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Posts tagged: agriculture

Join the Bat Squad and Pull for Bats during Bat Week

Jennifer Redell with a straw-coloured fruit bat

Jennifer Redell, a conservation biologist/cave and mine specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, gives a close up and personal look at a straw-coloured fruit bat, the most widely distributed of the African fruit bats. Bats fulfill many important ecosystem functions, such as pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds during their flights. (U.S. Forest Service)

Bats have quite the list of positive effects in our world, from the billions of dollars they save in pesticides to natural pollination and seed spreading. Bats eat about one-half of their body weight in insects each night.

We need bats.

In honor of our furry, flying mammal friends, consider pulling for bats during Bat Week from Oct. 24-31. You can make a difference, whether you get a group together to literally pull invasive plants to help improve habitat and food for bats or figuratively “pull” for bats by sharing why they are important to our ecosystem with your friends and family. And, the great news is that you don’t have to be an adult to help bats. Read more »

2016 GODAN Summit: A Large Display of USG Support for Agriculture and Nutrition Open Data

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the GODAN Summit 2016

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (third from right at center table) participated in a high-level meeting at the United Nations as part of the two-day GODAN Summit 2016. The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative (GODAN) meeting was the largest ever event dedicated to open data in agriculture and nutrition, convening over 750 attendees including world leaders, researchers, farmers, students and others – public, private and non-profit - united around a collaboration on agriculture and nutrition data openness. Photo credit: Perry Bindeglass

Open agriculture and nutrition data is a powerful tool for long-term sustainable development.  The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative – comprising more than 350 international organizations representing governments, donors, businesses, and not-for-profits – continues to be a leader in advocating for the adoption of open data policies.  GODAN’s focus on opening agriculture and nutrition data as a mechanism to support sustainable development has the potential to solve longstanding global food security challenges.

As a founding partner of GODAN, the United States Government (USG) has implemented policy to support the creation of open data resources and provided technical support to make open data work for agriculture and nutrition—through the release of open data sets, through the development of standards that allow different types of data sets to be integrated with one another, and through the creation of new databases to house open data.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has served as the U.S. Government lead on the GODAN initiative since its creation in 2013, and has been highly involved in open data efforts. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack Visits Puerto Rico to Talk Climate Change and Caribbean Agriculture

Plantains growing in Gurabo, Puerto Rico

Plantains growing in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Photo by Duamed Colón.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the Caribbean Climate Hub in Puerto Rico earlier this month to lead a roundtable discussions with local agricultural officials, farmers and ranchers, USDA agency leaders, economic investors, and scientists, and to view first-hand the Hub’s pioneering work in climate change research, education and outreach.

“Adaptation to climate change is a matter of National Security.  We need to have a functional food economy to counter food insecurity,” said Secretary Vilsack during the Climate Hub Roundtable held at the El Yunque National Forest.  Local USDA agency leaders expressed concern about the increasing incidence of pests and diseases affecting agriculture and forestry in the Caribbean, mostly related to climate change, and the need for more education and support for water and soil conservation measures. Read more »

Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub Extension and Outreach Team Develop Regional Efforts

USDA NPRCH Extension and Outreach team

USDA NPRCH Extension and Outreach team at the June 2015 retreat. Photo from Pam Freeman, USDA, Rangeland Research Resource Unit

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

The USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub (NPRCH) partnered with the 1914 Cooperative Extension programs in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North and South Dakota, and Nebraska to develop and deliver science-based, region specific information and technologies to agricultural and natural resource managers to enable them to make climate-informed decisions.  The team has met monthly since June 2015, and through their efforts and partnership with the NPRCH they reached out to Extension colleagues to develop relevant projects that meet stakeholder needs in the region.

Since becoming partners, the NPRCH Extension and Outreach participants have developed the following three efforts, which they will work on during the coming year. Read more »

Spring Climate Trends Changing in the Northeast

Freezing rain covering a flower

Freezing rain covers flowers, plants and trees in Falls Church, VA, like when unseasonably warm March is followed by last frost. USDA photo by Lance Cheung

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

You might have noticed spring-like weather in the Northeast is arriving earlier than usual.  There is reliable evidence from many studies that conditions in the Northeast and upper Midwest have become warmer and wetter in recent decades, especially before the coming of winter and spring.  The spring-like warmth has snow melting faster and plant growth starting sooner.  On average, the last spring frost in the Northeast is about a week earlier now than it was 30 years ago.  The change is not as positive as one might expect since the start of growth for many plants has shifted even earlier than the last frost date leading to increased chances of frost damage.  This happens most often when unusually warm temperatures in March are followed within 2-5 weeks by a frost event.  In 2012, record high March temperatures were followed by record low temperatures (for the date) at the end of April with terrible consequences for fruit growers across Michigan, Ontario, New York, Vermont, and surrounding states.  In some places losses were almost total.  In something of a repeat, unusual warmth in the Northeast this past winter was interrupted by very cold outbreaks in mid-February and early April.  This combination was particularly bad for peaches in New Jersey, Connecticut, parts of New York, and other northeastern states where greater than 90% losses have been reported. Read more »

USDA’s Agricultural Ties Run Deep

Mary Louise Reynnells (right) and Shellie Wallace-Polin in their FFA jackets, 1977.

Mary Louise Reynnells (right) and Shellie Wallace-Polin in their FFA jackets, 1977.

Earlier this year, in preparation for the 2015 opening of a new business history exhibition, American Enterprise, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History put out a call for current and past members of the National FFA Organization to submit their FFA jackets accompanied with their own personal agricultural history. The jackets and stories, to be featured in the agricultural portion of the exhibition, will examine the significance that agricultural education continues to play to our national identity.

At a ceremony last week, five jackets and their stories were selected; among them, a jacket from President Jimmy Carter and a jacket from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service employee Mary “Louise” Reynnells. USDA employees work every day to ensure that American farmers have access to the opportunities they need, and many of their ties to agriculture extend well beyond their time at USDA. Here is Mary “Louise” Reynnells’s story, and with it, her contribution to our agricultural heritage. Read more »