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Posts tagged: innovation

Challenge Competition Brings Together Designers, Coders and Government for Innovation

Winning submissions of the E.A.T. School Lunch U.X. Challenge featured on contest website

Winning submissions of the E.A.T. School Lunch U.X. Challenge featured on contest website.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) teamed up with techies across the nation to strengthen the integrity and improve the user experience of the National School Lunch Program application.  On December 1, 2015, we launched a public “hackathon” contest – the E.A.T. (Electronic Application Transformation) School Lunch U.X. Challenge – to tap into this country’s greatest resource: its people.

Designers and coders have been working furiously to develop a forward-thinking, web-based application for the school meal programs that would revolutionize the way households apply for free and reduced price meals.  Nearly 50 individuals, teams and organizations submitted electronic application prototypes, and a panel of five expert judges took to the task of selecting the winners. Read more »

A High Five for Innovative Conservation Projects

“The Conservation Innovation Grant program has an impressive track record of fostering innovative conservation tools and strategies,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as he announced $20 million in new funding for the program. “Successes in the program can translate into new opportunities for historically underserved landowners, help resolve pressing water conservation challenges and leverage new investments in conservation partnerships with farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders.”

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) fosters innovation in conservation tools and strategies to improve things like on-farm energy and fertilizer use as well as market-based strategies to improve water quality or mitigate climate change. Last year CIG began supporting the burgeoning field of conservation finance and impact investing to attract more private dollars to science-based solutions to benefit both producers and the environment. Read more »

Innovative Irrigation Saves Water, Boosts Yields in Ogallala Aquifer Region

Project Manager Leon New discussing the progress of the 3, 4, 5 demonstration project

Project Manager Leon New discusses the progress of the 3, 4, 5 demonstration project at a 2015 district producer field day.

In the Ogallala Aquifer region, each drop of water counts. A group of forward-thinking farmers in Texas are finding innovative ways to irrigate their crops to use water more efficiently.

These farmers are working with the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in the panhandle to study use of water from the aquifer. The Ogallala is the nation’s largest aquifer and is being depreciated by water withdrawals at an unsustainable rate. Read more »

Innovation in Conservation – A New Slate of NRCS Environmental Markets Projects

A wheat field

50,000 acres of rangeland in North and South Dakota have permanent protection when enrolled into a carbon offset program through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant. These offsets will be sold on the voluntary market. Photo credit: Scott Bauer.

Environmental markets—the buying and selling of ecosystem services like clean air and water, and wildlife habitat—help more private landowners get conservation on the ground. Markets attract non-Federal funding to conservation, complement USDA’s work with agricultural producers, and can yield natural resource improvement at a lower cost to other approaches.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is a Federal leader in supporting the development of environmental markets, largely through its Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. Among CIG recipients are one of the earliest and most successful water quality trading programs in Ohio’s Great Miami River watershed and the Ohio River Basin water quality trading program, a recipient of the U.S. Water Prize this year. Also through CIG, USDA hosted an event in November 2014 celebrating a first-of-its-kind transaction—the purchase by Chevrolet of carbon credits generated on ranch lands in North Dakota. Read more »

An Update on the EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets

Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Ann Mills addresses the audience at the first ever EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets

Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Ann Mills addresses the audience at the first ever EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets.

This week, I have the privilege of participating in the first ever EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska.  More than 200 attendees from agriculture, utilities, industry, state agencies, and research institutions gathered at the University of Nebraska’s aptly named “Innovation Center” to think critically about how we can improve and expand water quality markets across the country.

As Secretary Vilsack noted in his introductory video remarks, water quality markets can be effective tools in helping communities improve the quality of their water at lower cost.  Markets create financial incentives for private landowners to manage their lands more sustainably to produce cleaner water while generating environmental benefits at lower cost.  They promote public awareness of the role sustainable private land management can play in protecting public health and natural ecosystems. They inject private dollars and innovation into efforts to improve water quality – leveraging finite federal funding. Read more »

Taking Note of Paper’s Popularity

Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds campaign infographic

Through its Paper & Packaging – How Life Unfolds campaign, the Paper and Packaging Board reminds us of the many ways we are connected to paper. Photo courtesy of the Paper and Packaging Board. (Click to enlarge)

Kindle, iPad, and Surface—oh my! It’s fascinating to think about the increasing number of electronic tablets in the marketplace. However, a recent survey suggests that students and educators alike grab another notepad when it comes to comprehending what they’ve read. And that notepad is made of paper.

In fact, 74 percent of college educators surveyed in the 2015 Annual Back to School Report said that their students are more likely to stay focused when they are using a notebook and textbook rather than a laptop. Almost 80 percent of the K-12 teachers in this same survey also said that their students comprehend information better when they read on paper. As such, 63 percent of the teachers surveyed indicated that their courses involved paper-based learning. Read more »