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Introducing USDA Results, a Year-Long Storytelling Effort of the Obama Administration’s Work on Behalf of Those Living, Working and Raising Families in Rural America

Today, USDA is launching USDA Results, a progressive, year-long, multimedia storytelling effort showcasing the Administration’s work on behalf of those living, working and raising families in rural America. Each month, USDA will release a new chapter of the story at medium.com/usda-results. We encourage you to check out January’s chapter, Celebrating America’s Farmers and Ranchers: Supporting the Producers Who Ensure a Safe, Affordable, Nutritious American Food Supply, and follow along throughout 2016.

When I began my service as Secretary of Agriculture in 2009, I took the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nickname of the ‘People’s Department’—first coined by President Abraham Lincoln—to heart.

President Lincoln knew the importance of agriculture to national prosperity—particularly at a time when about half of all Americans lived on the farm. He understood the critical responsibility of USDA and government to serve and support American agriculture and the rural communities who have, since the founding of our country, helped to drive innovation and economic growth on a national scale.   Read more »

Change Beyond the Plate

Breonna Walker from Englehard Elementary School in Louisville, KY enjoying a nutritious and delicious school lunch

Breonna Walker from Englehard Elementary School in Louisville, KY enjoys a nutritious and delicious school lunch. Photo courtesy Jefferson County Public Schools

The following guest blog from a school and community nutrition services director in Louisville, Kentucky highlights how non-profit School Food FOCUS relies on USDA’s Process Verified Program (PVP) to help increase transparency and choice for school food purchases.  USDA’s objective, third-party auditing services focus on increasing transparency from farm to market by offering verification based on clearly defined, implemented, and transparent process points.

By Julia Bauscher, Director of School and Community Nutrition Services, Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky

The first time School Food FOCUS brought together a group of school food directors like myself to talk about how we could improve the quality of chicken—the number one protein we serve to students—I was thrilled and a little daunted.

Schools across the country spend nearly $1 billion on chicken every year. That’s a lot of buying power. School Food FOCUS challenged us to think about the changes we can make to our food system if districts leveraged this buying power to create a demand for chicken that is better on the plate and for the environment. Read more »

In New York, Youth Learn Leadership by Doing

Nosa Akol, CITIZEN U teen leader in Binghamton, New York holding her award

Nosa Akol, CITIZEN U teen leader in Binghamton, New York, won the 4-H 2015 Youth in Action Award as an exceptional youth who embodies the life-changing impact of 4-H. (Photo courtesy of the National 4-H Council)

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.

In Binghamton, New York, at-risk youth are learning to take charge of their lives by working on a variety of community improvement projects that they design and carry out.

CITIZEN U stands for Citizen You and Citizen University,” said Dr. June Mead, director of New York’s Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) program.  “(It’s) a metaphor for creating a university environment in which teens are empowered to become community change agents and graduate from high school prepared for college, careers, and citizenship.  Through their involvement, teen leaders gain knowledge and real-world application of civic engagement.” Read more »

USDA Northeast Climate Hub Integrates Farmer Panel into Operational Discussions

Drew (left) and Joan Norman (center), One Straw Farm and, Catherine Webb (right) of Springfield Farm

Drew (left) and Joan Norman (center), One Straw Farm and, Catherine Webb (right) of Springfield Farm shared stories and insights about their operations after a farm to table lunch at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office on October 27th, 2015.

As the autumn leaves in the Northeast were just beginning to blanket the ground in late October, the USDA Northeast Climate Hub held its first annual –university network hosted– Partner Operational Discussions. The group convened in Annapolis, Maryland where working meetings were held at both the Chesapeake Bay Program and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office on October 26th and 27th, 2015. On the second day, after much conversation, assorted presentations and a locally sourced farm-to-table lunch from A Cook’s Cafe, the group took a step back to listen to those whose daily work has dictated the very mission of the USDA Climate Hubs: farmers. Maryland-rooted farm operators, Drew and Joan Norman of One Straw Farm and Catherine Webb of Springfield Farm, formed a panel with moderators Joana Chan and Allison Chatrchyan of the Cornell Institute for Climate Change & Agriculture. Together they chatted about their operations, experiences with extreme weather events, practices and information needs. Read more »

Rangeland Restoration Benefits Cattle and Prairie Chicken

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative: Conservation across the Range cover

Learn more about prairie chicken conservation efforts by downloading this new report, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative: Conservation across the Range. Click to download the report.

Cattle and lesser prairie-chickens both need healthy rangeland to thrive. Through voluntary conservation efforts, farmers and ranchers in the southern Great Plains can restore habitat for this iconic bird while strengthening working lands.

The Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), a partnership led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), works to enhance lesser prairie-chicken habitat one ranch at a time. A number of the initiative’s successes are highlighted in a new report called the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative: Conservation across the Range. Read more »

China’s Impacts of Slowing Growth on Trade and Agriculture in the U.S.

People's Republic of China General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) officials taking samples of U.S. soybeans at the Port of Dalian

People's Republic of China General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) officials take samples of U.S. soybeans at the Port of Dalian as part of a joint study comparing U.S. and Chinese inspection practices. Photo taken by USDA/FAS employee Mark Rasmussen.

International trade is a major factor in the American agricultural economy.  A key player is China.  In fact China’s impact on slowing growth on trade and agriculture is a session topic during the 2016 United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Over the last two decades, China’s economic prosperity and increased consumer demand for food has significantly contributed to the record growth in United States agricultural exports.  From fiscal year (FY) 2000 to FY 2015, the value of U.S. agricultural and related exports to China rose from $1.7 to $25.9 billion dollars.  Currently, nearly 17 percent of all U.S. agricultural exports are destined for the Chinese market.  These export figures highlight the critical importance of the U.S.-China trade relationship for U.S. agriculture and underscores the United States interest in China’s ability to maintain a strong and stable economy. Read more »