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Protecting Pollinators through Habitat Conservation is Critical to Preserving Food Supply

Honeybees leaving and returning to the hive after collecting pollen

Honeybees leaving and returning to the hive after collecting pollen. Photo: Ashton Ebarb.

“They’re in a happy mood today,” Jim Pratt, a local apiarist, said.

At a comfortable 62 degrees, honeybees buzz with a clear objective: collect nectar and pollen, for honey and pollination.

“Pollinators, like honeybees, support food crops,” Pratt said, explaining why for 20 years he’s raised honeybees.

Pratt’s Farm annually produces about 120 pounds of honey per colony. He maintains 100 colonies, collecting honey from them each spring, summer and fall. During the winter, the bees eat stored honey until warmer weather arrives. Read more »

Just In: Check Out MyPlate Video Search Results

It is an exciting time for kids to get creative with nutrition! Last week, the top kid chefs from the 2015 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge were announced, and students across the country are Cooking up Change and getting connected to school food. The CheckOut MyPlate Video Search provided another opportunity for kids to showcase their creative thoughts and ideas about food and health.  

The video search was created and implemented by a group of MyPlate National Strategic Partners to help educate and empower children to take healthy eating and physical activity into their own hands and bring it to life via video. Parents and teachers of kids ages 2-18 in three age groups: (2-10, 11-13, and 14-18) were challenged to create a 60 second video demonstrating a MyPlate inspired healthy eating message and a physical activity tip. Videos were accepted March 9 through April 30, 2015. The video search resulted in over 100 submissions featuring kids across America. From the videos submitted it was clear that food and physical activity can be a fun topic for kids. Read more »

Talking All Things Produce at the United Fresh Convention & Expo

A team of AMS employees staffing a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo

A team of AMS employees staffed a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo. The agency’s diverse offerings led to questions spanning from grant programs to transportation reports. Under Secretary Avalos (left) and Deputy Administrator Parrott third from left. AMS photo.

The saying goes that change is the only thing that is constant. That certainly is the case in the produce industry where businesses are always looking to streamline processes and introduce new products to the market. Since my agency — the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) — provides services that facilitate marketing opportunities for the industry, it is imperative for us to be nimble and constantly look for ways to strengthen our connection with industry leaders. One of the ways we do this is by attending conferences like last week’s United Fresh Convention & Expo in Chicago, Ill. Read more »

And the Winner of the Smokey Bear Poster Contest is…

Audrey Morga, national winner of the 2015 National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster, standing with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl

Audrey Morga, national winner of the 2015 National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster, stands with U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl. (Photo by Dominic Cumberland, U.S. Forest Service)

For 54 years, the U.S. Forest Service and the National Garden Clubs Inc., have worked together to sponsor the National Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl poster contest that reaches elementary children throughout the U.S.

This year’s grand prize winner is Audrey Morga, an 11-year old, and a fifth grader at St. Bernardine of Siena School in Woodland Hills, California.

“When I found out that I won, I had to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming,” said Morga. Read more »

Partnerships Bring Rural Health Care to South Dakota

Dan Friedrich, Director of HealthPOINT at Dakota State University, moderating the health financing workshop

Dan Friedrich, Director of HealthPOINT at Dakota State University, moderated the health financing workshop.

“We wouldn’t be all that we are today if it weren’t for USDA”, said Verne Hansen, Board President of the Faulkton Area Medical Center (FAMC).  With help from Rural Development, South Dakota, FAMC leveraged $5 million in loans and loan guarantees to build a state-of-the-art 12-bed facility serving as the Critical Access Hospital for Faulkton (population 744) and the surrounding community.  This new facility has yielded a 500% increase in patient revenues and improved the level of care. Due to overwhelming demand, FAMC is planning an expansion to continue meeting the health care needs of rural South Dakotans.

Recently, South Dakota’s Rural Development office teamed up with the Department of Health and Human Services, the State of South Dakota, the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations, Dakota State University, and East River Electric Cooperative to bring together providers and funders to generate concrete plans improving access to rural health care in our state. One concrete outcome was workshop on the collaborative Rural Health Financing Initiative, where we focus on maximizing and utilizing the resources we currently have at our disposal to best meet the needs of today and the future. To illustrate the path to success, Faulkton Area Medical Center CEO Jay Jahnig gave a first-hand example of how USDA was able to provide the financial support that allowed FAMC to significantly increase its quality and quantity of service to the community. Read more »

It’s Time to Talk about the Birds and the Bees — and the Butterflies, Bats and Beetles

Cross-posted from the Department of Interior blog:

From birds and bees to butterflies, bats and beetles, pollinators are a diverse group and are critically important to terrestrial life on our planet. Without our help, however, their populations will continue to decline as a result of numerous stressors including loss of habitat, pests and pathogens, and exposure to pesticides.

Bees and other pollinators are essential to America’s agricultural economy and maintain the beauty of our iconic landscapes. Without them, we wouldn’t have most of our vegetables, flowers, fruits or nuts. Honey-bee pollinations alone contribute more than $15 billion in value to U.S. agricultural production each year, but beekeepers reported losing just over 23 percent of honey bee colonies last winter. Other pollinators that help sustain food production and the environment—such as native bees and bats—also are declining. Read more »