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Posts tagged: California

Organic Sound and Sensible Resources: Expanding Organic Education through Others

A group of people in front of high tunnels

The NCAT sound and sensible project focused on educating farmers and ranchers in the Gulf States region about organic production, as well as helping facilitate organic certification.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP) is continuing to launch new resources resulting from our Sound and Sensible Initiative, which is making organic certification more accessible, affordable, and attainable. Today, we are launching resources that help those who help others – guides and resources that help organizations reach out to and educate potential organic farmers. These resources were produced by our partners in the organic community, all of whom have on-the-ground experience teaching producers about the organic option. Read more »

SBIR Grantee’s Response to Killer Beetles: SPLAT!

Mountain Lake With Pine Beetle Damaged Forest

Mountain pine beetle infestation has devastated pine forests in western North America, creating vast areas of “dead-crown zombie trees.” (iStock image)

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program at USDA offers competitively awarded grants to qualified small businesses to support high quality, advanced concepts research related to important scientific problems and opportunities in agriculture that could lead to significant public benefits.  The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers SBIR Phase I grants that are limited to $100,000 and a duration of 8 months, and Phase II grants of up to $500,000 and 24 months that are open only to Phase I awardees. Below is the first-hand account of NIFA-funded SBIR research from Agenor Mafra-Neto, President and CEO of ISCA Technologies, Inc.

It might sound like the subject of the lamest B-horror flick ever made, but for pine trees in western North America, it’s a true story—the plant world’s equivalent of a zombie plague that has destroyed an estimated 723 million cubic of timber on more than 17.5 million hectares of forested land.

All on account of a tiny mountain pine beetle (MPB), no larger than a single grain of rice. Read more »

A Home for the Backbone of California Agriculture

Children at Calistoga Family Apartments, a farm labor housing complex, enjoying one of the many group games during the after-school program “Kids Club”

Children at Calistoga Family Apartments, a farm labor housing complex, enjoy one of the many group games during the after-school program “Kids Club”. The on-site program also offers healthy snacks, help with homework and access to computers.

California and agriculture go hand in hand; it’s hard to talk about one without mentioning the other. Similarly, we can’t talk about our farmers and ranchers and not mention the farm workers – the backbone of California’s agriculture industry.

Eduardo Jaramillo has spent much of his life working in the vineyards in Calistoga, part of California’s world-renowned Napa Valley wine region. “I love working with the earth, I can’t imagine ever doing anything else,” he explained. To afford housing, he and his wife shared a house with their adult son. But when an electrical malfunction caused a fire – destroying the house – they were devastated. They lost everything. With help from their church they were able to find new housing, but the high rent coupled with the added burden of replacing their furniture and other basic necessities proved too much. They faced the real possibility of being forced to leave Calistoga, and the vineyards Eduardo had spent his life cultivating. Read more »

Organic Sound and Sensible Resources: Understanding Rules, Certification, and Inspections

A tractor on a farm

Farmers and producers debunk common myths around organic certification in a new Sound & Sensible video resource.

Last month, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP) announced new resources resulting from our Sound and Sensible Initiative, which is making organic certification more accessible, affordable, and attainable. Today, we are introducing more guides, videos, and other tools – all produced by our partners in the organic community. These resources help farms and businesses understand the USDA organic standards, certification process, and inspections in more depth. Read more »

High Five Series: Rural America is Home for the Holidays

One of the fifty families in New Hampshire

One of the fifty families in New Hampshire whose affordable rental home was preserved for 30 more Holiday seasons to come.

Oh, there’s nooooo place like hooooome for the holidays… Every time I hear that song I get an extra spring in my step knowing that I work for an organization that helped more than 160,000 families afford to buy, rent, or repair their homes this year. That’s 160,000 families in rural America that are home for the Holidays.

This year, 50 New Hampshire families living in one of our rental housing facilities were on the verge of losing their homes, but because of local community action groups, and my amazing team of affordable rural housing professionals, USDA Rural Development is able to continue to provide rental assistance to 50 Granite State families for the next 30 years.  Last month, we were able to close a deal that will keep these 50 families, and an additional 50 elderly and disabled tenants in a neighboring affordable housing community in their homes affordably for the next 30 years. Read more »

2015: A Banner Year for School Meals and the Health of our Nation’s Schoolchildren

It’s been another outstanding year for healthier school meals programs and the millions of American students that benefit from them.  Today, more than 97 percent of schools nationwide report they are meeting the updated school meal standards, which are based on pediatricians’ and nutritionists’ recommendations. The new meals provide children more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and low-fat dairy, as well as less sugar, fat, and sodium.  There are numerous examples of how schools are providing a healthier school environment with more nutritious options to students across the country, but below are just a few: Read more »