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 »
The Wildland Firefighters Monument in Boise, Idaho, includes three eight-foot bronze firefighters standing in silent testimony to hard-working men and women on the fireline. A waterfall built by a team of volunteers showcases native rock gathered from a local quarry by the Boise Smokejumpers. (U.S. Forest Service)
This week the nation stops to remember historic losses in the wildland firefighter community as we pay homage to the 14 lives lost in the 1994 South Canyon Fire in Colorado, the 19 lives lost in the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona last year and the others who have lost their lives serving the public.
From June 30 to July 6, 2014, the interagency wildland fire management community is honoring all those who have lost their lives in the line of duty by participating in a Week to Remember, Reflect, and Learn. Read more »
NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.
Every winter Westerners look to the mountains and may not realize they’re peering into the future. More snow cap means more water come spring and summer. Many lives and livelihoods depend on nature’s uneven hand.
Thanks to USDA’s National Water and Climate Center, what used to be speculation is now science. Through a network of high-elevation weather stations across the West, the center accurately forecasts how much water Western states will receive from snowmelt.
The data benefits everyone in the path of the streamflow. The center’s water supply forecasts empower states to take action to prevent flooding or prepare for drought. Some farmers look to the water supply forecast when deciding what crops to grow. It’s like playing chess with nature, and you can almost see nature’s next move. Read more »