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National Fire Plan Funds Support Maine’s Defensible Space Chipping Program

Two-thirds of Maine’s population or about 780,000 residents live in the “wildland-urban interface.”  In these areas structures intermingle with natural vegetation, and wildfire threatens lives, homes, and property.

The Maine Forest Service’s Division of Forest Protection established a Wildland-Urban Interface Committee in 2004 to facilitate completion of Community Wildfire Protections Plans in these areas. More than 4,500 homes were assessed to determine their risk factors. Of the homes surveyed, 88 percent were at “extreme” or “high” risk of ignition in a wildfire because of fuels buildup. Read more »

South Dakota Transformers

No, no, the subject doesn’t have any connection to two children’s movies titled “Transformers” or “Toy Story”.  It does, however, pertain to an engaging session that was held among South Dakota staff to broaden their understanding of cultural transformation.

The sessions were led by two dynamic facilitators, Joanna Donahue and Vickie Oldman-John who assisted staff with gaining a better understanding of cultural transformation.  Read more »

In the Lab, Dr. Beverly Schmitt Makes it Happen

I’m Dr. Beverly Schmitt.  I work for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa, where I’m the Director of the Diagnostic Virology Lab (DVL).  I’ve been with NVSL for 19 years.  Before I came to APHIS, I served as the virology lab manager at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Veterinary Diagnostic Center.

Becoming a veterinarian was a gradual process for me.  When I was growing up, there was a vet who routinely came to our family farm.  I respected the work he did and liked working with animals, so I eventually looked into becoming a veterinary technician, and then made the decision to try to get into veterinary school. Read more »

The Link Between Rural and Urban Americans

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak before a group of city and town planners at a forum hosted by the American Planning Association.  Before I spoke I asked the crowd to raise their hands if they had worked in a community of less than 50,000 population.  To my surprise, three-quarters of audience raised a hand.

When I then asked for people to keep their hands raised if they worked in communities under 20,000, and close to half the hands were still up.

It was another reminder that people who live and work in rural communities are highly engaged—enough so to attend a conference here in Washington D.C.—and intent on exploring solutions for small towns and rural areas. Read more »

Listening Session Gives the Floor to Organic Community

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) was all ears on Tuesday as it opened up its hall to organic stakeholders to ask the question, “What activities should the Department focus on to serve the organic community?”

Many took the opportunity to respond. During a day-long listening session hosted by USDA, organic stakeholders shared their thoughts, concerns, praises, and requests with the department that administers the organic certification program and enforces the country’s organic standards.

The USDA’s National Organic Program, part of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), currently serves a $29 billion industry on a budget of less than $7 million—and the industry continues to grow amidst challenging economic conditions. In support of that growth, USDA has a goal to increase the number of certified organic operations to over 20,000 by 2015–that’s a 20 percent growth from 2009. Read more »

Industry Insight: Checkoff Programs Empower Business

When it comes to expanding market share, increasing revenue and getting the word out about a great product or commodity, checkoff programs prove that there’s strength in numbers. Officially called research and promotion programs, checkoff programs give agricultural producers, importers and other stakeholders in the marketing chain the power to maximize resources while managing risk.

The strategy for increasing or expanding commodity markets takes more cooperation within the industry than competition between individual farms and businesses.  Consumers may not know exactly which farm grows or raises their fruit, beef, cotton or lumber, but they will decide what to buy based on knowledge, quality and availability.

The consumer’s perspective that there is a general uniformity to some commodities serves as the catalyst for many individual farms and businesses to collaborate on a comprehensive, industry-wide strategy to expand markets.  Promoting a commodity as a whole instead of by individual businesses means everyone in the industry benefits through increased sales, consumer awareness and higher overall demand. Read more »