The packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC packinghouse in Palmetto, Fla. is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. USDA Photo by Hakim Fobia.
Successful businesses all seem to have a common bond – a commitment to quality, consistency, and integrity. During a recent trip with my colleagues, I saw firsthand the many ways that companies are turning to my agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – to provide these factors to pave their path to success.
Our first stop was the packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC in Palmetto, Fla. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. The fascinating thing about West Coast Tomato LLC is that the facility is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. “Our use of technology has significantly decreased our re-packing,” says plant director John Darling. “As a result, we’re better equipped to meet buyer requirements.” Read more »
USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, Michael Scuse, talks with Florida agriculture leaders at the Port of Tampa to discuss trade issues and the Trade Promotion Authority.
Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting USDA Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Under Secretary, Michael Scuse, here in Florida for an agricultural trade roundtable. Mr. Scuse met with more than 25 Florida agriculture leaders at the Port of Tampa to discuss trade issues and talk about Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).
Trade Promotion Authority, which needs Congressional approval, is a critical tool in our efforts to seek approval of trade agreements that support and create U.S. jobs while helping American agriculture compete more successfully in an ever-expanding global marketplace. Right now, the United States is negotiating two critical trade agreements – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Trade Promotion Authority would help ensure that America’s farmers, ranchers, and food processors receive the greatest benefit from these negotiations. Read more »
Healthy seagrass meadows prevent erosion on coasts, store carbon, and provide marine animals with food and habitat. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency)
Just off Florida’s 8,000 miles of coastline and tidal areas, in shallow sunlit waters, over two million acres of seagrass meadows waft in the ocean currents.
Besides providing food and habitat for manatees, sea turtles, shellfish, and other animals, seagrasses protect coasts from erosion and store vast quantities of carbon dioxide.
“Seagrasses grow off the coast of many other U.S. states, including North Carolina and Virginia, as well as around the world,” said U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station scientist Zanethia Choice. “Globally, their economic value is nearly $4 trillion.” Read more »
U.S. Forest Service ski ranger Nancy McNab talks about safety before taking a group skiing as part of the Arapahoe National Forest’s Ski with a Ranger program. (U.S. Forest Service)
Finding unique gifts for Valentine’s Day just got a whole lot easier. With 122 ski areas, and thousands of miles of trails, rivers and streams, the U.S. Forest Service has plenty of ideas for a special outing with your loved one.
Show some warmth by sweeping your loved one away from colder climates to Ocala National Forest in Florida where temperatures are likely to be in the upper 60s or low 70s. Ocala has more than 27 first-magnitude springs, and forest visitors have long enjoyed Juniper Springs. There are hundreds of tiny bubbling springs, and underground water gushes out of crevices in the earth beneath a dense canopy of palms and oaks. The area is truly an oasis that is bound to warm hearts. It’s a popular place, so book your reservations at Recreation.gov. Read more »
Longleaf Pine forest (photo by William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)
As a kid, I spent Christmas vacations with my family and my grandfather in the longleaf pine forests of South Carolina. While my grandfather and father (and later me) were quail hunters, you don’t have to be a sportsman or a sportswoman to appreciate longleaf pine. Longleaf forests are home to countless wildlife species, a diversity of plants, and provide valuable wood products, such as heart-pine floors that are cherished across the South. Longleaf forests once covered some 90 million acres along the Southeast coastal plain, but over the past two centuries, development, conversion, ill-planned timbering, and fire suppression have reduced longleaf’s range to a mere sliver of its former extent.
USDA and our many conservation partners are working to restore longleaf forests, and we’ve seen significant progress in the recent years. Now, a new Farm Bill program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP, is providing additional support to the effort. Read more »
Meet Bobby, a “Super Kid” who champions nutritious food choices and physical activity for America’s school children. Photo courtesy of Fuel Up to Play 60.
Minutes before the National Football League (NFL) teams of Super Bowl XLIX took the field, a middle school student from Orlando, Fla., had the honor of handing the game ball to an NFL official for the kickoff. But Bobby did much more than hand off that football. As this year’s NFL Play 60 “Super Kid,” the 12-year-old boy helped to inspire students across America to exercise daily and eat healthier foods.
He accomplished this feat through his relentless work with the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP60) program, an outreach and education initiative founded by the National Dairy Council and the NFL, in collaboration with USDA. The program encourages youth in nearly 73,000 schools, representing almost 36 million students, to consume nutrient-rich foods—low-fat and fat-free dairy, fruit, vegetables and whole grains—and achieve 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Read more »