Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at a press conference in Fairfax, VA. USDA photo by David Kosling.
USDA has a long history of helping farmers, ranchers and forest landowners maintain their bottom line while improving soil health and reducing runoff into streams and rivers. For nearly 80 years, USDA has offered funding and technical assistance for farmers to implement conservation practices through the conservation title of the Farm Bill. In recent years, however, USDA has also supported new, innovative approaches to voluntary, private lands conservation.
An announcement today by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and Administrator Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in northern Virginia highlights an innovative approach called water quality trading. Farmers like John Harrison of Appomattox County are taking advantage of private investments to implement conservation practices on their land. These practices help reduce erosion and nutrient runoff into local bodies of water, generating nutrient credits that can then be sold to regulated entities looking to offset nutrient losses for compliance purposes. Read more »
Researchers at USDA Agricultural Research Service help reduce food waste by developing new ways to extend food shelf life and by creating new food products, biobased plastics, and animal feed from food waste. USDA photo by Stephen Ausmus.
Less than 2 years ago, the USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, with the goal of reducing food waste in the United States. We set an ambitious goal of having at least 400 businesses, schools, and/or organizations join the challenge by letting us know what they are doing to reduce food waste in their operations. USDA also committed to finding ways in which its 33 agencies and offices could help reduce food waste through policy, partnerships, and research.
As of today, we have surpassed our membership goal by signing up 1,313 participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.
The number and diversity of participants joining the challenge are indicative of a growing movement to reduce food waste that is spreading across the country. Read more »
Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:
Around the country, communities are seeking creative approaches to integrating entrepreneurship, environmental management, public health, and other place-based considerations into successful economic planning. Local food development can be one strategy.
The White House Rural Council and six federal agencies have selected 26 communities to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support and expertise to community partners integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of federal agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health, and regional economic experts will work directly with communities to develop specific local food projects. These efforts will make a significant impact in the communities participating in the Local Foods, Local Places initiative. Read more »
Bed bug infestations are becoming more common and are extremely difficult to control. (stock photo)
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.
Most are familiar with the phase, “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite,” but few people know what a bed bug looks like or problems they can cause. From World War II until just recently, bed bugs were not at all common in the United States. Bed bugs are now found in many homes, apartments, college dorm rooms, and even in public facilities such as theaters, hospitals, schools, and libraries. Now that bed bugs are back, everyone needs to know how to recognize them, how they move from one location to the next, and where they hide so we can prevent large infestations. Read more »
A water sample taken from the last wetland in a filtering system in use on a farm in Taylor County, Iowa. Wetlands and other conservation practices on agricultural land can improve water quality, and may allow producers the option of selling water quality credits in a water quality trading market. Photo Credit: NRCS
USDA has a long history of working with partners to meet the needs of America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners while striving to sustain the natural resources we rely on. American farmers produce food for the U.S. and the world, and also provide benefits for air, water and habitats through the adoption of conservation practices. In recent years, USDA has taken a more innovative approach to conservation by supporting the development of water quality trading markets.
Water quality trading can lower the costs of cleaning up waterways by allowing sources of pollutants with high costs of reducing pollution to purchase credits from others with lower costs. Often agricultural producers have relatively low costs of improving water quality, which makes farmers and ranchers prime candidates to generate water quality credits for sale. This offers the agricultural sector opportunities to improve the natural resource base and earn additional income through credit sales. Read more »
Often I am asked to participate in events in my role as a Deputy Undersecretary. Other times I participate based on my heritage, as a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe. Sometimes, the lines blur, as they did recently when I addressed those attending the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign meeting here at USDA.
Pollinator health is tied closely to the overall health of ecosystems. Pollinators are important to producers of a wide variety of crops, and to forest health. Native Americans grasp how all things are interconnected. I told the audience that when I was a boy, my relatives would sing songs in Apache. These songs were about things in nature: evergreens, water, even the rocks. All things are tied to Mother Earth: all things work together. So it is with pollinators. Read more »