Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

A Hedge against Drought: Why Healthy Soil is ‘Water in the Bank’

Niagra Falls infographic

As soil health improves, so too does its hydrologic function. This graphic illustrates how much additional water could be stored in the soil of all U.S. cropland with the addition of 1 percent of organic matter.

While most look to the sky for drought relief, an increasing number of farmers are looking to the soil. And for good reason: Healthy soils capture and store much more water – which can come in handy during dry spells.

Through its “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” campaign, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is leading the effort to get more farmers and ranchers to adopt soil health management systems for a wide range of on- and off-farm benefits – including drought resiliency.

So what’s the water-banking secret in healthy soil? Read more »

Lessons Learned from a Food Service Director: Kids Like Healthy Foods

Fruits in plastic trays

In Kentucky, the Whitley County School District customizes the fruit and vegetable options served in each school, based on the preferences of those particular students.

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

By Sharon Foley, Food Service Director, Whitley County School District, Kentucky

During the more than two decades I’ve worked in schools, I’ve witnessed what we now know to be true: healthy kids learn better. But I’ll also let you in on a secret: Not only are healthy foods better for our children’s long-term outcomes, kids like healthy foods! Read more »

Rural Electrification Celebrates 80 Years of Rural Productivity

REA 80th Anniversary - North Plains Electric Cooperative. The first home furnished with cooperative power in the North Plains EC service area was that of George Robbins (below) located in the southwest part of Lipscomb County, Texas. W.M. Good (above), first president of the Boards of Directors at North Plains Electric Cooperative threw the switch to energize the first 80 miles of line on February 5, 1946. Power was purchased from the City of Canadian, Texas. A very small 300 KVA substation located in Canadian served the first few miles of line for the cooperative members.

North Plains Electric Cooperative, located in Perryton, Texas, and serving the Northeast corner of the Texas panhandle, the co-op has “been lighting the Texas Plains since 1944.”

In the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7037 on May 11, 1935 establishing the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), a temporary agency tasked with deciding how to fund rural electric systems. The following year, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, giving statutory power to the new agency.

It didn’t take them long to get to work. In 1937, the REA noted the most spectacular increase of rural electrification in the history of the United States had been achieved. Thanks to this national commitment, more than 1.2 million farms had electric service and the gap between urban and rural standards of living was closing. Read more »

Delivering Benefits to the Public through Mitigating Wildfire Risk

Panorama of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew along forest road

Panorama of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) keeps watch on their burnout along a forest road. This will help stop the main fire when it comes to this location in the Big Windy Complex, approximately 15 miles west of Interstate 5 and northeast of Galice, OR, on Friday, Aug 9, 2013 in Oregon. The Geronimo Hotshots are from the San Carlos Apache Tribal Natural Resources Program, in San Carlos AZ. Hotshots are highly trained wildlands firefighters that normally work in remote locations under arduous conditions. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

During the month of May, we are putting a focus on delivering benefits to the public. While the U.S. Forest Service provides value to the American people in a variety of ways, I wanted to focus on how we mitigate wildfire risk as fire season is already upon us.

Some of you might not know this, but my very first job in the Forest Service was in fire. It was a way to get my boot in the door as a seasonal employee and allowed me be a part of something great. Early in my career, everyone participated in fire – certainly if you were on a fire crew – but when a large fire occurred, everyone pitched in when needed. Read more »

Former USDA/1890′s Scholarship Recipient Makes Career in Public Health at USDA

On Wednesday, Secretary Vilsack signed a renewed Memorandum of Understanding with the Council of 1890 Universities, reaffirming USDA’s partnership with all 19 1890’s Universities across the country. Through this memorandum the USDA is able to put forth a collaborative effort to encourage more opportunities for students and graduates to work at the USDA or in careers related to food, agricultural science and natural resources. In partnering with 1890 Universities we are able to set up an equitable exchange of expertise and resources that will help strengthen the overall capacity of each institution of learning, as well as the USDA.  The following story demonstrates how one USDA 1890’s scholarship recipient has made rewarding career in public health.

Nisha Antoine, a USDA microbiologist and Lieutenant Commander of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, has always understood the relationship between personal health and public health. As a child with asthma, she spent a lot of time in the emergency room, and she was inspired by her doctors and nurses to want to take care of other children as an adult. From elementary school through college at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Nisha enjoyed studying biology, a path she knew would eventually lead to a career of caring for others. When she was a senior in high school, an application for the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program came in the mail, and her mother encouraged her to apply. Today, she says receiving the scholarship and going to an 1890’s institution afforded her opportunities that she may not have experienced otherwise. Read more »

USDA Pilots New Strategy to Recruit Minority Serving Institution Graduates

As we’ve celebrated Public Service Recognition Week this week, Secretary Vilsack and employees all across the government have shared what an honor it is to work as a public servant. But, it’s no secret that the federal hiring process is a lengthy one, which can be especially frustrating for recent graduates eager to begin careers upon earning their degrees. To streamline this process and meet an important hiring initiative—bringing qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds and more young people into our ranks—USDA has been piloting a new on-site hiring strategy at Minority Serving Institutions.

Working directly with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), USDA has hosted five on-site events where USDA hiring managers collect applications, conduct interviews, and in some cases make job offers on the spot for internships and recent graduate positions. To date, USDA has collected 795 applications at these events, for a total of 276 available positions within 10 USDA agencies, including the Agricultural Marketing Service, Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Farm Service Agency, Forest Service, Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Risk Management Agency, and Rural Development. Read more »