While rates of Salmonella illnesses remain stubbornly high in this country, the United States is continuing to rely on a 60-year-old poultry inspection system developed under the Eisenhower Administration. Our knowledge of foodborne illness and poultry processing has improved significantly since then, and our food safety measures should too. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has examined new approaches to poultry safety through an extensive multi-year pilot project. In January 2012, FSIS put forward a modernization proposal based on this project because the data showed modernizing our procedures to combat invisible pathogens, rather than relying extensively on visual inspection, could prevent 5,000 foodborne illnesses per year. As a public health agency, it is crucial that we make use of 21st century science to reduce pathogens and save lives.
Some of the changes being proposed in the modernization plan concern some groups who misunderstand what FSIS is putting forward. In particular, some have claimed that the allowed speed increase for evisceration lines would lead to higher injury rates among poultry plant workers. But a newly released report provides evidence that this isn’t the case. Read more »
Anthony Micheli and daughter Scarlett stand ready to sell their vegetables at a Texas Farmers Market. The vegetables are grown on Micheli and his wife’s (Brittany Davis) niche market operation financed by an FSA Microloan.
This post is part of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
When Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack hosted a town hall meeting in San Antonio, Texas, in January 2013, he shared information about USDA’s microloan program. The program allows beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access up to $35,000 in loans using a simplified application process.
Beginning farmers Brittany Davis and Anthony Micheli were in the audience and they were listening. The two were inspired to meet with their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) representatives to apply for a microloan. Read more »
A Dust Bowl era poster urged farmers to plant windbreaks.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
The language on the 1930s poster for the Prairie States Forestry Project was downright plaintive: “Trees Prevent Soil Erosion/Save Moisture/Protect Crops/Contribute to Human Comfort and Happiness.”
The mission of the project, initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt, was to encourage landowners to plant tree windbreaks on cropland ravaged by dust storms and drought. As a result, more than 210 million trees from North Dakota to Texas were planted in 18,500 miles of windbreaks, some of which still remain. Read more »
Hydrologists prepare to measure snowpack. (NRCS photo)
Limited water supplies are predicted in many areas west of the Continental Divide, according to this year’s second forecast by the National Water and Climate Center of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Right now, snow measuring stations in California, Nevada and Oregon that currently don’t have any snow, and a full recovery isn’t likely, the center’s staff said.
USDA is partnering with states, including those in the West, to help mitigate the severe effects of drought on agriculture. Read more »
USDA Deputy Undersecretary Ann Mills (ninth from left) visits with Leopold Conservation Award winners at USDA last week. USDA photo.
“Water conservation begins where the first drop of rain falls…most likely on private working lands.” This is a favorite saying of Tom Vandivier, a Texas cattle rancher and 2008 recipient of the Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award (LCA).
Tom was one of more than two dozen recipients of the LCA – which recognized landowners for achievement in environmental improvement on agricultural land – in Washington, D.C. last week. I was fortunate to meet with them here at USDA headquarters to talk about the importance of conservation and the need to spread the message that investing in conservation practices on our farm and ranch lands not only protects water, air and wildlife – it also makes economic sense. Read more »
Corn shows the affect of drought in Texas on Aug. 20, 2013. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.
I am a research scientist, by nature, training, and now more than 30 years of experience. I hold degrees in Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, Meteorology, and have done research in many sub-specialties of the last two, including climate science. My curiosity about the natural world never slows down, and I am not intimidated by difficult problems. But the research I’ve been doing since 1999 has been the most challenging: how do we transform what we know about weather, weather variability, climate, and climate change into practical advice for farmers and ranchers? This is not just one problem in my mind, but three. Three huge gnarly problems, each close to intractable. But these new USDA Climate Hubs are an opportunity to make progress on all three. What follows are thumbnails of the three problems I have in mind, and then briefly how I see the Climate Hubs providing a handle on them. Read more »