Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden present the Secretary’s Honor Award to the Pioneers Alliance group leader Michael S. Stevens at the U.S. Department of Agriculture 66th Annual Honor Awards Ceremony in Washington, D.C. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.
The Pioneers Alliance, a unique group of ranchers, community members, conservationists, elected officials and agency employees, is making a difference for sage grouse in south central Idaho. Based in Carey, Idaho, the alliance leads a local effort to protect working ranches and core sage grouse habitat near Sun Valley. So far, more than 65,400 acres are protected through private landowner conservation easements supported by Farm Bill programs.
Last week, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acknowledged the alliance’s work with the Secretary’s Honor Award for External Partnerships. This prestigious national award recognizes groups who have made outstanding contributions that support USDA’s mission and goals. Read more »
Last week, USDA celebrated National School Lunch Week from October 12 -18 with exciting local events across the country. It was a chance for USDA staff to meet with students and hear what they think of the newer, fresher options in the lunch room. It was also an opportunity for USDA officials to say “thank you” to the hardworking school food service professionals who make healthy school lunches possible.
Healthy meals at school are an essential part of every child’s health, development, and academic success. Students’ ability to learn in the classroom, grow up healthy and reach their fullest potential depends on the environment they learn in. And that is why Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, so that all our nation’s students can experience a healthier school environment with more nutritious options. Read more »
Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty
A strong rural economy benefits the whole nation. Sales of specialty crops – which include everything from fruits and vegetables to tree nuts, cut flowers and nursery crops – total nearly $65 billion per year. The success of specialty crop farmers and businesses creates opportunities for new jobs and is critical to the rural economy. That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is partnering with states to support the hardworking American farmers who grow these products.
This week Secretary Tom Vilsack announced millions of dollars in grant funding authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, including $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) awarded by AMS. The goal of the SCBG program is to promote and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers by supporting projects that create new business opportunities, boost productivity and improve food safety. Every state department of agriculture receives a block grant that it can use to fund projects that support its specific priorities. This year’s specialty crop block grants fund 838 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories.
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While providing children with nutritious meals is the top priority of USDA’s summer meal programs, activity programming is also important for healthy kids.
Libraries remain a part of the fiber of American communities, with over 123,000 operating across the nation. And in states like Idaho, libraries provided children with more than just books! For the second straight year, the Idaho Commission for Libraries teamed up with AmeriCorps VISTAs and local summer meal sites to offer “Literacy in the Park”, a program to bring fun educational activities to existing Summer Food Service Program meal sites.
They say “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it”! But “Literacy in the Park” proved that you can certainly add to it! Julie Armstrong from the Commission for Libraries said, “We thought, if kids are already at the parks eating, let’s offer them literacy activities along with those meals.” Ten AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers from the Idaho Foodbank assisted with literacy programs at different Boise sites, each sponsored by the Idaho Foodbank and the Oasis Food Center. Read more »
A sage grouse chick on the Big Creek Ranch - photo taken in the wet meadow area that's important for brood-rearing. (Alexis Collins, NRCS, photo)
The Natural Resources Conservation Service works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for sage grouse with funding through the Sage Grouse Initiative. Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers the 11 western state range of the bird. About 40 percent of the sage grouse dwell on private lands. Steve Stuebner is a freelance writer for the Sage Grouse Initiative, a partnership that includes NRCS.—Alexis Collins, NRCS Idaho
By Steve Stuebner, for the Sage Grouse Initiative
From a hilltop in the upper Pahsimeroi Valley, Rosana Rieth points to a large pancake-like flat. That’s where about 80-100 sage grouse come to mate each spring in the shadow of the highest mountain peaks in Idaho’s Lost River Mountains.
It’s a perfect spot for a sage grouse lek – the land is flat, surrounded by sagebrush, remote and next to the Pahsimeroi River. Read more »
The Mid-Snake River, near Twin Falls. Water Quality Trading is one way the States of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are working to protect their rivers. Photo courtesy of the Idaho DEQ Twin Falls Regional Office, used with permission.
The Pacific Northwest is known for its picturesque lakes, cascading streams and dramatic coastlines. The many rivers of the Pacific Northwest—the Yakima, the Snake, Snohomish, Willamette, Klamath, Boise, and others—are part of the cultural, economic and environmental foundation of the region. These waters are meaningful for local Native American Tribes, agricultural production, industries who rely on water resources, and local communities and tourists from around the world that enjoy fishing and other forms of recreation along Northwestern rivers and streams.
It’s no surprise that the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are interested in protecting their rivers to preserve these values, and the wildlife and ecosystems they’re a part of. More surprising, however, is the innovative way the states are collaborating to do it. Read more »