As an ecosystem ecologist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators are near and dear to me. Not only are they vital to agricultural production, providing billions of dollars in pollination services for the fruits, nuts and vegetables that contribute to a healthy diet, they are also important members of natural ecosystems, pollinating the plants that many other organisms rely on for food and habitat. Yet pollinators have been having a rocky time, lately. Beekeepers have struggled to maintain their honey bee colonies, the primary pollinators for our crops in the United States. They are managing a suite of simultaneous and interacting stressors to bee health, including severe weather episodes, inadequate nutrition, exposure to pesticides, and numerous damaging pests and diseases. Native pollinators also seem to be struggling with some of these same stressors, as well as land use change and habitat loss. Because of the incredible diversity of native pollinators, we know much less about their individual populations and the factors affecting their health. Read more »
Cross-posted from the White House blog:
Pollinators are critical to the Nation’s economy, food security, and environmental health. Honey bee pollination alone adds more than $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year, and helps ensure that our diets include ample fruits, nuts, and vegetables. This tremendously valuable service is provided to society by honey bees, native bees and other insect pollinators, birds, and bats.
But pollinators are struggling. Last year, beekeepers reported losing about 40% of honey bee colonies, threatening the viability of their livelihoods and the essential pollination services their bees provide to agriculture. Monarch butterflies, too, are in jeopardy. The number of overwintering Monarchs in Mexico’s forests has declined by 90% or more over the past two decades, placing the iconic annual North American Monarch migration at risk. Read more »
A Conservation Innovation Grant recipient accepts award from the U.S. Water Alliance. Photo courtesy NRCS.
When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) awarded a Conservation Innovation Grant to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in 2009, the notion of administering the nation’s largest water quality trading program in the Ohio River Basin was a twinkle in the eye of EPRI scientist Jessica Fox.
Fast forward to 2015—the multi-state water-trading program is a reality, and the Institute was one of three entities to be awarded this year’s Water Prize by the U.S. Water Alliance. Read more »
Have questions about items in your refrigerator or pantry? USDA has a new app that can help.
How many times have you gone into your pantry or refrigerator, only to find that what you were going to use in your meal was spoiled? The USDA, Cornell University and the Food Marketing Institute would like to help you avoid that problem in the future with our new application, the FoodKeeper.
Every year, billions of pounds of good food go to waste in the U.S. because home cooks are not sure of the quality or safety of items. USDA estimates that 21% of the available food in the U.S. goes uneaten at the consumer level. In total, 36 pounds of food per person is wasted each month at the retail and consumer levels! Read more »
City Harvest rescues excess food using a fleet of 19 refrigerated trucks, three cargo bikes, over 150 full-time employees, and more than 8,000 volunteers. In fiscal year 2015, they will collect 50 million pounds of food, greater than the total amount of food collected in its first 14 years combined. Seventy-five percent of this total will be comprised of nutrient dense foods, including fresh produce, meat and dairy. Photo courtesy of City Harvest.
Beginning in August, food banks across the country competed to see who could sign up the most food donors to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge. From among the 200 food banks in the Feeding America network, the champion is City Harvest in New York City, which won by signing up 114 donors to the Challenge. City Harvest will have a private meeting with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and will be awarded six suite tickets to attend either an NBA or NHL game at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. The tickets were donated by Monumental Sports and Entertainment (MSE), owner of the Washington Capitals, Mystics, Wizards, and Verizon Center. Since 2011, MSE has recovered and donated 7,377 pounds of wholesome unsold food from its events to D.C. Central Kitchen, which translates to approximately 5,600 meals.
“We appreciate City Harvest’s longstanding commitment to food rescue and congratulate them for signing up the most food donors to the U.S. Food Waste Challenge,” said Secretary Vilsack. “The United States enjoys the most productive and abundant food supply on earth, but too much of this food goes to waste. Organizations like City Harvest get this food to people who need it while reducing the amount of food that ends up in our country’s landfills.” Read more »
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 »