It’s not hard to list our accomplishments here at USDA: After all, our progress on the much anticipated 2014 Farm Bill has been lauded as “the most successful Farm Bill implementation.” We also launched a website for New Farmers and started a conversation with women in agriculture that will continue to grow for many years to come.
What is sometimes less obvious is the people whose lives these programs and initiatives impact. So, to wrap up the year, I wanted to share a few of my most cherished memories from my first year as Deputy Secretary. Read more »
When you take a drink of water in this country, chances are pretty good that it came from a reservoir or river that is managed, or that has been treated in a plant funded with support from the Federal government, or whose headwaters are on public land managed by the United States Forest Service or Department of Interior. Every dollar the federal government spends supporting water quality and quantity impacts millions of Americans. Interagency guidelines governing how investments, programs, and policies that affect water resources are evaluated at the Federal level have been updated for the first time since 1983, and published by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).
Given the importance of water to USDA programs and our customers, we understand that it makes sense to have the most complete and forward-thinking information available to inform our investment and implementation decisions. That enhances our ability to develop programs and projects that conserve water resources while ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent. USDA is confident that these new guidelines can enhance our decision-making without adversely affecting how we implement our many conservation programs. Read more »
U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell makes welcoming remarks at the"A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES)" conference in Crystal City, VA. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
What is the monetary value of a supply of clean water? Or the value of clean air or having places available to hike and fish?
For decades we have taken these resources for granted, or at least we have not put a monetary value on their benefits. That’s changing. Participants from 30 nations met this week at the ACES: A Community on Ecosystem Services; Linking Science, Practice and Decision Making conference to talk about just how we can value these benefits and include that in our decision-making and planning. As the conference kicked off, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tidwell talked about the need to quantify the benefits of public lands, building consensus and support for a multi-generational outlook, moving away from short term objectives and toward “sustaining the health and diversity of our forests and grasslands.”
Participants included a number of other federal officials, including Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, USDA Undersecretary Robert Bonnie, and Jay Jensen of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Read more »
This week marked the sixth consecutive year tribal leaders have gathered here in Washington at the President’s invitation to meet with key members of the Obama Administration, but this time is different: more than three dozen youth ambassadors were in attendance to kick off “Generation Indigenous” (Gen-I) – a new initiative calling for programs focused on better preparing young American Indians and Alaska Natives for college and careers as well as developing leadership skills. And it all started with the President’s visit last summer to the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota. The President and First Lady met with Native American youth and saw their promise, but also the challenges they face.
In addition to issuing a White House Native Youth Report, outlining past government shortcomings, current challenges and a path forward for Native youth, we will look at ways to improve educational opportunities for Native youth, including improving schools, and reforming the Indian education system. At USDA, that means we will be supporting the Generation Indigenous initiative by focusing on the support we provide to the Tribal Colleges and Universities, internships and other opportunities for Native youth, healthy food at their schools and at home, and funding for broadband, school construction and other community facilities. Read more »
Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:
Around the country, communities are seeking creative approaches to integrating entrepreneurship, environmental management, public health, and other place-based considerations into successful economic planning. Local food development can be one strategy.
The White House Rural Council and six federal agencies have selected 26 communities to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support and expertise to community partners integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of federal agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health, and regional economic experts will work directly with communities to develop specific local food projects. These efforts will make a significant impact in the communities participating in the Local Foods, Local Places initiative. Read more »
The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country. We thank them for sharing their stories!
“My carrot is burnt!” exclaimed a Willow Cove Elementary student in February, when they harvested carrots from the school garden for the first time. The student had never seen a purple carrot before and that day, the whole class enjoyed sample tastes of orange, white, and purple carrots. Carrots are just one of the many crops students have harvested from the Willow Cove garden, and they have a motivated teacher and their Nutrition Services department to thank for the experience.
At the start of last school year, Willow Cove Elementary School’s kindergarten teacher called the District’s Director of Nutrition Services, Matthew Belasco, to ask for a few milk crates to start a small window garden. Matthew, eager to get a school garden up and running, took this spark of interest and ran with it. Within a few hours, he arrived at Willow Cove with a wheel barrow, soil, shovels, and seeds, convinced the teacher that raised beds were preferable, and got to work planting the first school garden within Pittsburg Unified School District (PUSD), just outside Willow Cove’s kindergarten classroom. Willow Cove’s success with maintaining the garden and engaging students with outdoor lessons created the momentum and excitement needed to begin expanding Pittsburg’s farm to school program. Read more »