The Vergennes-Panton Water District along Lake Champlain in Vermont was able to upgrade the city's water treatment plant with support from USDA. The Department is working through several agencies to help improve water quality in the lake. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources are uniting partners to engage and support farmers and forest landowners who use voluntary conservation practices that lead to cleaner water. Called the “Accelerated Implementation of Agricultural and Forestry Conservation Practices in the Lake Champlain Watershed of Vermont and New York,” this project will provide outreach to farmers throughout the watershed and help connect them with innovative conservation solutions for their land. Read more »
Patrick Graham, State Director, The Nature Conservancy in Arizona (left) and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday near Phoenix. The Secretary announced that 115 projects across all 50 states, will receive more than $370 million in Federal funding as part of the new USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program. NRCS photo.
When USDA unveiled the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program last year, I said that this effort would pioneer a new era of conservation. As of today, the program is doing just that—leveraging an unprecedented three-quarters-of-a-billion dollar investment in projects to preserve clean land and water and create new jobs across the country.
One of the innovative programs in the 2014 Farm Bill, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program brings a wide variety of new partners together—from private businesses, to universities, to local and Tribal governments, to non-profit organizations and more—to develop their own action plans and to pledge their own resources to the project. Local organizations are in the driver’s seat, setting priorities and developing conservation projects that make sense for their communities. Read more »
Michael Brown shows the key places he and others at the NRCS work with ranchers and other partners to conserve and connect sage-grouse habitat. SGI photo by Deborah Richie.
When many different groups come together for a common goal, the impacts can be tremendous. That’s the case for the sage-grouse, an at-risk bird in the American West. Since 2010, over 1,100 ranches have teamed with the Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI) and conserved 4.4 million acres across 11 western states, an area equivalent of 2 Yellowstone National Parks. The diverse partnership led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service includes ranchers, state and federal agencies, universities, non-profit groups and businesses that rally around a common vision of conserving wildlife through sustainable ranching.
SGI continues to grow and just over the weekend ConocoPhillips announced the company will invest $1 million to further strengthen the partnership. The contribution was made to the Intermountain West Joint Venture, one of the key partners of SGI. New funding will be used to extend the partnership through 2019 by providing $200,000 per year to support SGI’s Strategic Watershed Action Team, or SWAT. This team provides field delivery, science, communications and partner development support to SGI. Read more »
The USDA Climate Hubs are almost one year old! Since February of 2014, we have made considerable progress by developing networks that connect researchers to landowners; by evaluating available tools that can help land managers with management decisions regarding risk management; by synthesizing regional risks and vulnerabilities; and we have learned a lot along the way.
The Hubs are about developing and delivering science-based, region-specific information and technologies, with the help of USDA agencies and partners, to agricultural and natural resource managers and communities. Land managers and communities desire healthy, resilient, productive, and profitable agricultural or natural ecosystems that are sustainable over time. The Hubs’ role is to work with (and as) advisers to land managers by providing information and tools to help them achieve their goals in an environment filled with climate-related stresses and risks. The Hubs’ initial focus is on communicating with our stakeholders and developing networks with our partners. This includes communicating research to Certified Crop Advisors, relaying stakeholder needs to science organizations, or just making sure the lines of communication are open among the respective science and information providers and managers of working lands. Read more »
Feeding students healthy, tasty and nutritious school meals can be a challenge. Just ask any one of the thousands of school nutrition professionals who carry out the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. They have to balance menu planning following nutrition standards, financial management, and inventory management, all while making meals that will be enjoyed by students – not always an easy audience. It is a testament to their dedication that over 90 percent of America’s schools have now implemented the improved standards found in the Healthy Hungry Free Kids Act of 2010.
USDA is working hard to find ways to continue to support their efforts. One way we are doing that is a new program that we recently piloted in Mississippi that provides free training through a partnership with the National Food Service Management Institute (NFSMI). The Team Up For School Nutrition Success Training (Team Up) is tailored to schools and covers topics like menu planning, financial management, procurement, meal presentation and appeal, as well as youth engagement tactics, and strategies to reduce plate waste.
Another partner in this initiative is First Lady Michelle Obama. Mrs. Obama is grateful for the hard work being done in our country’s school cafeterias, but also recognizes that some may need a little help. When she heard about our initiative, she took the time to make a video to not only thank and encourage the dedicated school food service professional around the country, but to encourage them to take advantage of Team Up. Hear with the First Lady had to say about Team Up:
Shortly after taking office, I joined other Cabinet officials on a visit to rural Southwest Alaska. We met with Alaska Native leaders and heard firsthand the difficulties facing Native Americans living in small communities in remote, rural areas. Since that time, this administration has worked each day to provide Native Americans with improved housing, better educational opportunities, clean water and sanitation, and the opportunity to create good jobs. Across government, and here at USDA, we’ve made progress.
This past week, I joined President Obama and members of the Cabinet at the sixth White House Tribal Nations Conference here in Washington, DC. In addition to serving as the Chair of the White House Rural Council, I am also a member of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, chaired by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Our priorities in Indian Country include promoting sustainable economic development; supporting greater access to and control over healthcare; improving the effectiveness and efficiency of tribal justice systems; expanding and improving educational opportunities for Native American youth; and protecting and supporting the sustainable management of Native lands, environments and natural resources. Read more »