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Students Aid Invasive Species Control While Learning

High School welding students gained hands-on fabrication experience while contributing to the collaborative state-wide effort to manage an invasive species.

High School welding students gained hands-on fabrication experience while contributing to the collaborative state-wide effort to manage an invasive species.

USDA Wildlife Services (WS) employees in New Mexico have been fabricating the traps and tools for their jobs for many years.  As feral swine management work began in the state, naturally we began to build our own traps and gates to contain this invasive and damaging mammal. Read more »

Let Me Be Clear: Plain Writing Matters

“Clear, direct and easy to understand” may not be the first words most Americans associate with government publications and documents, but that is changing. Thanks to the Plain Writing Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2010, all federal agencies must now put their readers first when writing new documents or revising old ones.  That means before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, we must first think hard about how our language connects with customers and helps them get the most from USDA’s services and programs.

Secretary Vilsack has asked us at USDA to improve our writing to better serve the public.  He believes we cannot carry out our mission effectively if we cannot communicate clearly with those whom we serve. He has made plain writing a cornerstone of his efforts to transform USDA’s culture. Now all of us—even our lawyers—are making our writing easier for the public to read and understand.

This is good news for the American people whose lives are affected every day by USDA’s  leadership on issues from agriculture, to nutrition, trade, and energy. The public uses the information in our documents to build strong rural communities, to protect the environment, and to produce our safe and abundant food supply.  Read more »

USDA Serving Military Aviation in Afghanistan

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History Research Scientist and Manger in the Feather Identification Lab Dr. Carla Dove, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Biologists Keel Price and George Graves look over a sample of the birds in the Smithsonian collection on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History Research Scientist and Manger in the Feather Identification Lab Dr. Carla Dove, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Biologists Keel Price and George Graves look over a sample of the birds in the Smithsonian collection on Tuesday, Mar. 19, 2013. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.

In March, I enjoyed welcoming home two USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service employees from 18-week tours of duty in Afghanistan. There they devoted long days using their wildlife expertise to reduce aircraft hazards to American and coalition aircraft at Bagram Airbase and Kandahar Airfield.  It was my honor to help recognize them for their service from November 2012 to March 2013. Read more »

Can We Eradicate the Asian Longhorned Beetle?

Asian longhorned beetle and "exit hole." Credit: R. Anson Eaglin, USDA-APHIS

Asian longhorned beetle and "egg site." Credit: R. Anson Eaglin, USDA-APHIS

This past March, almost 11 years after being found in New Jersey, federal and state agriculture officials are finally able to say that the state’s long-running battle against the non-native Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) is over.

New Jersey is the second state to declare itself free from the invasive tree-killing insect.  The beetle was successfully eradicated from Illinois in 2008, and the ALB-regulated area of Islip, New York, also achieved eradication in 2011.  So, getting rid of this “hungry pest” is possible.  That’s good news, because, depending on where you live, 70 percent of your community’s tree canopy could be lost to ALB. Read more »

Don’t Go Green this Spring, Greening Disease (HLB) Kills Citrus

Delicious citrus: Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service

Delicious citrus: Scott Bauer, USDA Agricultural Research Service

It’s time to grab those gloves and get outside for some gardening!  April is not only a great time to plant citrus trees, but it’s also Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month. Before wielding that shovel, take a few minutes to learn how to keep your trees healthy and prevent the spread of citrus disease.

Citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), is one of the most severe plant diseases in the world. The disease has devastated millions of citrus trees in the United States and now has the potential to eliminate the citrus industry.  Once a tree is infected with the disease, there is no known cure. Read more »

New Export Markets, New Opportunities for Rural America

2009-2012 stand as the strongest four years for agricultural exports in history.

2009-2012 stand as the strongest four years for agricultural exports in history.

Today, the American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide. Fiscal years 2009-2012 represent the strongest four years in history for agricultural trade, with U.S. agricultural product exports exceeding $478 billion over these four years. Overall, American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in the United States and provides American consumers with 83 percent of the food we consume, while maintaining affordability and choice. And 2013 is off to a roaring start already – with agricultural exports on track to set a new record.

Just last week, USDA announced three initiatives that expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade. These announcements support President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double all U.S. exports by the end of 2014, as well as underscore USDA’s commitment to a strong and resilient agricultural economy, creating jobs and boosting economic growth nationwide. Read more »