDA Operations, on Monday, January 9, 2012 in Honolulu, Hawaii. USDA Photo by Rebecca Moat.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presents USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service, a plan to Increase Efficiency in USDA Operations, on Monday, January 9, 2012 in Honolulu, Hawaii. USDA Photo by Rebecca Moat.

Today at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 93rd Annual Meeting, I thanked about 10,000 farmers for helping to make U.S. agriculture a bright spot in our nation’s economy.

In the past few decades, U.S. agriculture has become the second most productive sector of the American economy, thanks to farmers adopting technology, reducing debt, and effectively managing risk. In 2011, America’s farmers, ranchers and producers achieved record farm income, record exports, and have helped to contribute to an unemployment figure in rural America that has fallen faster than in other parts of the country. Over the last three years, as USDA has made significant investments in rural America, we have also looked closely at the way we do business so that we are sustaining and enhancing the farm economy for generations to come. That is why today I introduced USDA’s Blueprint for Stronger Service—a plan that will help to preserve this success in the long term.

Read more »