An adult spotted lanternfly (Photo courtesy of Bugwood)
Last year, an invasive pest known as the spotted lanternfly was found in the United States for the first time ever in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Tucked away in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Berks County may seem an unlikely location to find a foreign pest, but with today’s global economy unwanted pests can show up almost anywhere.
In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is working closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) to stop this pest from spreading. APHIS has already contributed more than $1 million in Farm Bill funding to support the response effort in Pennsylvania, and PDA quickly established a quarantine area and regulated the movement of potential host material to help protect other communities. Read more »
Today the Environmental Protection Agency released its new Clean Water Rule to help provide greater clarity on certain aspects of the Clean Water Act.
The Clean Water Act has successfully reversed the effects of harmful pollution in America’s waters for over 40 years. However, recent Supreme Court cases caused tremendous confusion over which waters the Act would continue to cover. There was broad agreement among Members of Congress, farmers and ranchers and other business owners that more clarity was needed to define precisely where the Clean Water Act applies.
USDA urged the EPA to listen to input from farmers and agri-business owners who need clear expectations and long-term certainty so they can effectively run their operations. EPA is seeking to provide that certainty with the development of this Clean Water Rule, and we appreciate that Administrator McCarthy and her staff have made a very concerted effort to incorporate the agricultural community’s views.
The following is a blog from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy on the Clean Water Rule and agriculture. Read more »
Spring is now upon us and many local farmers markets are opening with displays of brilliant and vibrant colors. Farmers across the country are making local foods available to their communities. USDA photo courtesy of Peter Wood, AMS.
Spring is upon us and many local farmers markets are opening with displays of brilliant and vibrant colors. The fresh air has more people talking about and buying local foods. In fact, data from the USDA Economic Research Service suggests that farmers across the country sold an estimated $6.1 billion in locally marketed foods in 2012. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a role in increasing these numbers by creating marketing opportunities for American farmers and local food businesses through the combination of applied research, technical services, and grant support.
As the demand for local food increases, food hubs are one way farmers can deliver more fresh food to retailers, schools, hospitals and restaurants. That’s why expanding local food efforts have focused on creating more food hubs. A food hub is an enterprise that helps farmers collect and gather local and regional agricultural products for distribution and marketing to wholesale, retail, and institutional customers. Read more »
A classic example of a pellet group in the Pennsylvania spring woods - evidence that white-tailed deer overwintered in this area. The shed antler was a bonus find on this particular plot. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
It’s a cool 37 degrees Fahrenheit as Alex Royo and I step out of the Forest Service truck and on to the muddy forest road. With the meteorologist calling for sun and a high of 66 degrees by lunchtime, I am already faced with the day’s toughest decision – do I keep my warm jacket on or leave it in the truck? Either way, half of my 3.5-mile hike is going to be uncomfortable. A quick glance at Alex reveals that he has opted to leave his jacket behind. As we walk into the forest, I can’t help but notice the contrast of colorful spring beauties and trout lilies against the dull brown forest floor. And already, there is the object of my hike — deer pellets. To find pellets so early in the day one has to wonder, just how many deer are out here?
That’s the question that vexes hunters, scientists, and land managers throughout Pennsylvania and beyond. Each and every spring, a small army of individuals from the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, the Allegheny National Forest, multiple private land managing partners, and volunteers hike hundreds of miles of Pennsylvania’s forests to help determine how many deer the forest holds by counting the most visible part of a deer – deer pellets, which is the nicest term for deer waste. Read more »
Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally.
Anyone who owns or works with poultry—whether on a commercial farm, in the wild, or at a hobby/backyard farm—should take proper steps to keep HPAI from spreading. The best way to protect your birds is to follow good biosecurity. Even if you are already familiar with biosecurity, now is a good time to double-check your practices. You are the best protection your birds have! Read more »
Schools are successfully serving more nutritious meals to America’s students, and healthier meals mean healthier kids. USDA is constantly working to do everything we can to support school nutrition professionals as they work to provide kids the nutrition they need to learn and develop into healthy adults. To further assist schools, USDA announced the availability of up to $5.5 million in Team Nutrition training grants for states for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. These grants focus on the implementation of Smarter Lunchrooms – an innovative strategy using behavioral economics to encourage healthy eating in the cafeteria – as well as the healthier meal standards, HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), USDA Foods, nutrition education, and wellness activities in schools and child care institutions. To apply for the grants, state agencies should visit www.grants.gov.
Here are some examples of how Team Nutrition grants have helped schools in the past: Read more »