A vampire bat in Mexico. Photo by Luis Lecuna, USDA APHIS, International Services, Mexico.
All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. For APHIS, changes in environmental conditions will increase the likelihood of shifts in the distribution and nature of current domestic diseases, invasive species and agricultural pests. These changes will likely influence the dynamics of invasion and establishment of these diseases and pests, and therefore much of APHIS’ work. Understanding and adapting to these changes is therefore critical to meeting our mission.
Vampire bats rank high on the list of animals that scare us the most. Spooky Halloween tales of their blood-sucking, nocturnal, and secretive habits have likely led to their bad reputation. The fact that some also carry and spread the deadly rabies virus doesn’t help.
The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of Central and South American wildlife and livestock. They also sometimes bite and feed on the blood of people. Recently, vampire bats have been documented within 35 miles of the Texas border. This has caused concern and speculation about the potential movement of vampire bats to areas within the United States as a result of rising global temperatures. To gain a better understanding of the likelihood of such movement, USDA-APHIS geneticist Dr. Toni Piaggio with the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center partnered with U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Mark Hayes to analyze and map the potential distribution of vampire bats under various climate scenarios. Read more »
Turkeys in Texas engaging in courting before laying eggs, which are increasingly at risk from feral swine. Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Spring brings new life to the fields and forests and wild turkeys are one of the most interesting spectacles this time of year. Male turkeys gobble and strut to attract the attention of hen turkeys. Hens, in turn, go off and lay their eggs- one egg each day until the clutch is complete and the hens then begin incubation.
Unfortunately, this spring more than ever, wild turkeys across the U.S. are facing an increasing threat from a new and rapidly expanding population of nest predators…feral swine. Feral swine, also known as wild pigs, feral hogs, and wild boars, are not native to North America and are the descendants of domestic swine which either escaped or were liberated. In some cases, feral swine are intentionally released to create new hunting opportunities. But these opportunities come at the expense of other wildlife, including ground nesting birds such as the wild turkey. Feral swine are highly adaptable and can learn to seek out turkey nests even before the hen starts incubation, consuming the eggs when left unprotected. When a partially completed clutch is depredated, the hen is forced to start over, depleting vital reserves within herself as well as risking lower nest success and chick survival. Read more »
USDA Deputy Under Secretary Lanon Baccam talks futures in Ag for veterans to a packed house at a Ft. Bliss transitions summit in El Paso, Texas.
Each year, nearly 200,000 servicemen and women separate from active duty in the United States military. According to the Department of Defense, this results in approximately 1,300 new veterans and their families returning to civilian life every single day, numbers that are expected to increase in the coming years. While many returning troops have plans and objectives upon their return home, many others have challenges finding new jobs, identifying health care resources, or integrating their skills into new careers.
For veterans exploring the next step in their careers and lives, USDA stands ready to help. With rural Americans comprising only 16 percent of our total population, but about 40 percent of our military, USDA believes that the enormous scope of unique skills, experiences and perspectives held by those who served in the U.S. military can have enormous benefit for farming and ranching. Read more »
The new West Texas Food Bank facility has a dedicated client service area to help fulfill patrons’ nutritional needs.
March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.
West Texans fighting food insecurity have a new resource to combat hunger. The West Texas Food Bank held the grand opening of their new 60,000 square foot location during a recent ceremony in Odessa.
In operation since 1985, the West Texas Food Bank saw the need for food grow exponentially in their communities, requiring them to expand their services. The new facility replaces the East 2nd Street building, and is a first-of-its-kind in West Texas. Thanks to generous donations from area philanthropists committed to fighting hunger locally, the facility will help meet the nutritional needs of more than 31,000 people living in poverty or food insecurity in Midland County, while serving 18 other West Texas counties. According to the West Texas Food Bank Executive Director, Libby Campbell, the new facility offers more program opportunities for seniors, children, families and the homeless. Read more »
“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 »
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 »