Agriculture in America: Deeply Rooted in Black Culture

Posted by Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Acting Under Secretary, Research, Education, and Economics in Research and Science

Feb 25, 2021

Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Acting Under Secretary for the Research, Education, and Economics mission area
Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Acting Under Secretary for the Research, Education, and Economics mission area.

The story of agriculture in America cannot be told without acknowledging the contributions of Black people. Black people have been and are an integral driver in the success of U.S. agriculture. From farming and cultivation to scientific research, the agriculture narrative is fortified by the many roles played by black leaders. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is the premier food research agency in the world, and it wouldn’t be nearly as successful or impactful if not for its rich, diverse history of scientists.

The story of agricultural scientist George Washington Carver and his work to improve the living standards of American farmers is well chronicled. Dr. Carver is best known for his research in developing uses for the peanut and sweet potato, but he also collected and analyzed types of fungi that were causing diseases of crop plants.

Black scientists first joined ARS in the early 1960s, and a half-century later, I was appointed ARS’ first Black administrator, one of the proudest moments of my life. Our strides for equity for all Americans continue to gain momentum. ARS scientist Malcolm Thompson, internationally recognized for his contributions to the fields of insect and plant biochemistry, became the first Black person to be inducted into the ARS Science Hall of Fame in 1994. Nearly a quarter century later in 2017, Ernest Harris, internationally known for finding innovative ways to control fruit flies that threaten crops around the world, entered the ARS Science Hall of Fame. In 2019, ARS entomologist Alvin Simmons became the first Black person to lead the Entomological Society of America, the largest entomological organization in the world.

Today, more than 600 African American women and men are fulfilling ARS’ mission to solve America’s biggest agricultural problems, and we join USDA in honoring our Black farmers and ranchers. Together, we are cultivating food, clothes, and energy production for a brighter future, while inspiring children of color to learn more about agricultural science. Just as Black history is American history, a rich diversity is essential for agriculture to continue to grow and prosper.

Category/Topic: Research and Science

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USDA Invests $42 Million in Distance Learning and Telemedicine Infrastructure to Improve Education and Health Outcomes

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2021 – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced it is investing $42.3 million to help rural residents gain access to health care and educational opportunities (PDF, 255 KB). Rural areas are seeing higher infection and death rates related to COVID-19 due to several factors, including a much higher percentage of underlying conditions, difficulty accessing medical care, and lack of health insurance. The $42.3 million in awards includes $24 million provided through the CARES Act. In total, these investments will benefit 5 million rural residents.

“The coronavirus pandemic is a national emergency that requires a historic federal response. These investments by the Biden Administration will help millions of people living in rural places access health care and education opportunities that could change and save lives,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “USDA is helping rural America build back better using technology as a cornerstone to create more equitable communities. With health care and education increasingly moving to online platforms, the time is now to make historic investments in rural America to improve quality of life for decades to come.”

A recent report (PDF, 214 KB) by the Rural Policy Research Institute’s Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis found infection and death rates in rural America due to COVID-19 are 13.4 percent higher than in urban areas. A recent report from USDA’s Economic Research Service, USDA ERS – Rural Residents Appear to be More Vulnerable to Serious Infection or Death From Coronavirus COVID-19, underscored the challenges facing rural Americans amidst the COVID-19 pandemic with even greater detail. Due to a confluence of factors, including higher percentages of underlying conditions, lack of health insurance, and lower access to medical facilities/care than urban counterparts, ERS analysts found rural Americans are suffering more severe illness or death due to COVID-19.

Rural Residents Appear to be More Vulnerable to Serious Infection or Death from Coronavirus COVID-19

Rural
Percent

Urban
Percent

 Underlying health conditions (ages 20 to 84)

23.7

3.0

 Older adult population scale

15.9

4.0

 Lacking health insurance (ages 25 to 64)

20.2

10.5

 Distance to county with an intensive care hospital

11.3

0.3

The table above is from the USDA ERS January 2021 report: Rural Residents Appear to be More Vulnerable to Serious Infection or Death from Coronavirus COVID-19

Background:

USDA is funding 86 projects through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program. The program helps rural education and health care entities remotely reach students, patients and outside expertise. These capabilities make world-class education and health care opportunities accessible in rural communities. The ability to use telehealth resources is critical, especially now during a global pandemic.

USDA announced investments today in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Below are examples of projects announced today:

  • In Georgia, the Morehouse School of Medicine Inc. will use a $997,194 grant to purchase interactive telecommunications, distance learning and telemedicine equipment. Equipment will be installed in service hubs in two counties in west-central Georgia. It will be used to provide a variety of health care services to residents in underserved rural areas of nine counties across the state. These services include mental health and substance abuse treatment and counseling; clinical services; referrals for specialty care; health education and career development to schools; and chronic disease diagnosis, treatment and management, including COVID-19.
  • The Fall Mountain Regional School District in New Hampshire is receiving a $995,158 grant. It will provide distance learning services in Cheshire and Sullivan counties. Distance learning will enable schools to share instructional resources, provide cultural literacy and career pathways programs for students, and provide professional development opportunities. The grant will also help the district respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Oklahoma’s Okmulgee Public School District is being awarded a $756,760 grant to provide distance learning services in Creek and Okmulgee counties. Schools will expand course offerings and provide professional development opportunities. The schools will use videoconferencing and interactive display panels to expand the curriculum, including Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses. The equipment this grant provides will help schools respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by enabling students to participate in virtual field trips and join classes from home.

To learn more about investment resources for rural areas, interested parties should contact their USDA Rural Development state office.

In January, President Biden requested all parts of the federal government to contribute resources to contain the coronavirus pandemic. USDA is responding to the President’s call to action. To date, more than 350 USDA personnel have deployed to assist with standing up vaccination sites, for example. In addition to personnel, USDA is offering its facilities, cold chain infrastructure, public health experts, disaster response specialists, and footprint in rural and Tribal communities across the country. USDA’s commitment to control the pandemic extends to our own staff and facilities, with masking and physical distancing requirements across USDA, a commitment to provide PPE to our front-line workers, and working with states to prioritize vaccinations for our workforce. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/coronavirus. USDA also encourages people seeking health insurance to go to HealthCare.gov now through May 15th due to a special enrollment period. If you are recently uninsured due to a job loss or between jobs, find a plan at HealthCare.gov and keep it for as long as you need it.

If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.

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Estimating Ecosystem Benefits from Rangeland Conservation Practices

Posted by Loretta Metz, National CEAP-Grazing Lands Component Leader, NRCS in Conservation

Feb 24, 2021

Wyoming cowboy herding beef cattle
Wyoming cowboy herding beef cattle. Photo courtesy of Travis Dewitz

Nature provides numerous benefits that people value. In the conservation world, we call these benefits ecosystem services. On rangelands, some ecosystem services can be bought and sold in traditional market systems – like forages, meat, and other animal products from livestock. Other ecosystem services are not typically bought or sold, but nevertheless have value – like cleaner water, better air quality, and reduced risk from drought or flood. Conservation practices can increase the value of both types of ecosystem services. But, how do we put a dollar value on non-marketable services on rangeland? And how do we tie those dollar values to USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation practices?

With these concepts and questions in mind, NRCS partnered with Earth Economics to do a pilot study to estimate non-market ecosystem services in the central Great Plains. Funded by the grazing land component of the Conservation Effects Assessment Project, the resulting Earth Economics study report, “Accounting for Nature’s Value with USDA-NRCS Conservation Practices in the Central Great Plains,” explains the framework and approach used to link practices to ecosystem services and put a dollar value on them.

On rangelands, conservation practices can be associated with many non-market ecosystem services, such as rejuvenation of native grasses and shrubs, whose roots can trap, slow, and filter rainwater and runoff. This filtration not only improves water quality in nearby streams and rivers for downstream drinking water, irrigation, and recreation. It also protects human property from flooding and improves wildlife habitat, leading to potentially better hunting, fishing, and aesthetics. These benefits extend well beyond a ranch’s fence line.

Estimating the benefits of rangeland conservation investments should include the value of both on-site and off-site ecosystem services. Putting a dollar value on these ecosystem service benefits in NRCS policy and program decisions would improve conservation outcomes and perhaps give ranchers even more incentive to adopt NRCS conservation measures.

The pilot study (PDF, 6.4 MB) estimates that brush management and prescribed grazing (two commonly used NRCS rangeland practices) increased ecosystem service values by $15 million to $33 million from 2008 to 2016, an average increase of $1.7 million to $3.6 million per year or $2.28 to $4.93 annually per acre. The ecosystem services that contributed the most to the total value were air quality (35%); water quality (19%); climate stability (12%); disaster risk reduction (10%); recreation and tourism (7%); water capture, conveyance, and supply (7%); soil retention (4%); habitat (3%); and aesthetics (3%).

Watch the recent webinar about the report’s methods and findings presented by Loretta Metz (NRCS, CEAP-Grazing Lands Component Leader) and Angela Fletcher (Earth Economics). For more information on this study, contact loretta.metz@usda.gov.

Category/Topic: Conservation

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U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Heather Dawn Thompson as Director, Office of Tribal Relations

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the appointment of Heather Dawn Thompson as Director of the Office of Tribal Relations (OTR) reporting to the Secretary of Agriculture. Thompson is a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, a Harvard Law School graduate, and an expert in American Indian law, tribal sovereignty, and rural tribal economic development. With Thompson in place, USDA will return OTR directly under the Secretary, restoring the office’s important government-to-government role.

Most recently, Thompson served a member of the American Indian Law Practice Group at Greenberg Traurig, where she worked on federal Indian law and Tribal agriculture. Thompson has a long record of public service, beginning as a Presidential Management Fellow at the Department of Justice. Since then, Thompson has served as a law clerk with the Attorney General’s Office for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, as Counsel and Policy Advisor to the U.S. Senate’s Democratic Policy Committee, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for South Dakota’s Indian Country Section, where she prosecuted cases involving violence against women and children.

In the private sector, Thompson was previously a partner at Dentons, where she was one of only a handful of Native American partners at an “AmLaw 100” law firm. In addition, she has served as the Director of Government Affairs for the National Congress of American Indians, President of the South Dakota Indian Country Bar Association, and President of the National Native American Bar Association. Thompson holds a Juris Doctor cum laude from Harvard Law School, as well as a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Florida, and a bachelor’s degree in International Studies from Carnegie Mellon University.

“Heather’s appointment to lead the Office of Tribal Relations is a step toward restoring the office and the position of Director so that USDA can effectively maintain nation-to-nation relationships in recognition of tribal sovereignty and to ensure that meaningful tribal consultation is standard practice across the Department. It’s also important to have a Director who can serve as a lead voice on tribal issues, relations and economic development within the Office of the Secretary because the needs and priorities of tribal nations and indigenous communities are cross cutting and must be kept front and center,” said Katharine Ferguson, Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary.

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Biden Administration Expands P-EBT to Benefit Millions of Low-Income and Food Insecure Children During Pandemic

USDA Says SNAP Benefits Are Inadequate for Most Participants and Begins Process to Extend Emergency Allotments to States and Update Thrifty Food Plan Formula

WASHINGTON, Jan. 22, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced several efforts today to expand nutrition assistance to hard-hit families across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic. In support of President Biden’s call to action on hunger and with authorities provided by Congress, USDA is increasing the Pandemic-EBT benefit by approximately 15%, providing more money for low-income families and millions of children missing meals due to school closures. Separately, in response to this national emergency, USDA is looking at ways to increase Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to all participants, especially lowest-income households and those struggling to afford a healthy diet for their families.

As a part of the end of year COVID relief package, Congress bolstered food assistance programs, including boosting monthly SNAP benefits by 15% and provided new funding for food banks and school and childcare meals. USDA is committed to implementing these changes, but the measures alone will not solve the food hardship so many Americans are experiencing. Today, some 29 million adults and as many as 12 million children live in households struggling to afford food. More than 1 in 5 Black and Latino adults and many more children report food insecurity. These numbers continue to worsen each month. USDA is committed to working with states and supporting governors, school districts, food banks and other key partners to deploy food assistance to struggling families, children, seniors and people with disabilities in the months ahead. The efforts announced today are detailed below.

P-EBT Benefit Increase

Upon taking office, the Biden administration took immediate action to deploy the emergency resources and new flexibilities Congress has provided. Established under Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed by Congress in March, the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) connects low-income families with kids with food dollars equivalent to the value of the meals missed due to COVID-related school and childcare closures. To date, the program has capped P-EBT benefit amounts at $5.86 per child per school day and many households have had trouble claiming benefits. USDA will increase the current daily benefit amount by approximately 15% to tackle the serious problem of child food insecurity during this school year when need is greatest.

“As soon as the President took office, he called for immediate action on the hunger crisis gripping vulnerable families and children. The announcement today provides more food dollars directly to food insecure kids living in low-income households who are missing critical meals due to school closures,” said Stacy Dean, Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services.

SNAP Emergency Allotments to States

Separately, USDA will begin working with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to review its authority to allow states to provide extra SNAP benefits through Emergency Allotments to the lowest-income households. Last spring, Congress passed emergency increases to SNAP benefits to help address food insecurity during the pandemic. But those benefit increases have not been made available to the lowest-income households who make up 37% of SNAP households. Increasing SNAP benefits will not only help families most in need, but it is also a critical and effective form of economic stimulus. A recent USDA study found that in a slow economy, “$1 billion in new SNAP benefits would lead to an increase of $1.54 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—54% above and beyond the new benefits.” Moreover, SNAP benefits reduced the poverty rate by nearly 8% in 2009 and had a significant effect on reducing child poverty.

Revising the Thrifty Food Plan Per 2018 Farm Bill

Finally, some 43 million Americans count on SNAP to help put food on the table. Currently, however, USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan, the basis for determining SNAP benefits, is out of date with the economic realities most struggling households face when trying to buy and prepare healthy food. As a result, the benefits may fall short of what a healthy, adequate diet costs for many households today, especially in high cost of living areas. Therefore, as directed by the 2018 Farm Bill, USDA will begin the process of revising the Thrifty Food Plan to better reflect the cost of a healthy basic diet today. USDA believes federal nutrition programs and benefits should support a basic healthy diet.

Call for More Congressional Action

While these actions will help address food insecurity for tens of millions of households nationwide, more is needed to solve the hunger crisis in America. As part of his American Rescue Plan proposal, President Biden is calling on Congress to:

  • Extend the 15% SNAP benefit increase
  • Invest another $3 billion through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to help vulnerable mothers and kids get the food they need
  • Look for creative ways to support restaurants as a critical link in the food supply chain to help feed families in need
  • Provide U.S. Territories with $1 billion in additional nutrition assistance funding

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U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Key Staff Appointments

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced the names of individuals who will hold senior staff positions in Washington, D.C.

David Grahn was named Principal Deputy General Counsel in the Office of General Counsel. Most recently, Grahn served as the Director of the Office of Regulatory Policy at the Farm Credit Administration. Before that, he served for almost 27 years in the Office of the General Counsel at USDA. Grahn holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree from Carleton College.

Farah Ahmad was named Chief of Staff in the Office of the Under Secretary for Rural Development. Most recently, Ahmad served as the Senior Program Coordinator in the Office of Consumer Education and a Senior Advisor to the Chief Operating Officer at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Prior to her time at CFPB, she served as the Program Manager on the Community and Economic Development team in the Rural Business Cooperative Service at USDA and Senior Policy Analyst at Center for American Progress. She holds a master’s from Princeton University and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.

Olugbenga Ajilore was named Senior Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary for Rural Development. Previously, Ajilore served as a senior economist at the Center for American Progress and former president of the National Economic Association. Before joining CAP, he worked as an Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Toledo. He holds a PhD in economics from Claremont Graduate University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Mike Schmidt was named Senior Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation. Previously, Schmidt was Senior Professional Staff for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry under ranking member Senator Debbie Stabenow. Schmidt held several positions at USDA in the Obama Administration, including Associate Administrator for Policy and Programs in the Farm Service Agency. At USDA, Schmidt was also responsible for implementation of 2014 Farm Bill programs related to commodities, dairy, conservation and risk protection. Schmidt is a graduate of Virginia Tech and has a master’s degree from the University College London.

Marcus Graham was named Deputy Administrator for Field Operations in the Farm Service Agency. Most recently, Graham served as the Legislative Director in the Office of External Affairs, among other positions at the Farm Service Agency. He served on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry under Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow during 2011-2012. He holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agricultural sciences and agribusiness from Tennessee State University.

Matt Herrick was named Director of Communications in the Office of Communications. Most recently, Herrick served as Senior Vice President with the International Dairy Foods Association. Previously, he served as USDA Director of Communications in the Obama Administration, and as Press Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). He’s held similar leadership roles with Oxfam America and the Rockefeller Foundation. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and holds a master’s degree from Syracuse University.

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Fine-Tuned Partnerships Rev Up Trail Recovery

Posted by Zheer Saeed, Resource Assistant, Forest Service Recreation, Heritage, and Volunteer Resources in Forestry

Jan 21, 2021

Paige Makowski and a group of volunteers added barriers for the safety of off-high vehicle riders
Paige Makowski (first row, second from the right) and a group of volunteers added barriers for the safety of off-high vehicle riders. She works with volunteers, who help remove brush, repair trails and make other safety upgrades on Mendocino National Forest trails.

Each year, severe wildfires ravage forests across the country, damaging ecosystems, infrastructure and recreation facilities, which are often in need of repair before they can be safely reopened. The 2018 Mendocino Complex Fire–one of the worst in California’s history–devastated more than 459,000 acres, including 288,000 acres of the Mendocino National Forest. That damage meant a lot of work to restore what was lost.

Part of that work involved restoring trails for off-highway vehicle (OHV) use.

“When I first saw the damage that the wildfire had caused, it was overwhelming to think about the work ahead of us,” said Paige Makowski, a recreation technician on the Mendocino National Forest and an avid off-highway vehicle enthusiast.

Makowski witnessed similar damage during her 10-year Forest Service career. And each time, she said, the agency and its partners have risen to the challenge.

“We had a fire in 2012. Volunteers and our partners stepped up and worked to repair the damage so that we could reopen,” said Makowski recalling the aftermath of the 2012 Mill Fire, which burned nearly 30,000 acres. “It was remembering how our friends and partners were there to help that made me hopeful.”

That experience served her well in 2018. During the initial stages of volunteer and partner coordination after the Mendocino Fire, she called upon a vast network of personal and professional connections. That community, a combination of groups, clubs, partners and friends, have assisted the Forest Service in maintaining trails for years. Together, they went to work again, restoring and removing debris and downed trees from the trails.

“Downed trees can cause an unexpected amount of damage to trails,” said Makowski, “The debris makes the trails impassable, and some visitors then make new trails around the obstruction, causing further damage.”

Not only did they volunteer their time and skills, but their personal vehicles and tools as well. Makowski and her team were able to clean, repair and reopen 163 miles of trail—ahead of schedule.

For her part, Makowski credits the forest’s OHV partners and the volunteers.

“The OHV groups that use the trails appreciate them, and know the work that is involved in maintaining them,” said Makowski, “They know without volunteer hours the work couldn’t get done, and without their support the trails would not be in the condition they are today.”

Valley Climbers Motorcycle Club president Brad Bradshaw attested to a strong relationship with the Forest Service and added that people like Paige Makowski and their commitment make that connection stronger.

“She’s not just a partner, she’s a friend,” Bradshaw said. “She and one of the other advisors came down for a club meeting in Napa, and that’s a two-hour drive. For them to take time out of their day to spend time with the club is a big showing of wanting to work with us.”

USDA Forest Service recreation technician Paige Makowski and off-highway vehicle groups
USDA Forest Service recreation technician Paige Makowski works with off-highway vehicle groups to repair trails and provide added safety features. But she also developed friendship and occasional rides with group members. (USDA Forest Service photo)

Makowski faced one of her most difficult years in 2020, when the pandemic put a strain on volunteer engagement. Despite the challenge, Makowski and the off-highway vehicle groups continue to maintain trails, improve safety and reduce wildfire risk on the Mendocino.

Makowski’s experience is not unique in the Forest Service. More than 110,000 people gave almost 5 million hours of their time to volunteer on national forests and grasslands in 2019. Altogether, their work was valued at $122 million.

How can you volunteer?

Category/Topic: Forestry

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U.S. Department of Agriculture Announces Three Deputy Under Secretaries in the Areas of Nutrition, Rural Development and Marketing and Regulatory Programs

WASHINGTON, Jan. 21, 2021 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced three senior appointments today.

USDA announced that nutrition policy expert Stacy Dean has been named Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services (FNCS). Prior to joining USDA, Dean served as Vice President for Food Assistance Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C. She directed the Center’s food assistance team, which publishes frequent reports on how federal nutrition programs affect families and communities and develops policies to improve them. She joined the Center in 1997 and has deep experience understanding the delivery of health and human services programs at the state and local levels. Previously, as a budget analyst at the Office of Management and Budget, she worked on policy development, regulatory and legislative review, and budgetary process and execution for a variety of income support programs. Dean earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public policy from the University of Michigan.

USDA also announced Justin Maxson, CEO of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, has been named Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development. Maxson served as the CEO of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, an organization that works toward poverty alleviation and economic justice in southern states. Before that, he spent 13 years as the president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development. Maxson holds a master’s degree in anthropology and development from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Kentucky.

USDA also announced that Mae Wu has been named Deputy Under Secretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs. Prior to joining USDA, Wu served as a Senior Director at the Natural Resource Defense Council, helping to lead the organization’s health and food work. She has also worked with the federal government to revise the Total Coliform Rule, as well as served on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee and its National Drinking Water Advisory Council. Wu holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Rice University, a master’s degree in environmental policy from the University of Cambridge, and a Juris Doctor from Duke University.

“We are honored to have professionals of the caliber of Stacy, Justin and Mae join our team—three experts with depth of knowledge, experience and respect from peers and colleagues across nutrition, economic development, and food and environmental security. Their talents will help us end the pandemic’s grip on our economy, address the urgency of hunger and climate change, and maintain the safety and security of our food,” said Katharine Ferguson, Chief of Staff, Office of the Secretary.

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NIFA-Supported Research Innovates to Reduce Food Loss and Waste: An Interview with Robert Nowierski

Posted by Jean Buzby, USDA Food Loss and Waste Liaison in Food and Nutrition Health and Safety

Jan 12, 2021

Closeup of a shopper’s hand picking an avocado in a grocery store bin
New packaging technology can extend the shelf-life of produce such as avocados, reducing food loss and waste. Photo credit: USDA

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is USDA’s extramural science-funding agency within USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area. What is NIFA doing to help reduce food loss and waste? This interview features insights from Robert Nowierski, NIFA, National Program Leader for Bio-Based Pest Management.

Buzby: For those who don’t know much about NIFA, can you please share the big picture?

Nowierski: Sure, NIFA’s mission is to invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and extension to solve societal challenges, such as how to reduce food loss on the farm and food waste later in the supply chain, such as extending the shelf life of perishable food. NIFA doesn’t conduct research, education, and extension activities, but we help support them at national, regional, state, and local levels, while guiding national leadership and strategy in these key priority areas. We partner with the Land-Grant University System, as well as other public colleges and universities, government agencies, and private and nonprofit organizations to find science-driven solutions to the challenges facing food, agriculture, and the environment and issues impacting both rural and urban communities across the nation.

Buzby: Are these partnerships all through grants?

Nowierski: NIFA supports research, education, and extension activities at partner institutions through competitive grants, capacity funds, and interagency agreements. Noncompetitive capacity funds are authorized by Congress to support research, education, or extension activities at land-grant institutions on topics of importance to a state or region, in alignment with USDA strategic goals. One example of a NIFA-funded research project, which shows our early recognition of the food loss and waste (FLW) problem, was a 2014 conference held by the University of Pennsylvania titled, “The Last Food Mile: A Conference on Food Losses and Food Waste In the United States.” The findings were later printed in the book “Food Waste Across the Supply Chain: a U.S. Perspective on a Global Problem,” which is available online for free.

Buzby: Why is innovation so important for reducing food loss and waste?

Nowierski: Innovation will be key in helping to mitigate our food loss and waste problems in the future. Innovative strategies in research, education and extension will be needed to minimize food loss and waste from farm to table. And lastly, following EPA’s food recovery hierarchy will help minimize food loss and waste: reducing the volume of surplus food; donating excess food; diverting food scraps to animal feed; using waste oils for rendering and fuel conversion and food scraps for digestion to recover energy; composting, and using landfill and incineration as a last resort.

Buzby: When thinking about the entire farm-to-table food supply chain, how has NIFA supported innovations that reduce food loss and waste?

Nowierski: NIFA has helped support innovations that reduce food loss and waste through its competitive grant programs and capacity-funded projects. In response to this challenge, NIFA developed a Food Loss and Waste Template that provides a roadmap for which NIFA grant programs could help address food losses and waste at the different food supply chain stages, such as production; postharvest, handling and storage; processing and packaging; distribution and retail; and foodservice and consumer losses.

Buzby: What are some examples of NIFA-funded research and innovations aimed at reducing food loss and waste?

Nowierski: One innovation is what we call ‘functional ice” (‘Functional Ice’ Shows Food Industry How to Keep Cool and Reduce Loss), which is an additive-enhanced product that extends food storage and shelf-life by generating lower temperatures and melting more slowly than traditional water-based ice. Additional features allow the slow-release of antimicrobial solutions that protect raw food by eliminating the build-up of spoilage-causing bacteria. It has been shown to increase shelf life of tray-packed poultry thigh meat by one to two days. The researchers are now investigating its potential for commercialization, such as by looking at the best ways to incorporate the technology into commercial ice-making machines.

Another NIFA-funded innovation under development, but showing great promise, is a highly sensitive and specific test strip for major foodborne pathogens (e.g., Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica). This technology significantly reduces the time required to test pathogens in foods from 24-72 hours to approximately 30 minutes. The time saved to test pathogens may reduce the spread of pathogens and minimize food loss and waste.

Buzby: I understand NIFA provides funds to small businesses to help them develop and market new technologies – and this could help food waste-related technologies and products come to market. Tell us more.

Nowierski: Yes, the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) from NIFA provides support to small businesses through the Phase I Program for them to demonstrate proof of concept of an idea that could be potentially commercialized (funding level $100,000). NIFA also provides Phase II Program funding for the successful Phase I applicants to take their idea to commercialization (funding level $600,000).

Buzby: So small businesses with food waste reduction technologies should reach out to NIFA to learn more about how USDA might help them bring those products to market. That leads me to my next question. Why is NIFA-supported research an important compliment to private-sector research?

Nowierski: The food loss and waste issue is such a complex problem that it will take research investments and accomplishments from both public and private sectors to help resolve.

Buzby: How do you see food loss and waste actions in relation to environmental sustainability?

Nowierski: It’s worth noting that in 2016, NIFA’s Pilot Science Outcome Committee (SOC) on Environmental Sustainability (led by Nowierski) analyzed NIFA investments across the food loss and waste supply chain during 2009-15. This committee identified food loss and waste as the top science priority that through additional investments, could help address environmental sustainability.

Buzby: Can you share a few more examples of research that NIFA has underway that show promise for reducing food loss and waste?

Nowierski: Sure, we have all kinds of interesting and promising research underway at the different farm-to-table stages of the food supply. Some studies focus on improving packaging, such as a small packaging insert or sachet that slows down produce aging and deterioration and increases shelf-life by at least 40 percent. For example, this technology can extend the 10-day shelf-life of Florida avocados by nine days. We have supported other work developing value-added products from food industry processing waste. For example, one study incorporated high levels of spent grain from the brewing industry in different recipes and using different cooking methods to come up with a tasty sweet potato snack. Other studies explore how to convert food waste into high-value chemicals, animal feed or renewable energy in ways that make sense economically and can support commercialization. One study is developing the technology for economical production of hydrogen from agricultural production and food processing waste. Hydrogen is considered a promising alternative clean energy source because it doesn’t produce greenhouse gases.

This blog series highlights the work of innovators in the food loss and waste world as part of a federal interagency food loss and waste collaboration between USDA, EPA, and FDA and private-sector partners to affirm their shared commitment to work towards the national goal of reducing food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030.

For further reading:
USDA blogs on food waste

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Conservation Program Benefits an Iconic Bird of the Southern Great Plains

Posted by Bob Sowers, Natural Resources Conservation Service in Conservation

Jan 06, 2021

A lesser prairie-chicken outfitted with a satellite telemetry harness on its back in CRP grass cover
A lesser prairie-chicken outfitted with a satellite telemetry harness on its back in CRP grass cover. Photo by Ashley Tanner

The lesser prairie-chicken and its habitat are making a comeback thanks to a USDA conservation program. The ground-dwelling bird was once abundant in the southern Great Plains, living in parts of Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas. But over the past 150 years due to human migration and settlement, the lesser prairie-chicken population has declined by more than 90 percent, and its range has shrunk by over 80 percent.

The main threat facing the lesser prairie-chicken is the loss of habitat needed for survival caused by converting prairie to cropland, livestock overgrazing, oil and gas development, and building roads and power lines.

An Oklahoma State University study recently found that land enrolled in the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) improves and increases lesser prairie-chicken habitat by providing large areas of grasslands and grassland connectivity. The birds were found to rarely move more than 0.3 miles to or from roost sites, and at the county scale, the presence of CRP appears to increase habitat suitability and roost-site accessibility. The study was summarized in a recent Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Insight (PDF, 1.2 MB).

Funded by the NRCS Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP) Wildlife Component, the study investigated how CRP acreage influences lesser prairie-chicken habitat suitability and the birds’ use of the land. The researchers placed satellite telemetry harnesses on the backs of 104 lesser prairie-chickens from 2013 to 2016 throughout Beaver County, Oklahoma, to track how the birds used space and moved about in areas with varying amounts of CRP land. Bird movements were evaluated at the individual pasture, county, and distribution-wide scales. Bird locations were gathered from GPS and citizen science (such as the eBird database) and used to determine habitat suitability at both the distribution-wide and county levels, while GPS locations and bird movement patterns (i.e., movements between consecutive locations) were used to assess space-use in relation to CRP land at the county and pasture levels.

The study showed that given the bird’s limited movements, habitat benefits vary according to the spatial arrangement of CRP across the landscape, so a patchwork of CRP, native range, and cropland areas may best provide for the needs of the lesser-prairie chicken. Another encouraging finding is that at the pasture scale, managed grazing of CRP land does not negatively influence the birds’ movements or habitat selection and appears compatible with the conservation objective of providing lesser prairie-chicken habitat.

In many ways, ground-dwelling birds are no different than their counterparts that nest in trees, safely above many predators. Like their high-flying relatives, birds that live on the ground need food, water, and shelter for survival. The Oklahoma State University study shows that CRP can help preserve and restore what the lesser prairie-chicken needs to survive and thrive.

CRP is one of several USDA programs that USDA offers that can help producers manage for prairie chicken habitat. Producers can learn more by contacting their local Service Center.

Signed into law in 1985, CRP is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States. It was originally intended primarily to control soil erosion and potentially stabilize commodity prices by taking marginal lands out of production. The program has evolved over the years, providing many conservation and economic benefits. The program marks its 35-year anniversary this month.

Bob Sowers is an Information Management Specialist with NRCS in Beltsville, MD. He can be reached at robert.sowers@usda.gov.

Category/Topic: Conservation

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Unique Forest Service Program Saves Money and Lives with Innovative Technology

Posted by Lily Palmer, Enterprise Team in Forestry

Jan 06, 2021

Test flight of an unmanned aerial system
Test flight of an unmanned aerial system used to ignite strategic backfires during wildfire suppression activities in 2018. Photo credit: Shawn Steber, National Technology and Development Program

Gifford Pinchot, founding father of the USDA Forest Service, revolutionized American forestry in the late 1800s and recognized the need for science-based forestry. The Forest service embraces innovation, science and technology to this day, and one program has exemplified that spirit for the past 75 years.

Shortly after World War II ended in 1945, the United States found itself with a sudden surplus of military equipment. True to its history of innovation, the Forest Service jumped at this peacetime opportunity and created the National Technology and Development Program. This program established two centers in California and Montana tasked with repurposing this surplus military equipment to better fight wildfires.

The centers found cost-saving ways to standardize fire equipment like hoses, pumps, and couplings that make it easier to repair and replace broken parts. They refined harnesses, parachutes, and other equipment used in the deployment of firefighters from aircraft to fight fire more effectively in remote locations. To this day, firefighters still rely on these and other life-saving advances like rappelling and parachuting equipment, as well as the portable fire shelter, which has saved more than 300 lives.

Over the years, the program’s scope has expanded from fire to include forest management, recreation and engineering research. The program has recently developed artificial intelligence software that connects with logging equipment to more accurately identify which trees to harvest or retain to better manage the landscape.

Artificial intelligence software simultaneously measures and maps trees
Artificial intelligence software simultaneously measures and maps trees located within a proposed logging area. Photo credit: Lucas Wells, Holtz Forestry, LLC

Other modern advances include updating unmanned aerial systems, or “drones,” to conduct prescribed fires – also known as prescribed or controlled burns – in remote areas. These fires, performed under controlled conditions by fire experts, land managers, and with the help of drones, can be a useful tool in restoring unhealthy ecosystems, and reducing hazardous fuel that threaten people, communities and resources.

The National Technology and Development Program also maintains consistent equipment standards across the agency for products like fire retardants and personal protective equipment. This allows the Forest Service to purchase this widely used equipment in bulk, saving the agency more than $40 million every year.

For all its futuristic work, the program also preserves the Forest Service’s past by maintaining an archive of historical drawings, blueprints and manuals on how to use tools as rudimentary as axes and crosscut saws.

Category/Topic: Forestry

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Indoors or Outdoors, Horticulture and Holidays Go Together

Posted by Jodi Halvorson, USDA NASS Public Affairs Specialist in Research and Science

Dec 21, 2020

Horticulture map 2019
Horticulture in the United States remained strong at $13.8 billion in sales in 2019. California continues to lead in production due to a variety of factors, one of which is the ability to grow year round.

With the holiday season upon us, you may have missed the recent release of the 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties Report. This 2017 Census of Agriculture special study is the only source of detailed production and sales data for floriculture, nursery, and specialty crops for the entire United States. Although the number of horticulture operations declined 11% from the last horticulture census, producers maintained sales of nearly $13.8 billion. As we thank producers for all the warmth and nourishment they provide, especially this time of year, we remember the many joys horticulture brings into our lives, too. Whether bringing a tree or poinsettia into our home, or placing a living wreath on our door or table this year, we are grateful to our growers.

Many of us will bring a holiday tree into our home this year, bringing the outdoors inside to celebrate the season. According to the Census of Horticultural Specialties Report, cultivated trees numbered well over 118 million in 2019. Leading varieties included Fraser, Noble, and Douglas Firs. For those who desire the vibrant joy of poinsettias, production of this ancient medicinal Aztec plant is thriving. Data show 1,193 farms produced 46.7 million poinsettias last year, with California and North Carolina leading in the number of plants grown.

Simple traditions like a holiday tree or driving around town looking at lights are often the magic of the season. Is it time to incorporate a new tradition? How about placing a colorful wreath of protea flowers on your door? Flower producers grew 5.3 million protea stems and reported $5.5 million in sales in the United States last year, an increase of 36% from the last horticulture census. Protea wreaths come in an array of colors readily available for some holiday cheer. Alternatively, place an artful arrangement of cacti and succulents next to your holiday candles. In 2019, 18.1 million cacti and succulent plants sold were valued at $78.6 million. Resilient and beautifully complex, cacti and succulents are a fitting plant for the season.

Lush protea
Originally from South Africa, the lush protea makes delightful addition to bouquets or holiday wreaths. Protea grow only in California and Hawaii in the United States, with 67 operations producing in 2019.

It’s safe to say, whether indoors or outdoors, horticulture and holidays go together. Want to know more? Explore the 2019 Census of Horticultural Specialties report and highlights by visiting www.nass.usda.gov/AgCensus.

Category/Topic: Research and Science

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Growing Connections Across USDA for Innovation in Food Safety and Nutrition

Posted by Stephanie Morris, PhD, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, Peggy Biga, PhD, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, Jodi Williams, PhD, Senior Advisor for Nutrition and Food Safety, Office of the Chief Scientist, USDA in Research and Science

Dec 18, 2020

Salad meal
The Office of the Chief Scientist works across food safety and nutrition research communities to ensure a safe, plentiful, affordable, and nourishing food supply.

Though our celebrations may be smaller and closer to home this holiday season, food will still be the centerpiece of many festivities. In a year where we’re trying our best to keep ourselves and our loved ones healthy, the safety and nutrition of our food is more important to our well-being than ever.

USDA works hard to ensure your celebratory meals are nutritious and safe, be it developing fruit and vegetable varieties for healthy eating options or providing food safety information for the turkey that you safely thawed and cooked. Recently, more than 150 USDA professionals from the Agricultural Research Service, National Institute for Food and Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Agricultural Marketing Service, Food and Nutrition Service, and Food Safety and Inspection Service met virtually to discuss ways to improve the food on American tables. The USDA Intradepartmental Food Safety and Nutrition Workshop, hosted by USDA’s Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS), built on the success of previous workshops while doubling attendance.

Even in the virtual setting, the workshop was a unique opportunity for strategic planning on emerging themes in food safety and nutrition including older adult nutrition, nutrition promotion and education, personalized diets (precision nutrition), big data usage, food safety practices, and sustainable agriculture and environmental adaptation. Deputy Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics, Dr. Scott Hutchins and OCS Director, Dr. Dionne Toombs kicked off the event before Dr. Pamela Starke-Reed provided  an overview of the USDA Science Blueprint (PDF, 2.6 MB).  The Blueprint outlines USDA’s science priorities over the next five years, one of which is Food and Nutrition Translation. Keynote presenters highlighted each of the themes, which fed into two deep-dive breakout sessions.  In those sessions, participants defined priorities, identified gaps and overlaps, and looked for collaborative opportunities in areas at the forefront of food safety and nutrition science.

USDA is committed to “Do Right and Feed Everyone.” Our coordinated science efforts across the Department will help keep safe and nutritious food at your holiday celebrations for years to come.

Category/Topic: Research and Science

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The Science Behind Your Traditional Holiday Meal

Posted by Faith Peppers, NIFA Communications Director in Research and Science

Dec 16, 2020

Christmas turkey dinner
Throughout the year, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture funds research across the nation that puts safe, affordable, nutritious food on your table. Photo credit: Getty Images

Holidays are traditionally a time to focus on family, friends and food. This year, as Americans navigate this unprecedented holiday season, many are turning to the kitchen to cook up expressions of love and care.

Throughout the year, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) funds research across the nation that puts safe, affordable, nutritious food on your table. Here are some examples of NIFA-funded projects that make up an all-American feast:

The United States leads the world in turkey production. In 2019, the U.S. produced 5.82 billion pounds of turkey meat, per USDA’s Economic Research Service. NIFA-supported researchers at West Virginia University are working to improve meat quality through better nutrition and management. The Hatch Act provides funds to support agricultural research at U.S. land-grant universities. Michigan State University researchers have a grant from NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to address thermal challenge and meat quality.

Meat needs a side of potatoes. NIFA-supported research at the Universities of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Idaho enhanced U.S. potato production by improving soil health in potato production systems, creating a new paradigm for potato breeding.

Add a splash of color with sweet potatoes or carrots. A Hatch Multi-State Research Project to contain invasive guava root knot nematode in vegetables helps farmers keep sweet potatoes on your holiday table. Oregon State University researchers are developing better ways to manage bacterial blight, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Wisconsin is using NIFA funds to identify markers and genes in carrot germplasm to deliver improved carrots to growers and consumers.

University of Georgia researchers are keeping healthy greens on your plate by enhancing resiliency in broccoli production by mitigating major diseases in this crop in eastern U.S. production.

Don’t skip the cranberry sauce. North Carolina State University researchers are leveraging genetic and genomic resources to develop blueberry and cranberry cultivars with better fruit quality.

Save room for apple pie! A Cornell University research project, Precision Crop Load Management for Apples, is helping improve yields in U.S. apple production.

The Specialty Crop Research Initiative funds these projects. The 2018 Farm Bill reauthorized the program, providing $80 million for research to improve these valuable crops.

With people spending more time at home this year, Cooperative Extension experts across the country, supported with NIFA funds through the Smith-Lever Act, reported a booming surge in requests for home gardening educational materials. Contact your local Extension office for resources you can use.

NIFA-funded programs support multiple themes outlined in the USDA Science Blueprint (PDF, 2.6 MB) and move us closer to meeting the goals outlined in USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda.

Category/Topic: Research and Science

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New Chef in the House? Use Food Safety to Cook Easy Meals

Posted by Crystal Essiaw, Public Affairs Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA in Food and Nutrition Health and Safety

Sep 23, 2020

Grilled chicken breasts stuffed with spinach and feta cheese
In a recent USDA study, 97 percent of participants did not attempt to wash their hands when preparing not-ready-to-eat frozen stuffed chicken breasts.

If someone in your house is new to cooking, how do you get started? Cooking can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. For some adults, cooking may be a new task if you normally dine out or get takeout. If you’re a parent, this is a great time to teach your kids how to prepare their own meals. Frozen foods are a simple solution for cooking easy and delicious meals. There are a variety of frozen foods that can satisfy the pickiest of eaters, and you can buy them at any grocery store. While frozen foods offer detailed instructions, use these food safety principles to stay healthy.

Read the Instructions

Is it raw or is it partially cooked? Some frozen foods have not been fully cooked during processing and require further cooking for safety. It’s important to read the manufacturer’s cooking instructions as these food products are required to have a label indicating that they are not fully cooked. They may be labeled as “raw” or “not-ready-to-eat.”

Wash Your Hands

The first thing to know as a new cook is to always keep your hands clean. You need to wash your hands before, during, and after you start cooking any meals. In a recent USDA study, 97 percent of participants did not attempt to wash their hands when preparing not-ready-to-eat frozen stuffed chicken breasts. The steps for proper handwashing are wet, lather with soap, scrub for 20 seconds, rinse, and dry. In the same study, many participants didn’t scrub their hands for the required 20 seconds, which is equivalent to singing the “happy birthday” song twice.

The Food Thermometer is Your Green Light

You can’t see, smell, or taste germs that can cause foodborne illness. Using a food thermometer is the only way to confirm that food is thoroughly cooked and has reached a temperature that will destroy harmful germs. In our study, consumers said they use time, appearance, or touching the meal to determine if frozen food was fully cooked. Unfortunately, none of these ways can determine if your meal is safe to eat, which can increase your risk of getting foodborne illness.

The USDA recommends using a food thermometer to check that your food reaches a safe internal temperature. For raw meat and poultry:

  • Beef, pork, lamb, and veal (steaks, roasts, and chops): 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a three-minute rest time.
  • Ground meats (beef, pork, lamb, and veal): 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Poultry (whole or ground): 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

The packaging for frozen foods may recommend heating your food to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher so they are safe and fully cooked. Read the instructions on your frozen vegetables too; some do not recommend thawing before cooking and eating. You should also use a food thermometer to check if your frozen vegetables have reached the recommended temperature, often 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

For new chefs with questions on cooking or food safety, the USDA is here to help. Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, or email or chat at Ask USDA.

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Trump Administration Invests $268 Million in Rural Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Improvements in 28 States

Projects Will Improve Rural Water Infrastructure for 267,000 Rural Residents and Businesses

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2020 – The Trump Administration today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $268 million to modernize rural drinking water and wastewater infrastructure across 28 states (PDF, 222 KB).

“Upgrading the infrastructure that delivers safe drinking water and modern wastewater management facilities will improve public health and drive economic development in our small towns and cities,” Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is a strong partner with rural communities, because we know that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

Background:

USDA is funding 76 projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. These investments will help to improve rural water infrastructure for 267,000 residents. For example:

  • The city of Greenville, Ill., will use a $14 million loan to replace a water treatment plant to meet current peak demands as well as the future growth of the community.
  • In Hulbert, Okla., the Tenkiller Utilities Authority (TUA) is receiving a $10.6 million loan and a $4.6 million grant to build a regional water treatment plant. The 1.8-million-gallon-per-day plant will be constructed on the western side of Lake Tenkiller at the existing plant site, in Cherokee County. TUA consists of nine rural water systems. Seven of those systems have small, operationally challenged treatment plants, and two systems purchase their water. A transmission line, two pump stations and three water storage tanks will be built to connect the systems. This project will deliver safe and sanitary water through one common plant, increase water and energy efficiency, and reduce operation and maintenance costs.
  • The borough of Seaside Park, N.J., will use a $5 million loan to build an elevated water treatment facility and an emergency generator to prevent flooding. Funds will also be used to install a 30,000-gallon backwash tank and replace the water main on various streets throughout the borough.

The investments that USDA announced today are being made in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.

To learn more about investment resources for rural areas, interested parties should contact their USDA Rural Development state office.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

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USDA Encourages Ag Producers, Residents to Prepare for Tropical Storm Beta

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses in the path of Tropical Storm Beta that USDA has programs that provide assistance in the wake of disasters. USDA staff in the regional, state and county offices stand ready and are eager to help.

In a continuing effort to serve the American people, USDA partnered with FEMA and other disaster-focused organizations and created the Disaster Resource Center. This central source of information uses a searchable knowledgebase of disaster-related resources powered by agents with subject matter expertise. The Disaster Resource Center and web tool now provide an easy access point to find USDA disaster information and assistance.

Steps to follow to prepare for a possible weather emergency

Severe weather forecasts often present the possibility of power outages that could compromise the safety of stored food. USDA encourages those in the path of the storm to take the following precautions:

  • Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
  • Place appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or below in the refrigerator, 0°F or below in the freezer.
  • Freeze water in small plastic storage bags or containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold.
  • Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Consider getting 50 pounds of dry or block ice if a lengthy power outage is possible. This amount of ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days
  • Group foods together in the freezer—this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

Protecting livestock during a disaster

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is urging everyone in the potential path of the storm to prepare now – not just for yourselves, but also for your pets and your livestock.

  • Plan for evacuation – know how you will evacuate and where you will go. If it is not feasible to evacuate your livestock, be sure to provide a strong shelter and adequate food and water that will last them until you can return.
  • If you are planning to move livestock out of state, make sure to contact the State Veterinarian’s Office in the receiving state before you move any animals. You also may contact APHIS Veterinary Services state offices for information and assistance about protecting and moving livestock.
  • Listen to emergency officials and evacuate if asked to do so.

USDA also developed a disaster assistance discovery tool specifically targeted to rural and agricultural issues. The tool walks producers through five questions that generate personalized results identifying which USDA disaster assistance programs can help them recover from a natural disaster.

USDA also encourages residents and small businesses in impact zones to contact USDA offices which meet their individual needs.

Owners of meat and poultry producing businesses who have questions or concerns may contact the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk online 24 hours a day, by phone at 1-877-FSIS-HELP (1-877-374-7435) and by email at infosource@fsis.usda.gov.

Helping producers weather financial impacts of disasters

Livestock owners and contract growers who experience above normal livestock deaths due to specific weather events, as well as to disease or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance under USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program.

Livestock, honeybee and farm-raised fish producers whose mechanically harvested or purchased livestock feed was physically damaged or destroyed; or who lost grazing acres or beehives due to an extreme weather event may qualify for assistance. Producers of non-insurable crops who suffer crop losses, lower yields or are prevented from planting agricultural commodities may be eligible for assistance under USDA’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program if the losses were due to natural disasters.

Helping operations recover after disasters

USDA also can provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. Assistance may also be available for emergency animal mortality disposal from natural disasters and other causes.

Farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters can apply for assistance through USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program. USDA also has assistance available for eligible private forest landowners who need to restore forestland damaged by natural disasters through the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (PDF, 257 KB). For declared natural disasters that lead to imminent threats to life and property, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing recovery efforts like debris removal and streambank stabilization to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

Orchardists and nursery tree growers may be eligible for assistance through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program to help replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

When major disasters strike, USDA has an emergency loan program that provides eligible farmers low-interest loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. USDA’s emergency loan program is triggered when a natural disaster is designated by the Secretary of Agriculture or a natural disaster or emergency is declared by the President under the Stafford Act. USDA also offers additional programs tailored to the needs of specific agricultural sectors to help producers weather the financial impacts of major disasters and rebuild their operations.

Helping individuals recover after disasters

In the aftermath of a disaster, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with state, local and nongovernmental organizations to provide emergency nutrition assistance – including food packages and infant formula – to households, shelters and mass feeding sites serving people in need. Upon request from states, the agency also provides emergency flexibilities in the administration of its nutrition assistance programs. In recent weeks, the agency has allowed the purchase of hot foods with SNAP benefits in California, Louisiana, and Iowa, and has provided automatic replacement of benefits due to food loss in California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Texas. In some circumstances, the agency also works with local authorities to provide Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits, as it has in Louisiana and Iowa, for individuals and families who do not normally receive SNAP benefits. Once the disaster recovery efforts begin, emergency nutrition assistance and flexibilities requested by states and approved by FNS will be posted to the FNS Disaster Assistance website.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides support for disaster education through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). EDEN is a collaborative multi-state effort with land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Services across the country, using research-based education and resources to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. EDEN’s goal is to improve the nation’s ability to mitigate, prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters. EDEN equips county-based Extension educators to share research-based resources in local disaster management and recovery efforts. The EDEN website offers a searchable database of Extension professionals, resources, member universities and disaster agency websites to help people deal with a wide range of hazards, and food and agricultural defense educational resources.

Producers with coverage through the Risk Management Agency (RMA) administered Federal crop insurance program should contact their crop insurance agent for issues regarding filing claims. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days. The Approved Insurance Providers (AIP), loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well trained in handling these types of events. As part of its commitment to delivering excellent customer service, RMA is working closely with AIPs that sell and service crop insurance policies to ensure enough loss adjusters will be available to process claims in the affected areas as quickly as possible. Visit the RMA website for more details.

Helping with the long-term recovery of rural communities

USDA Rural Development has more than 50 programs available to rural and tribal communities for the repair and modernization of rural infrastructure including drinking and waste water systems, solid waste management, electric infrastructure, and essential community facilities such as public safety stations, health care centers and hospitals, and educational facilities. Visit the USDA Rural Development website for more information on specific programs.

Visit USDA’s disaster resources website to learn more about USDA disaster preparedness and response. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, contact your local USDA Service Center.

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Explore the Science Behind the Magic of Fall Colors

Posted by Robert Hudson Westover, Office of Communication, USDA Forest Service in Forestry

Sep 21, 2020

Ashville DC House
Fall colors from a terrace of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. The Pisgah National Forest is in the background. Photo by Robert Westover.

With a pandemic raging around the world, drastically altering so many lives, it’s hard to believe that any good can come from such chaos. But during chaotic times it’s important to look at and even study nature.

Fall is here and we can learn from what nature is teaching us–from the turning of the leaves to the burst of fall wildflowers to the golden glow of autumn grasses–nature finds a way to rebound and endure. You can’t keep it down.

Since learning, working, and living at home has become the reality for millions of Americans in the age of COVID-19, why not use this opportunity to learn about the innerworkings of fall and how it may differ in many parts of the county?

Fall color wild grasses
Fall color wild grasses at the Manassas National Battlefield Park.
Photo by Robert Westover.

With learning at home in mind, the USDA Forest Service has themed this year’s fall colors campaign: Seeing Fall Colors Starts at Home.

In fact, our Fall Colors 2020 webpage has so many fun and colorful ways to learn about why leaves turn to the many hues of red, yellow and orange that you’ll want to share it with the whole family, and hopefully, all your friends!

And once you’ve learned a thing or two about leaf pigments, take a stroll outside and look around you. You’ll be amazed at how you’ll never again look at that fiery red maple tree, golden wild grass or brilliant purple wildflower the same.

Think of this year as the year you learned about the science of fall colors and had the chance to explore your neighborhood’s tree-lined streets or public parks with new eyes and gain some good from this disruptive time.

Ashville DC House
Fall wildflowers at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Photo by Robert Westover.
Category/Topic: Forestry

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USDA Extends WIC COVID-19 Flexibilities for Duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

(Washington, D.C., September 21, 2020) – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the extension of more than a dozen flexibilities ensuring participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) continue receiving the food and health support they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. USDA’s proactive extension of these waivers throughout the national public health emergency will ensure nutritionally at-risk mothers, babies, and children receive the critical nutrition benefits and services they count on in a safe manner while allowing the program to operate based on local conditions throughout the pandemic.

“USDA has been extremely steadfast in offering flexibilities to ensure Americans in need continue to receive food assistance during COVID-19. President Trump has demonstrated his commitment to supporting Americans in need during the pandemic and setting them up for success as our nation reopens and recovers,” said Secretary Sonny Perdue. “WIC provides vital services to new and expectant mothers, infants, and children and we are committed to making it as easy as possible for them to receive the support they need during the pandemic.”

Background:

Without today’s action, these essential flexibilities would have expired at the end of this month.

WIC provides supplemental foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding promotion and support, and health care referrals to low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants and children under five who are determined by health professionals to be at nutritional risk.

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has made maximum use of existing program flexibilities and the waiver authority provided by Congress to make it as easy as possible for children and families to participate in WIC– and all of the department’s nutrition assistance programs – during the COVID-19 health emergency.

The WIC waivers being extended allow for:

  • Participants to be approved for WIC without being physically present in a local office;
  • Remote issuance of benefits to any participant;
  • Flexibility in food package requirements, including dairy, grains, vegetables, and infant foods; and
  • Additional options for pick-up of food packages.

More information on the WIC waivers extended today, along with those that have been approved since the start of COVID-19, is available at www.fns.usda.gov/coronavirus and on Twitter at @USDANutrition.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

WTAS: Trump Administration Provides Additional Direct Assistance to Farmers and Ranchers Impacted by the Coronavirus

(Washington, D.C., September 18, 2020) – Earlier today, President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced up to an additional $14 billion dollars for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. After listening to feedback received from farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations about the impact of the pandemic on our nations’ farms and ranches, USDA developed a program to better meet the needs of those impacted. The praise for CFAP 2 has been widespread. Here is what they are saying:

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall: This lifeline will keep farmers and ranchers afloat as they continue to keep America’s pantries stocked.

Sen. John Boozman (AR): Farmers & ranchers have long struggled with low commodity prices, volatile weather & unfair trade. Unfortunately, additional challenges brought on by COVID have amplified an already tough situation. I applaud @realDonaldTrump & @SecretarySonny for making more assistance available.

Sen. Steve Daines (MT): Great news for farmers and ranchers in Montana. Glad @USDA and @SecretarySonny acted on my request to ensure all classes of wheat are eligible for CFAP as well.

Sen. Joni Ernst (IA): This additional support will help our producers as they continue to navigate the challenges created by the pandemic. I especially applaud the USDA for heeding my calls to include Iowa’s turkey farmers in this new round of relief.

Sen. Deb Fischer (NE): I appreciate @realDonaldTrump looking out for rural America and providing this $13 billion in relief for our ag producers.

Sen. John Hoeven (ND): We appreciate President Trump and his administration’s support for our farmers and ranchers.

Sen. Jim Risch (ID): Thank you @realDonaldTrump & @SecretarySonny for extending the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 2 to Idaho commodities like wheat & mink while improving support for our potatoes, dairy & beef.

Sen. Pat Roberts (KS): Once again, I thank President Trump and Secretary Perdue for their efforts to ensure American farmers, ranchers, and growers can continue to feed the country and the world amidst depressed commodity prices and disrupted markets.

Sen. John Thune (SD): Good to see this admin supporting American farmers & ranchers.

Sen. Thom Tillis (NC): I want to thank President Trump and Secretary Perdue for providing a second round of funding to help North Carolina farmers and including much-needed relief for tobacco farmers across the state.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (ND): America’s farmers and ranchers are patriots who feed, fuel, and clothe the world. I applaud President @realDonaldTrump and @SecretarySonny for protecting them as the country reopens and demand for their products returns.

Rep. Troy Balderson (OH): Thank you @SecretarySonny for reopening the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program! I was proud to help create this program through the #CARESAct. This will support Ohio families’ access to nutritious meals while minimizing potential exposure COVID.

House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member K. Michael Conaway (TX): I want to thank the President for his announcement of $14 billion in new aid to America’s hard working farmers, ranchers, and dairy producers. This aid is vital to helping our farm and ranch families weather the current economic storm.

Rep. Frank Lucas (OK): I thank Secretary Perdue and USDA for addressing the needs of Oklahoma’s hard red winter wheat growers, expanding CFAP eligibility to include all wheat classes. As producers continue to provide food, fuel, and fiber for consumers, I will continue to work with USDA to ensure these changes can be implemented to best help Oklahoma’s wheat growers.

Rep. Roger Marshall (KS): This second round of payments continues this administration’s commitment to the agriculture industry and includes all Kansas wheat farmers, many of which were left out of the first round of payments. It is essential we continue to provide our hardworking farmers, ranchers and farm families with the resources and assistance necessary to continue providing Americans and the world the safest, highest quality, and most affordable food supply in the world.

Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA): Over the past few months, I have worked with Secretary Perdue to advocate for our agriculture commodities that were originally left out of the CFAP, including apples, potatoes, sweet cherries, hops, wine grapes, and wheat; these industries are huge economic drivers for our state, and now they will be included. This assistance will provide desperately-needed relief to our hard-working producers and allow them to continue feeding the world – through this pandemic and into the future. Thank you, Secretary Perdue, for listening to the voices of Central Washington’s farmers and ranchers.

Rep. Tom Reed (WA): Earlier this month, we urged @SecretarySonny and the @USDA to expand the #CFAP program to include our nation’s wine grape growers. Thank you for ensuring all of our farmers and agricultural producers have access to the relief they deserve!

Rep.Greg Steube (FL): More promising news for America’s farmers! Thank you to @SecretarySonny for expanding the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) by $14 billion. We owe it to the farmers and producers feeding our families as they bounce back from COVID-19.

Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr.: Illinois Farm Bureau appreciates a second round of USDA coronavirus food assistance to make it through the market impacts of this ongoing pandemic. Today’s announcement of CFAP 2 comes at a critical time for Illinois farmers entering harvest and an eighth consecutive year of depressed farm income, increased market pressures and below breakeven prices… Our thanks go to President Trump, Secretary Perdue and Congress for their leadership in making this round of disaster assistance available.

Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) President Carl Jardon: ICGA thanks the Trump Administration and Secretary Perdue for understanding and providing aid to corn farmers who have experienced the worst year of market demand loss due to COVID-19 on top of extreme weather conditions.

National Milk Producers Federation: We thank President @realDonaldTrump and @SecretarySonny for providing additional support to #dairy farmers through @USDA’s latest round of disaster assistance, as well as Congress for providing the funding in the CARES Act earlier this year.

National Potato Council President Britt Raybould: We’re pleased to see USDA has listened to the feedback of #potato growers and created a simplified program that reflects the true impact that government-mandated food service disruptions have had on our industry.

TN Farm Bureau: #CFAP2 – $14 BILLION more to farmers thanks to @POTUS and @SecretarySonny! It’s been a tough time for all of us, and we’re grateful for the support our most important industry and those who provide us with food, fiber and fuel has received.

National Turkey Federation: Next round of @USDA aid includes eligibility for independent urkey farmers! NTF thanks @realDonaldTrump & @SecretarySonny for addressing the needs of the 🦃 industry in #CFAP2.

National Association of Wheat Growers: NAWG thanks Secretary Perdue and his staff for taking our feedback these past several months and expresses great appreciation for making producers of all classes of wheat eligible for CFAP payments

Stewart Cathey, Chairman of the Louisiana Senate Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture and Rural Development regarding the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program: The additional $14 billion dollars in assistance will help ensure the resiliency of our Louisiana producers and alleviate the impact of the pandemic on our agriculture industry. We are greatly appreciative for USDA’s recognition of Louisiana’s challenges and swift response to stabilize the livelihood of our producers and industry as a whole.

Commissioner Doug Goehring, North Dakota Department of Agriculture: I am grateful to President Trump and Secretary Perdue for listening to our farmers and ranchers and modifying the program to cover more commodities to help meet the needs of those impacted in our agriculture community.

Louisiana Representative Jack McFarland, chair of the House Committee on Agriculture: I want to thank you and President Trump for your continues support of our farmers as they deal with losses because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Secretary Mike Naig, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship: I want to thank President Trump and the USDA for continuing to support our farmers as they battle persistent economic hardships.

Commissioner Rick Pate, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries: I want to thank President Trump and his team at USDA for the much-needed assistance. Our farmers and Ranchers have fed this nation during these challenging times at a substantial financial loss. These funds, along with programs being implemented by our department, will hopefully help agriculture in Alabama.

Commissioner Mike Strain, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry: In Louisiana, we are very pleased and grateful for today’s announcement of CFAP-2 payments to be implemented beginning Sept. 21… This needed assistance could not have arrived at a more critical time and will markedly help provide stability and enable many farmers to recover and rebuild their operations.

Commissioner Steve Troxler, North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: I am certainly thankful that the administration and USDA included four major North Carolina crops in the latest round of coronavirus relief funding. Sweet potato, tobacco, hemp and Christmas tree growers will be eligible under the latest version of the program, which includes up to an additional $14 billion… I want to personally thank President Trump, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and administration chief of staff Mark Meadows for helping our family farmers.

Background:

Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) will begin September 21st and run through December 11, 2020.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use funds being made available from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and CARES Act to support row crops, livestock, specialty crops, dairy, aquaculture and many additional commodities. USDA has incorporated improvements in CFAP 2 based from stakeholder engagement and public feedback to better meet the needs of impacted farmers and ranchers.

Producers can apply for CFAP 2 at USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices. This program provides financial assistance that gives producers the ability to absorb increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Producers will be compensated for ongoing market disruptions and assisted with the associated marketing cost

CFAP 2 payments will be made for three categories of commodities – Price Trigger Commodities, Flat-rate Crops and Sales Commodities.

Price Trigger Commodities

Price trigger commodities are major commodities that meet a minimum 5-percent price decline over a specified period of time. Eligible price trigger crops include barley, corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, upland cotton, and all classes of wheat. Payments will be based on 2020 planted acres of the crop, excluding prevented planting and experimental acres. Payments for price trigger crops will be the greater of: 1) the eligible acres multiplied by a payment rate of $15 per acre; or 2) the eligible acres multiplied by a nationwide crop marketing percentage, multiplied by a crop-specific payment rate, and then by the producer’s weighted 2020 Actual Production History (APH) approved yield. If the APH is not available, 85 percent of the 2019 Agriculture Risk Coverage-County Option (ARC-CO) benchmark yield for that crop will be used.

For broilers and eggs, payments will be based on 75 percent of the producers’ 2019 production.

Dairy (cow’s milk) payments will be based on actual milk production from April 1 to Aug. 31, 2020. The milk production for Sept. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020, will be estimated by FSA.

Eligible beef cattle, hogs and pigs, and lambs and sheep payments will be based on the maximum owned inventory of eligible livestock, excluding breeding stock, on a date selected by the producer, between Apr. 16, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2020.

Flat-rate Crops

Crops that either do not meet the 5-percent price decline trigger or do not have data available to calculate a price change will have payments calculated based on eligible 2020 acres multiplied by $15 per acre. These crops include alfalfa, extra long staple (ELS) cotton, oats, peanuts, rice, hemp, millet, mustard, safflower, sesame, triticale, rapeseed, and several others.

Sales Commodities

Sales commodities include specialty crops; aquaculture; nursery crops and floriculture; other commodities not included in the price trigger and flat-rate categories, including tobacco; goat milk; mink (including pelts); mohair; wool; and other livestock (excluding breeding stock) not included under the price trigger category that were grown for food, fiber, fur, or feathers. Payment calculations will use a sales-based approach, where producers are paid based on five payment gradations associated with their 2019 sales.

Additional commodities are eligible in CFAP 2 that weren’t eligible in the first iteration of the program. If your agricultural operation has been impacted by the pandemic since April 2020, we encourage you to apply for CFAP 2. A complete list of eligible commodities, payment rates and calculations can be found on farmers.gov/cfap.

Eligibility

There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Applicants who are corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits when members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation. In addition, this special payment limitation provision has been expanded to include trusts and estates for both CFAP 1 and 2.

Producers will also have to certify they meet the Adjusted Gross Income limitation of $900,000 unless at least 75 percent or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Producers must also be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions.

Applying for Assistance

Producers can apply for assistance beginning Sept. 21, 2020. Applications will be accepted through Dec. 11, 2020.

Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap. Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested. All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from farmers.gov/cfap/apply. For existing FSA customers, including those who participated in CFAP 1, many documents are likely already on file. Producers should check with FSA county office to see if any of the forms need to be updated.

Customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP 2 application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages with the team at the FSA county office.

All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment. Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Visitors are also required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Our program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with our producers in the office, by phone and using online tools. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

USDA to Provide Additional Direct Assistance to Farmers and Ranchers Impacted by the Coronavirus

Expansion of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program Begins Sept. 21

(Washington, D.C., September 18, 2020) – President Donald J. Trump and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced up to an additional $14 billion dollars for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. Signup for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) will begin September 21st and run through December 11, 2020.

“America’s agriculture communities are resilient, but still face many challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. President Trump is once again demonstrating his commitment to ensure America’s farmers and ranchers remain in business to produce the food, fuel, and fiber America needs to thrive,” said Secretary Perdue. “We listened to feedback received from farmers, ranchers and agricultural organizations about the impact of the pandemic on our nations’ farms and ranches, and we developed a program to better meet the needs of those impacted.”

Background:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will use funds being made available from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) Charter Act and CARES Act to support row crops, livestock, specialty crops, dairy, aquaculture and many additional commodities. USDA has incorporated improvements in CFAP 2 based from stakeholder engagement and public feedback to better meet the needs of impacted farmers and ranchers.

Producers can apply for CFAP 2 at USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) county offices. This program provides financial assistance that gives producers the ability to absorb increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Producers will be compensated for ongoing market disruptions and assisted with the associated marketing costs.

CFAP 2 payments will be made for three categories of commodities – Price Trigger Commodities, Flat-rate Crops and Sales Commodities.

Price Trigger Commodities

Price trigger commodities are major commodities that meet a minimum 5-percent price decline over a specified period of time. Eligible price trigger crops include barley, corn, sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, upland cotton, and all classes of wheat. Payments will be based on 2020 planted acres of the crop, excluding prevented planting and experimental acres. Payments for price trigger crops will be the greater of: 1) the eligible acres multiplied by a payment rate of $15 per acre; or 2) the eligible acres multiplied by a nationwide crop marketing percentage, multiplied by a crop-specific payment rate, and then by the producer’s weighted 2020 Actual Production History (APH) approved yield. If the APH is not available, 85 percent of the 2019 Agriculture Risk Coverage-County Option (ARC-CO) benchmark yield for that crop will be used.

For broilers and eggs, payments will be based on 75 percent of the producers’ 2019 production.

Dairy (cow’s milk) payments will be based on actual milk production from April 1 to Aug. 31, 2020. The milk production for Sept. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020, will be estimated by FSA.

Eligible beef cattle, hogs and pigs, and lambs and sheep payments will be based on the maximum owned inventory of eligible livestock, excluding breeding stock, on a date selected by the producer, between Apr. 16, 2020, and Aug. 31, 2020.

Flat-rate Crops

Crops that either do not meet the 5-percent price decline trigger or do not have data available to calculate a price change will have payments calculated based on eligible 2020 acres multiplied by $15 per acre. These crops include alfalfa, extra long staple (ELS) cotton, oats, peanuts, rice, hemp, millet, mustard, safflower, sesame, triticale, rapeseed, and several others.

Sales Commodities

Sales commodities include specialty crops; aquaculture; nursery crops and floriculture; other commodities not included in the price trigger and flat-rate categories, including tobacco; goat milk; mink (including pelts); mohair; wool; and other livestock (excluding breeding stock) not included under the price trigger category that were grown for food, fiber, fur, or feathers. Payment calculations will use a sales-based approach, where producers are paid based on five payment gradations associated with their 2019 sales.

Additional commodities are eligible in CFAP 2 that weren’t eligible in the first iteration of the program. If your agricultural operation has been impacted by the pandemic since April 2020, we encourage you to apply for CFAP 2. A complete list of eligible commodities, payment rates and calculations can be found on farmers.gov/cfap.

Eligibility

There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Applicants who are corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits when members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation. In addition, this special payment limitation provision has been expanded to include trusts and estates for both CFAP 1 and 2.

Producers will also have to certify they meet the Adjusted Gross Income limitation of $900,000 unless at least 75 percent or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Producers must also be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions.

Applying for Assistance

Producers can apply for assistance beginning Sept. 21, 2020. Applications will be accepted through Dec. 11, 2020.

Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap. Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested. All other eligibility forms, such as those related to adjusted gross income and payment information, can be downloaded from farmers.gov/cfap/apply. For existing FSA customers, including those who participated in CFAP 1, many documents are likely already on file. Producers should check with FSA county office to see if any of the forms need to be updated.

Customers seeking one-on-one support with the CFAP 2 application process can call 877-508-8364 to speak directly with a USDA employee ready to offer assistance. This is a recommended first step before a producer engages with the team at the FSA county office.

All USDA Service Centers are open for business, including some that are open to visitors to conduct business in person by appointment only. All Service Center visitors wishing to conduct business with FSA, Natural Resources Conservation Service or any other Service Center agency should call ahead and schedule an appointment. Service Centers that are open for appointments will pre-screen visitors based on health concerns or recent travel, and visitors must adhere to social distancing guidelines. Visitors are also required to wear a face covering during their appointment. Our program delivery staff will be in the office, and they will be working with our producers in the office, by phone and using online tools. More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Deputy Secretary Censky to Return to ASA as CEO

(Washington, D.C., September 18, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky will be departing November 8, 2020. He will be returning to become the CEO of the American Soybean Association (ASA), a position in which he previously served for 21 years.  He will begin that role on November 9, 2020.

“There is no doubt that I personally, as well as the whole USDA family will miss Steve’s experience, preparedness, and steady leadership. During his tenure as Deputy Secretary, we accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time even in the face of serious challenges in American agriculture,” said Secretary Perdue. “Steve’s roots are in agriculture and he is one of the best and most professional public servants America has. His wise counsel helped us make USDA the most efficient, effective, customer-focused department in the entire federal government, and I am forever grateful for his invaluable guidance and input. I join the entire USDA family in wishing Steve and his family all the best as he heads back to ASA in November.”

“It has been a true honor to serve my country on behalf of American agriculture. These past few years have seen tremendous developments, and I am humbled to have served a role in implementing a Farm Bill, launching the USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda, supporting America’s farmers against trade retaliation, and now assisting farmers and ranchers and feeding families affected by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Deputy Secretary Censky. “I want to thank Secretary Perdue for trusting in me and giving me the opportunity to conduct the important work that affects the daily lives of so many Americans. It has been tremendously rewarding to also work as Chief Operating Officer of one of the largest Departments in the Federal government to assist Secretary Perdue and our team at USDA in greatly improving customer service, operational effectiveness and efficiency.”

Background:

Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky portrait

Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky was sworn-in on October 11, 2017 after being unanimously confirmed by the Senate. Mr. Censky previously served for 21 years as CEO of the American Soybean Association, a national, not-for-profit trade association that represents United States soybean farmers on policy and trade. Mr. Censky began his career working as a legislative assistant for Senator Jim Abdnor (R-SD). Later he served in both the Reagan and George H. W. Bush Administrations at the USDA, eventually serving as Administrator of the Foreign Agricultural Service where he was involved in running our nation’s export programs. Mr. Censky received his B.S. in Agriculture from South Dakota State University and his Postgraduate Diploma in Agriculture Science from the University of Melbourne, Australia. He grew up on a soybean, corn, and diversified livestock farm near Jackson, Minnesota. He and his wife Carmen have two daughters.

Download this photo of Deputy Secretary Stephen Censky

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USDA Announces Contracts for Round 3 of the Farmers to Families Food Box Program

(Washington, D.C., September 17, 2020) – Following President Donald Trump’s approval to include up to an additional $1 billion in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved up to $1 billion in contracts to support American producers and communities in need through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Earlier this week, USDA reached a milestone of having distributed more than 90 million food boxes in support of American farmers and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These contract awards will go to vendors who submitted the strongest proposals in support of American agriculture and the American people. The high level of interest and quality of proposals are a testament that the program is accomplishing what we intended – supporting U.S. farmers and distributors and getting food to those who need it most. It’s a real trifecta, which is why we call it a win-win-win,” said Secretary Perdue. “Thanks to President Trump and his commitment to the program with the announcement of an additional $1 billion in funding, more farmers will be supported, and more families will receive the nutritious food they need during these difficult times.”

“With over 90 million Farmers to Families food boxes delivered, we continue to leverage and support our great American farmers and food distributors to feed those most vulnerable. Thanks to the President’s commitment of $1 billion in additional funding, I’m proud to see that we are well on our way to the third round of USDA Farmers to Families food box program purchases which focus on boxes containing fresh and nutritious fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy,” said Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump.

These contract awards are a result of the third round of Farmers to Families Food Box program announced on July 24, 2020, and President Trump’s announcement on August 24 that up to an additional $1 billion was being made available for deliveries through October 31, 2020. A full list of approved suppliers will be posted on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program webpage after 5 p.m. ET, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020.

Background:

In this third round of purchases, USDA announced plans to purchase combination boxes to ensure all recipient organizations have access to fresh produce, dairy products, fluid milk and meat products. These boxes will be distributed to every county in America.

USDA solicited new proposals for the third round. Proposals were required to illustrate how coverage would be provided to areas identified as opportunity zones, detail subcontracting agreements, and address the “last mile” delivery of product into the hands of the food insecure population.

Entities who met the government’s requirements and specifications were issued agreements and submitted pricing through a competitive acquisition process. Agreements were awarded based on the pricing submitted for the delivery locations proposed, box content, last mile delivery plans, means testing compliance, and support of small and local/regional food systems.

In the ongoing second round of purchasing and distribution, which began July 1 and will conclude Sep. 18, 2020, USDA has purchased more than $1.113 billion of food through extended contracts of select vendors from the first round of the program as well as new contracts focused on Opportunity Zones in order to direct food to reach underserved areas, places where either no boxes have yet been delivered, or where boxes are being delivered but where there is additional need.

The first round of purchases occurred from May 15 through June 30, 2020 and saw more than 35.5 million boxes delivered in the first 45 days.

Updates to the number of food boxes verified as delivered will continue to be displayed on the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website, with breakdowns by performance period on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program page.

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Three Food Safety Tips to Add to Your Healthy Eating Routine

Posted by Nutrition.gov Staff, National Agricultural Library in Food and Nutrition

Sep 17, 2020

A collage of a steak on the grill, veggies in containers and blueberries washed
Safe food handling, cooking, and storage can help to prevent food poisoning at home. Photo credit: iStock (2) and Pixabay (1). Graphic created using Canva.

September is National Food Safety Education Month, and Nutrition.gov is excited to share our updated Food Safety page to help you celebrate! Now, you can find information on current and trending topics like food delivery services and emergency food storage to continue enjoying safe, nutritious food.

How are you protecting yourself and your loved ones from food poisoning? Make food safety a part of your nutrition routine with these three tips:

  1. Choose the right transport method. Use Nutrition.gov’s Food Safety On the Go page to keep food at the proper temperature and avoid cross contamination when you are on the road or away from home. If you are interested in having someone else bring meals or groceries to your home, select a delivery service that follows food safety guidelines.
  2. Store food safely. Keep food fresh longer and prevent foodborne germs from growing by following guidelines for storing food in the freezer, refrigerator, and pantry. Our Safe Food Storage page provides information on how long foods stay fresh, along with convenient resources like the USDA FoodKeeper App.
  3. Prepare food properly. Clean surfaces and hands before and while preparing food to avoid cross contamination and cook food to the right temperature to kill any harmful germs. Learn about cooking temperatures and food handling on our Safe Food Preparation page.

A collection of resources from USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service and other federal agencies, Nutrition.gov’s Food Safety page is a one-stop shop for answering your food safety questions.

Discover more Nutrition.gov resources and recipes by signing up for our Food and Nutrition Updates e-newsletter or following us on Twitter.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition

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Trump Administration Invests More Than $7 Million in High-Speed Broadband in Rural South Carolina

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17, 2020 – The Trump Administration today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $7 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in South Carolina. This investment is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the ReConnect Program.

“Access to a high-speed internet connection is a cornerstone of prosperity, and unfortunately many of America’s rural communities lack access to this critical infrastructure,” USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Bette Brand said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to leveraging all available resources and being a strong partner to rural communities in deploying high-speed broadband e-Connectivity to the people, businesses and community facilities that don’t have access yet. Connecting America’s rural communities to this essential infrastructure is one of USDA’s top priorities, because we know that when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”

In rural South Carolina, OneTone Telecommunications will use a $7.5 million loan to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 12,938 people, 29 businesses and three educational facilities to high-speed broadband internet in Anderson and Oconee counties.

Background:

In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On Dec. 13, 2018, Secretary Perdue announced the rules of the program, called “ReConnect,” including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America.

On April 20, 2020, USDA announced the Department has received 172 applications for $1.57 billion in Round Two of the ReConnect Program. The second round will enable USDA to implement innovative new solutions to rural connectivity by leveraging financial options with our partners and continuing the success of the first round of funding. The application window for Round Two closed on April 15.

In Round One of the ReConnect Program, USDA invested $698 million to bring high-speed broadband e-Connectivity to approximately 167,000 households, 17,000 rural small businesses and farms, and more than 500 health care centers, educational facilities and critical community facilities located in 33 states. To learn more about individual investments, read USDA’s Broadband ReConnect Program report (PDF, 4 MB).

USDA received 11 Round Two ReConnect Program applications that are eligible for the $100 million Congress allocated to the program through the CARES Act.

To learn more about ReConnect Program eligibility, technical assistance and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

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USDA Assists Farmers, Ranchers, and Communities Affected by Western Wildfires

WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the availability of assistance for residents and agricultural producers affected by recent wildfires.

As of today, wildfires have burned nearly 6.9 million acres across 11 states. More than 31,000 personnel from the local, state and federal levels are working to contain 61 large fires. The USDA Forest Service has more than 7,800 personnel committed to firefighting efforts along with airtankers, helicopters, and other air and ground firefighting resources.

Food waivers and flexibilities

On August 27, 2020, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved California’s waiver request to allow for the purchase of hot foods with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in select counties. As many California residents are not able to store food or access cooking facilities, households in those counties can purchase hot foods with SNAP benefits through September 23, 2020.

On September 3, 2020, FNS also approved California’s request to issue automatic mass replacements of SNAP benefits to impacted households. This waiver allows households in certain counties and zip codes to receive replacement of 50% of their August SNAP benefits as a result of wildfires and power outages that began on August 17, 2020. For more information on either of these actions, contact the California Department of Social Services.

Helping producers weather financial impacts of disasters

When major disasters strike, USDA has an emergency loan program that provides eligible farmers low-interest loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. This program is triggered when a natural disaster is designated by the Secretary of Agriculture or a natural disaster or emergency is declared by the President under the Stafford Act. USDA also offers additional programs tailored to the needs of specific agricultural sectors to help producers weather the financial impacts of major disasters and rebuild their operations.

Livestock owners and contract growers who experience above normal livestock deaths due to specific weather events, as well as to disease or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance under USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program.

Livestock producers who have suffered grazing losses due to a qualifying drought condition or fire on federally-managed land during the normal grazing period for a county may qualify for help through USDA’s Livestock Forage Disaster Program. Producers of non-insurable crops who suffer crop losses, lower yields or are prevented from planting agricultural commodities may be eligible for assistance under USDA’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program.

Helping operations recover after disasters

USDA can also provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. Assistance may also be available for emergency animal mortality disposal from natural disasters and other causes.

Farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters can apply for assistance through USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program. USDA also has assistance available for eligible private forest landowners who need to restore forestland damaged by natural disasters through the Emergency Forest Restoration Program. USDA’s Emergency Watershed Protection Program can also help relieve imminent threats to life and property caused by fires and other natural disasters that impair a watershed. Orchardists and nursery tree growers may be eligible for assistance through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program to help replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

Producers with coverage through the Risk Management Agency (RMA) administered federal crop insurance program should contact their crop insurance agent for issues in filing claims. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of discovering damage and follow up in writing within 15 days. The Approved Insurance Providers (AIP), loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well trained in handling these types of events. As part of its commitment to delivering excellent customer service, RMA is working closely with AIPs that sell and service crop insurance policies to ensure enough loss adjusters will be available to process claims in the affected areas as quickly as possible. Visit the RMA website for more details.

Helping with the long-term recovery of rural communities

USDA Rural Development has more than 50 programs available to rural and tribal communities for the rebuild, repair or modernization of rural infrastructure including drinking and waste water systems, solid waste management, electric infrastructure, and essential community facilities such as public safety stations, health care centers and hospitals, and educational facilities. Visit the USDA Rural Development website for more information on specific programs.

Visit USDA’s disaster resources website to learn more about USDA disaster preparedness and response. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, contact your local USDA Service Center.

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USDA Encourages Ag Producers, Residents to Prepare for Hurricane Sally

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses in the path of Hurricane Sally that USDA has programs that provide assistance in the wake of disasters. USDA staff in the regional, state and county offices stand ready and are eager to help.

In a continuing effort to serve the American people, USDA partnered with FEMA and other disaster-focused organizations and created the Disaster Resource Center. This central source of information uses a searchable knowledgebase of disaster-related resources powered by agents with subject matter expertise. The Disaster Resource Center website and web tool now provide an easy access point to find USDA disaster information and assistance.

Steps to follow to prepare for a possible weather emergency

Severe weather forecasts often present the possibility of power outages that could compromise the safety of stored food. USDA encourages those in the path of the storm to take the following precautions:

  • Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
  • Place appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or below in the refrigerator, 0°F or below in the freezer.
  • Freeze water in small plastic storage bags or containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold.
  • Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Consider getting 50 pounds of dry or block ice if a lengthy power outage is possible. This amount of ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days
  • Group foods together in the freezer—this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

Protecting livestock during a disaster

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is urging everyone in the potential path of the hurricane to prepare now – not just for yourselves, but also for your pets and your livestock.

  • Plan for evacuation – know how you will evacuate and where you will go. If it is not feasible to evacuate your livestock, be sure to provide a strong shelter and adequate food and water that will last them until you can return.
  • If you are planning to move livestock out of state, make sure to contact the State Veterinarian’s Office in the receiving state before you move any animals. You also may contact APHIS Veterinary Services state offices for information and assistance about protecting and moving livestock.
  • Listen to emergency officials and evacuate if asked to do so.

USDA also developed a disaster assistance discovery tool specifically targeted to rural and agricultural issues. The tool walks producers through five questions that generate personalized results identifying which USDA disaster assistance programs can help them recover from a natural disaster.

USDA also encourages residents and small businesses in impact zones to contact USDA offices which meet their individual needs.

Owners of meat and poultry producing businesses who have questions or concerns may contact the FSIS Small Plant Help Desk online 24 hours a day, by phone at 1-877-FSIS-HELP (1-877-374-7435) and by email at infosource@fsis.usda.gov.

Helping producers weather financial impacts of disasters

Livestock owners and contract growers who experience above normal livestock deaths due to specific weather events, as well as to disease or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance under USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program.

Livestock, honeybee and farm-raised fish producers whose mechanically harvested or purchased livestock feed was physically damaged or destroyed; or who lost grazing acres or beehives due to an extreme weather event may qualify for assistance. Producers of non-insurable crops who suffer crop losses, lower yields or are prevented from planting agricultural commodities may be eligible for assistance under USDA’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program if the losses were due to natural disasters.

Helping operations recover after disasters

USDA also can provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. Assistance may also be available for emergency animal mortality disposal from natural disasters and other causes.

Farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters can apply for assistance through USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program. USDA also has assistance available for eligible private forest landowners who need to restore forestland damaged by natural disasters through the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (PDF, 257 KB). For declared natural disasters that lead to imminent threats to life and property, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can assist local government sponsors with the cost of implementing recovery efforts like debris removal and streambank stabilization to address natural resource concerns and hazards through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program.

Orchardists and nursery tree growers may be eligible for assistance through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program to help replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes and vines damaged by natural disasters.

When major disasters strike, USDA has an emergency loan program that provides eligible farmers low-interest loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. USDA’s emergency loan program is triggered when a natural disaster is designated by the Secretary of Agriculture or a natural disaster or emergency is declared by the President under the Stafford Act. USDA also offers additional programs tailored to the needs of specific agricultural sectors to help producers weather the financial impacts of major disasters and rebuild their operations.

Helping individuals recover after disasters

In the aftermath of a disaster, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with state, local and nongovernmental organizations to provide emergency nutrition assistance – including food packages and infant formula – to households, shelters and mass feeding sites serving people in need. Upon request from states, the agency also provides emergency flexibilities in the administration of its nutrition assistance programs. In recent weeks, the agency has allowed the purchase of hot foods with SNAP benefits in California, Louisiana, and Iowa, and has provided automatic replacement of benefits due to food loss in California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Texas. In some circumstances, the agency also works with local authorities to provide Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits, as it has in Louisiana and Iowa, for individuals and families who do not normally receive SNAP benefits. Once the disaster recovery efforts begin, emergency nutrition assistance and flexibilities requested by states and approved by FNS will be posted to the FNS Disaster Assistance website.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides support for disaster education through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). EDEN is a collaborative multi-state effort with land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Services across the country, using research-based education and resources to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. EDEN’s goal is to improve the nation’s ability to mitigate, prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters. EDEN equips county-based Extension educators to share research-based resources in local disaster management and recovery efforts. The EDEN website offers a searchable database of Extension professionals, resources, member universities and disaster agency websites to help people deal with a wide range of hazards, and food and agricultural defense educational resources.

Producers with coverage through the Risk Management Agency (RMA) administered Federal crop insurance program should contact their crop insurance agent for issues regarding filing claims. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days. The Approved Insurance Providers (AIP), loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well trained in handling these types of events. As part of its commitment to delivering excellent customer service, RMA is working closely with AIPs that sell and service crop insurance policies to ensure enough loss adjusters will be available to process claims in the affected areas as quickly as possible. Visit the RMA website for more details.

Helping with the long-term recovery of rural communities

USDA Rural Development has more than 50 programs available to rural and tribal communities for the repair and modernization of rural infrastructure including drinking and waste water systems, solid waste management, electric infrastructure, and essential community facilities such as public safety stations, health care centers and hospitals, and educational facilities. Visit the USDA Rural Development website for more information on specific programs.

Visit USDA’s disaster resources website to learn more about USDA disaster preparedness and response. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, contact your local USDA Service Center.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.

Joint Statement from Western Hemisphere Agriculture Leaders

(Washington, D.C., September 14, 2020) – Following the virtual G-20 Agriculture and Water Ministers Meeting hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Sept. 12, top agricultural officials from five Western Hemisphere countries – Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the United States – issued the following statement underscoring the importance of maintaining agricultural trade flows during the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasizing their commitment to remaining reliable suppliers of food and agricultural products to the world:

“We, the Agriculture Ministers of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the United States, express our deepest condolences for the tragic loss of life being endured around the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and convey our strong appreciation for all workers in the health, agricultural and other front-line sectors, who selflessly dedicate their efforts to the benefit of others.”

“As we face the effects of this crisis, reliable and resilient agricultural supply chains remain essential to guarantee the availability of safe, nutritious food around the world. Our nations have taken the measures necessary to keep agricultural supply chains operational, ensuring the continued production and distribution of safe, quality products, while safeguarding the health and welfare of agricultural sector workers. We are open for business and you can count on us for safe and high-quality food.”

“As Western Hemisphere agricultural leaders, whose countries represent 35 percent of global exports in agricultural products, we reiterate the importance of maintaining agricultural trade flows, while avoiding unjustified trade-restrictive measures, in order to keep markets open and ensure global food security, especially to those most vulnerable. We underscore the guidance published by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization on April 7, 2020, which states, ‘there is no evidence to date of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses being transmitted via food or food packaging,’ and we call on trading partners to allow trade to flow without undue delay or unjustified requirements.”

“We will continue to work with our partners and with relevant regional and international organizations to exchange information, enhance coordination, and strengthen our global response to the crisis.”

“Looking at the aftermath of this pandemic, we recognize that agriculture will be an important engine for economic recovery. Innovation and technological development will be vital to guarantee that food systems develop sustainably to feed the world’s growing population. How we emerge from this crisis will be our greatest legacy for a future of global food security and nutrition.”

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Connecting Veterans with the Lands for which they Fought

Posted by Alexandra Freibott, ORISE Fellow at the Pacific Northwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service in Forestry

Sep 11, 2020

Veterans group canoeing at sunset
Veterans group canoeing at sunset. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Outward Bound School

Millions visit America’s public lands every year to have fun and get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. In fact, spending time in nature can be truly restorative and research shows that nature and green spaces have a positive effect on human health and wellbeing. Veterans, especially, may benefit from nature-based therapies on public lands to relieve stress and symptoms of trauma endured during their time in service.

Monika Derrien and Lee Cerveny, research social scientists with the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station set out to explore outdoor programs for veterans on public lands and gauge support among other federal land managers for using the inherent therapeutic value of nature to benefit veterans.

“We heard repeatedly that trails were being used by veterans with Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other kinds of trauma, stress, or anxiety,” says Cerveny, “but we realized it was much more than people hiking long-distance trails.”

Veterans group on a hike
Veterans group on a hike. Photo courtesy of Sarah Martin

The variety of outdoor programming for vets surprised the researchers and extended to ways they could protect natural resources and improve recreation opportunities.

“There are also work and service-oriented programs where the goal may not be to summit a mountain, but to restore a riparian area [wetlands adjacent to rivers or streams] or build a new trail,” explains Derrien. “There were even programs we weren’t necessarily thinking about when we started the project, like farming and working with horses.”

Together with their colleague David Havlick of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Derrien and Cerveny inventoried existing outdoor programs for veterans in the U.S. They also interviewed leaders with the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service, along with program organizers and participants, to identify ways to expand support and partnerships with such programs.

“We heard from several veterans that one of the benefits of these programs was that it helped them make the connection between protecting the country and protecting our public lands,” said Cerveny. “We heard a few people say, ‘Now we understand this is what we were fighting for, these public lands that our nation has.’”

This symbolic connection between veterans and the lands for which they fought can be a valuable part of nature-based therapeutic programs, made possible through partnerships between such programs and public land agencies.

Derrien and Cerveny are hopeful that the insights in their recently published paper on this work will help leaders and managers expand partnerships to support similar programs.

The researchers are now planning to expand their analysis to include recreation programs for service members that are still on active duty.

“By focusing on active service military programs, we can figure out how those connections to restorative, therapeutic experiences, behaviors, and practices can be developed and fostered even before people are in their post-military service period,” said Derrien.

“I think there’s lots of really great opportunity there.”

Veterans group rock climbing
Veterans group rock climbing. Photo courtesy of North Carolina Outward Bound School
Category/Topic: Forestry

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Trump Administration Invests More Than $21 Million in High-Speed Broadband in Rural North Carolina

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2020 – The Trump Administration today announced that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing more than $21 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in North Carolina. This investment is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to second round of the ReConnect Program.

“The need for rural broadband has never been more apparent than it is now – as our nation manages the coronavirus national emergency. Access to telehealth services, remote learning for school children, and remote business operations all require access to broadband,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “I am so proud of our rural communities who have been working day in and day out, just like they always do, producing the food and fiber America depends on. We need them more than ever during these trying times, and expanding access to this critical infrastructure will help ensure rural America prospers for years to come.”

In rural North Carolina, Atlantic Telephone Membership Corporation will use a $21.6 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) network to connect 17,424 people, 209 farms, 285 businesses, 19 educational facilities, nine health care facilities, seven fire stations, and seven post offices to high-speed broadband internet in Pender County.

Background:

In March 2018, Congress provided $600 million to USDA to expand broadband infrastructure and services in rural America. On Dec. 13, 2018, Secretary Perdue announced the rules of the program, called “ReConnect,” including how the loans and grants will be awarded to help build broadband infrastructure in rural America.

On April 20, 2020, USDA announced the Department has received 172 applications for $1.57 billion in Round Two of the ReConnect Program. The second round will enable USDA to implement innovative new solutions to rural connectivity by leveraging financial options with our partners and continuing the success of the first round of funding. The application window for round two closed on April 15.

In Round One of the ReConnect Program, USDA invested $698 million to bring high-speed broadband e-Connectivity to approximately 167,000 households, 17,000 rural small businesses and farms, and more than 500 health care centers, educational facilities and critical community facilities located in 33 states. To learn more about individual investments, read USDA’s Broadband ReConnect Program report (PDF, 4 MB).

USDA received 11 Round Two ReConnect Program applications that are eligible for the $100 million Congress allocated to the program through the CARES Act.

To learn more about ReConnect Program eligibility, technical assistance and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

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USDA Expands D-SNAP in 10 Iowa Counties Recovering from Derecho

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that low-income Iowa residents in 10 additional counties recovering from the effects of the derecho storm that hit the Midwest in August could be eligible for a helping hand from the USDA Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP).  The agency also provided an extension for current SNAP households to report storm-related food loss and receive replacement benefits.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said that households who may not normally be eligible under regular Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) rules may qualify for D-SNAP – if they meet the disaster income limits and have qualifying disaster-related expenses. 

“Now that 10 additional counties have been declared disaster areas, we have another resource we can provide hard-hit residents trying to recover from the devastation,” said Secretary Perdue. “This Administration will continue working closely with Iowans to make sure they get the food they need.”

The 10 counties that will be implementing D-SNAP are: Polk, Boone, Jasper, Poweshiek, Story, Marshall, Scott, Benton, Cedar, and Tama. D-SNAP will be run in waves, with the first five counties making the program available starting on September 15, and the second set of counties launching their D-SNAP on September 22.

The D-SNAP announcement today is the latest in a series of USDA actions taken to help Iowa residents cope with the derecho and its aftermath, which also include:

  • An initial D-SNAP approval for Linn County on August 27;
  • A waiver to allow SNAP participants in Linn County to buy hot foods with their benefits (which is not ordinarily allowed by the program) at authorized SNAP retailers through September 21, 2020; and
  • Two waivers which extend the time period households in 27 counties have for reporting food loss from 10-days to 30-days.

Iowans seeking more information about this and other available aid in the aftermath of the derecho should dial 2-1-1 or text their zip code to 899-211. For more information about Iowa SNAP, visit the Iowa Department of Human Services website.

Background

To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must live in an affected county, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility criteria. Eligible households will receive one month of benefits – equal to the maximum amount for a SNAP household of their size – to help meet their temporary food needs as they settle back home following the disaster. The state will share information about D-SNAP application dates and locations through local media.

The timing of D-SNAP varies with the unique circumstances of each disaster, but always begins after commercial channels of food distribution have been restored and families are able to purchase and prepare food at home. Before operating a D-SNAP, a state must ensure that the proper public information, staffing, and resources are in place. 

Although current SNAP households are not eligible for D-SNAP, under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, USDA has already approved emergency allotments for Iowa.  Therefore, ongoing SNAP households have already received the maximum available benefit amount for their household size for the month of September.

Further, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) continues to provide significant support to Iowa residents as part of its ongoing response to COVID-19.  For more information on flexibilities provided to Iowa, visit the FNS COVID-19 Response: Iowa webpage

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy. Follow us on Twitter at @USDANutrition.  

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USDA Assists Farmers, Ranchers, and Communities Affected by Hurricane Laura

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reminds rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Laura that USDA has programs that provide assistance in the wake of disasters. USDA staff in the regional, state and county offices are actively responding, providing emergency response staffing and a variety of program flexibilities and other assistance to residents, agricultural producers, and impacted communities at large.

“Hurricane Laura has taken a heavy toll, but USDA stands ready to assist those in need,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “This Administration remains committed to supporting the people and agricultural producers in the Gulf Coast, and we will be there, providing all the support we can, for as long as we can, to get them back on their feet.”

Some of the many ways USDA and its component agencies are helping residents in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi recover following Hurricane Laura include:

Ensure food safety when returning home after disasters

As residents make it back into their homes, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is helping ensure they are taking the proper steps to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Food safety tips after a power outage and flooding are available on the FSIS website.

Information about protecting livestock may be found on APHIS’s Protecting Livestock During a Disaster page. Additionally, information about protecting household pets and service animals can be found on the APHIS Animal Care Emergency Programs webpage.

The APHIS Animal Care (AC) program, which oversees the welfare of certain animals that are exhibited to the public, bred for commercial sale and used in medical research, is also actively involved in the hurricane response effort. In addition to providing technical assistance to local regulated facilities to help them prepare for potential hurricane damage and flooding, AC inspectors are now checking those facilities that were in the path of the storm to assess damage and ensure the welfare of their animals. 

For more information about APHIS’ response efforts and how to protect pets and service animals in disasters, follow APHIS on Twitter at @USDA_APHIS.

Farm Production and Conservation agencies helping producers weather financial impacts

When major disasters strike, USDA has an emergency loan program that provides eligible farmers low-interest loans to help them recover from production and physical losses. USDA also offers additional programs tailored to the needs of specific agricultural sectors to help producers weather the financial impacts of major disasters and rebuild their operations.

Livestock owners and contract growers who experience above normal livestock deaths due to specific weather events, as well as to disease, injury or animal attacks, may qualify for assistance under USDA’s Livestock Indemnity Program. Livestock, honeybee and farm-raised fish producers whose mechanically harvested or purchased livestock feed was physically damaged or destroyed; or who lost grazing acres or beehives due to an extreme weather event may qualify for assistance. Producers of non-insurable crops who suffer crop losses, lower yields or are prevented from planting agricultural commodities may be eligible for assistance under USDA’s Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program if the losses were due to natural disasters.

Helping operations recover after disasters

Farmers and ranchers that suffered damage to working lands and livestock mortality due to a qualifying natural disaster are encouraged to contact their local USDA Service Center. USDA has multiple programs to help producers manage their operations.

USDA can provide financial resources through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program to help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. Assistance may also be available for emergency animal mortality disposal from natural disasters and other causes.

Farmers and ranchers needing to rehabilitate farmland damaged by natural disasters can apply for assistance through USDA’s Emergency Conservation Program. USDA also has assistance available for eligible private forest landowners who need to restore forestland damaged by natural disasters through the Emergency Forest Restoration Program.

Orchardists and nursery tree growers may be eligible for assistance through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program to help replant or rehabilitate eligible trees, bushes, and vines damaged by natural disasters.

Helping individuals recover after disasters

In the aftermath of a disaster, USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with state, local, and nongovernmental organizations to provide emergency nutrition assistance – including food packages and infant formula – to households, shelters, and mass feeding sites serving people in need. Upon request from states, the agency also provides emergency flexibilities in the administration of its nutrition assistance programs and works with local authorities to provide Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits, as it has in Louisiana just recently.

As Hurricane Laura wreaked havoc in Louisiana, Texas, and the Caribbean, FNS responded by allowing Louisiana to run D-SNAP, along with approving waivers to allow for hot food purchases with SNAP benefits, as well as letting the state re-issue mass replacements of SNAP benefits due to food loss. The state was also able to have a Disaster Household Distribution of USDA foods which helped distribute food boxes to countless individuals impacted by the devastating hurricane.

Similar programs have been put into place in Texas, and additional flexibilities have been allowed in these states and in Puerto Rico to ease the burden on administrative staff and participants as they recover.

Once the disaster recovery efforts begin, emergency nutrition assistance and flexibilities requested by states and approved by FNS will be posted to the FNS Disaster Assistance website.

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture provides support for disaster education through the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN). EDEN is a collaborative multi-state effort with land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension Services across the country, using research-based education and resources to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. EDEN’s goal is to improve the nation’s ability to mitigate, prepare for, prevent, respond to and recover from disasters. EDEN equips county-based Extension educators to share research-based resources in local disaster management and recovery efforts. The EDEN website offers a searchable database of Extension professionals, resources, member universities and disaster agency websites, education materials to help people deal with a wide range of hazards, and food and agricultural defense educational resources.

Producers with coverage through the Risk Management Agency (RMA) administered Federal crop insurance program should contact their crop insurance agent for issues regarding filing claims. Those who purchased crop insurance will be paid for covered losses. Producers should report crop damage within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days. The Approved Insurance Providers (AIP), loss adjusters and agents are experienced and well trained in handling these types of events. As part of its commitment to customer service, RMA is working closely with AIPs that sell and service crop insurance policies to ensure enough loss adjusters will be available to process claims in the affected areas as quickly as possible. Visit the RMA website for additional details.

Visit USDA’s disaster resources website to learn more about USDA disaster preparedness and response. For more information on USDA disaster assistance programs, contact your local USDA Service Center.

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ARS Scientists Take on World’s Deadliest Animal

Posted by Scott Elliott, Agricultural Research Service Office of Communications in Research and Science

Sep 08, 2020

An engorged female Aedes aegypti mosquito
An engorged female Aedes aegypti mosquito (vector of dengue virus, Zika virus, and chikungunya virus) rests following a bloodmeal. (Photo by Jose Ramirez)

Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are working to bring more weapons to bear against one of the most dangerous creatures in the animal kingdom: the mosquito.

Mosquitoes spread diseases such as malaria, dengue, West Nile, yellow fever, and Zika, which affect millions of people around the world annually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, severe cases of West Nile virus have increased in the United States by nearly 25% since 2008, and dengue has risen 300% worldwide in the past 30 years.

Chemical pesticide control measures help reduce the mosquito population, but according to Jose Luis Ramirez, a research entomologist at the ARS Crop Bioprotection unit in Peoria, IL, an integrated approach that adds cultural and biological methods is the best mitigation strategy.

Chemical pesticides can quickly control an insect pest population, but drawbacks include persistence in the environment and insecticide resistance from targeted insects. The advantages of microbial control include reducing chemical pesticide use, improving crop quality, and reducing environmental contamination.

“Mosquitoes transmit diseases to humans, pets, and livestock,” Ramirez said. “Non-chemical control offers an environmentally friendly alternative to reduce the impact of mosquitoes on animal health and the annual economic losses to U.S. agriculture.”

Ramirez and his colleagues are evaluating fungi and bacteria that already exist in nature and turning these mosquito-killing microbes into biopesticides that target mosquito eggs, larvae, and adults. The process is similar to combatting invasive plants by importing natural enemies from their homelands. Researchers identify beneficial microbes, test them for specificity against a target pest, then develop large-scale production for release against the pest.

Successful microbial biopesticides include Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti), a pathogenic bacterium that produces protein crystals that break open the mosquito larval gut when ingested, and Wolbachia, a bacterium that interferes with the reproduction of the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti.

“Non-chemical strategies allow farmers to practice pest control over vast areas without environmental contamination and the detrimental effects on beneficial insects, such as pollinators, that are important for crop production,” Ramirez said.

Although it’s now late in the season, there are still plenty of things people can do to reduce mosquito infestation, and it’s not too early to start thinking about next year.

“We are moving towards the end of the mosquito season for most places in the United States,” Ramirez said. “However, removing mosquito breeding habitats will not only help this season, but also remove eggs that could overwinter and become the new generation of mosquitoes next year.”

Category/Topic: Research and Science

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Educational Resources that will Inspire Your Family to Learn and Practice Food Safety at Home

Posted by Maribel Alonso, Senior Technical Information Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA in Health and Safety

Sep 08, 2020

A girl studying
FSIS food safety education resources offer fun learning activities for families.

You’re working from home and facing constant interruption by your child who needs help with a chore, schoolwork, or preparing a snack. Sound familiar? Many of us are wearing several hats: the working-at-home professional, the teacher, and the child entertainer.

Why not combine two of those roles – teacher and entertainer – with one activity to give yourself a bit of a break?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has many food safety education resources for families, including the Food Safe Families Activity Book. Recently, this activity book was updated with science-based lesson plans that will help your youngster learn about and practice food safety while at home. This educational resource is for children ages 6 to 10, and fits into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – STEM – curricula.

Friendly characters teach elementary school-age children about the four simple steps of food safety: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill, plus the types of germs that can cause food poisoning. They’ll learn about food safety myths; for example, the myth that leftovers are safe to eat until they smell bad. In this book, food safety is taught through games, puzzles, and other activities based on the science of food safety. It also includes games for the whole family to test your household’s food smarts.

Have questions? Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at foodsafety.gov, by following @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter and by liking Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov. Consumers with questions about food safety can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish, or email to mphotline@usda.gov. Consumers can also chat live at ask.usda.gov.

If you have questions about storage times for food or beverages, download USDA’s FoodKeeper application for Android and iOS devices.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety

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Oil and Gas Rule Changes Aim for More Productive Forests

Posted by Andrew S. Avitt, USDA Forest Service, Office of Communications in Forestry

Sep 02, 2020

A man in front of an oil pump
The proposed changes to Forest Service regulations aim to better serve potential oil and gas development lessees while improving productivity on national forests and grasslands. (iStockphoto)

As a multiple-use agency, the USDA Forest Service works to balance the many uses and benefits the American people expect from their national forests and grasslands.

National forests provide wildlife habitat, wild places and recreation opportunities where people can enjoy the outdoors. They also provide a sustainable supply of timber, grazing land for livestock, as well as abundant mineral and energy resources—all of which support rural communities and fuel the global economy. In fact, energy and mineral resources on national forests produced $2.9 billion in commodities in 2019.

However, applying for an oil or gas lease on national forests and grasslands can take years. The process is often bogged down with inefficiencies and unclear requirements, leading to a substantial backlog.

At the direction of Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the Forest Service has proposed changes that would address that backlog and improve productivity on national forests and grasslands.

“Updating our regulations on oil and gas resources will help us become more efficient, while improving customer service,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The rule would promote responsible development of our nation’s vast energy resources while preserving the surface resources of national forests and grasslands.”

“What we are doing is revising regulations that have not been updated since the 90s,” said David Rosenkrance, acting director of minerals and geology management for the Forest Service. “We are bringing clarity to the relationship between the Forest Service and oil and gas operators and providing more efficient timeframes and processes.”

Up to now, multiple decision points in the leasing process created confusion and increased wait times for mineral and energy development with no additional benefit to the environment. Proposed changes would address these issues and create more consistency between the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, which work closely together in processing lease applications and working with lease operators.

“Sometimes it is just as minor as changing terminology to be consistent,” Rosenkrance said. “It brings clarity to the operator and what they need to do.”

Rosenkrance added that while the proposed changes will clarify points of confusion in the existing processes, the Forest Service’s commitment to public involvement remains unchanged.

In addition to supporting jobs in energy and mineral development, leases on national forests and grasslands generate revenue from royalties and other payments on the what the lease produces. These payments amounted to nearly $298 million in 2019, with half going to the states where the lease operation takes place. 40% of the revenue goes to the National Reclamation Fund, which supports irrigation and other water resource projects in the United States. The remaining 10% goes back the U.S. Treasury.

Together, these efforts seek to better realize the enormous potential of national forests and grasslands. By taking these steps to improve on its multiple-use mission, the Forest Service hopes to contribute even more to the nation’s economic recovery while keeping forests healthy, resilient and productive, now and into the future.

Flowers in front of an oil pipeline
Mineral and energy development on national forests produced commodities valued at approximately $2.9 billion in 2019 and generated nearly $298 million in revenue and royalties. The proposed changes to oil and gas leasing regulations will support responsible development of the abundant domestic energy resources on national forests and grasslands. (iStockphoto)
Category/Topic: Forestry

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RD’s ReConnect Program: Supporting Agricultural Innovation by Bridging the Digital Divide

Posted by USDA Rural Development Administrator of Rural Utilities Service Chad Rupe in Broadband Rural Technology

Sep 02, 2020

The Till Family Farm in Orangeburg County
The Till Family Farm in Orangeburg County is a five-generation operation that raises specialty crops as well as cattle, corn, and soybeans. (Front L-R are Whitney and Jeff Till, farm owners, as well as Jacob Till, Jeff’s father and co-owner. Behind them is Jeff and Whitney’s son Tyler, the farm operator)

Advances in technology, automation, and remote sensing is a cross-cutting, macro movement in science impacting agriculture outlined in the USDA Science Blueprint (PDF, 2.6 MB). The Science Blueprint guides USDA’s science priorities for the next 5 years, building from past success. Relative to other crops, many specialty crops are more dependent on agricultural labor for production, harvesting, and processing. This is part of a blog series that highlights investments to advance automation and mechanization for specialty crops. A Case for Rural Broadband: Insights on Rural Broadband Infrastructure and Next Generation Precision Agriculture Technologies (PDF, 2.5 MB) highlights the capacity for farmers and ranchers to implement digital technologies, automate processes, increase productivity, and expand into the global market with access to reliable, high-speed broadband.

Often when we think of rural broadband, we think about how internet access has revolutionized the way Americans consume media, conduct business, learn, and receive medical care via telemedicine. Over the last two decades, USDA has been making significant progress in connecting rural communities to the same telecommunications infrastructure enjoyed by their urban counterparts. However, the untapped potential of high-speed broadband also extends into the new technologies farmers and ranchers use to feed and clothe the world.

The production of specialty crops increasingly relies on digital technologies in the planning, production, and market coordination stages of agricultural management. Developments in Precision Agriculture technologies resulting from increased federal investment in rural e-Connectivity could result in approximately $47-65 billion annually for U.S. agricultural producers. E-Connectivity allows producers to collect data about what, when, and where to produce certain crops. They can also utilize real-time sensing and automated harvesting processes on site to improve yields and enhance labor efficiencies.

Digital technologies give American farmers and ranchers access to a global market through online sales, multi-media advertising, and by optimizing distribution networks. Remote work capabilities allow producers to transcend traditional geographic boundaries to attract the best and brightest minds to their operation. Cutting-edge decision support software, smart irrigation systems, and automated harvesting equipment promote sustainable input use and management efficiencies. These advancements not only support American producers, but they also require a consistent and reliable high-speed connection.

In the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act, Congress provided $600 million to the Broadband Pilot Program, that we are now calling the ReConnect Program, which focuses on areas that completely lack or have insufficient broadband service. In Fiscal Year 2019, an additional $550 million was added to the program by Congress. In Fiscal Year 2020, Congress appropriated an additional $555 million to the program.

The ReConnect Program offers unique federal financing and funding options in the form of loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in areas of rural America that don’t currently have sufficient access.

In May 2020, USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) completed the announcement of the first round of awardees under the FY 2019 Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). A total of 82 awards were made impacting 34 states across America. The investment represents $744,303,168 in grant and loan funding for high-speed broadband infrastructure projects. These 82 critical investments will connect approximately 13,000 farms, enabling them to enhance and utilize precision agriculture technologies for specialty crop production.

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Test Your Children’s Food Safety Knowledge Before Letting Them Have the Run of the Kitchen

Posted by Maribel Alonso, Senior Technical Information Specialist, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA in Health and Safety

Sep 01, 2020

People making lunch
Teaching food safety to children encourages healthy behaviors. Photo credit: FSIS

September is Food Safety Education Month and it’s a perfect time to test your children’s food safety knowledge before you let them take over your kitchen. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many children have spent more time at home – and visited the kitchen numerous times a day.

Many kids today are more health conscious than children generations ago. They aren’t just opening a bag of chips – they now prepare healthy sandwiches and salads and use the microwave to heat up other options like instant noodles or soup. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has developed resources you can use with your elementary-, middle school-, or high school-age children to see how much they really know about fighting germs.

You and your children can mark Food Safety Education Month by organizing a food safety workshop at home. Use these resources as you walk them around the kitchen and teach them some basic food safety tips.

Start with food safety basics if your child is in K-fifth grade:

  • Clean. Wash hands before touching food and after playing outside, playing with your pet, or going to the bathroom. Recent observational studies completed by USDA found that 99 percent of the participants in test kitchens didn’t wash their hands properly. Hand washing should always include five simple steps:
    • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap and apply soap.
    • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
    • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
    • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
    • Dry your hands using a clean towel.

*Tip: You can include a moist towelette or hand sanitizer with kids’ lunches or snacks to clean their hands before eating.

  • Separate. No backpacks on the kitchen counter. Place backpacks and sports equipment on the floor and NOT on the kitchen counter. These items can carry bacteria that can be transferred to the food. Also keep raw meat, poultry, and eggs away from other foods; your child isn’t too young to learn which foods must be cooked before eating.
  • Cook. Always make sure your meat, poultry, and egg products are completely cooked before preparing snacks and eating. It may be too early for your youngster to start using a food thermometer, but not too early to learn to read a product’s label to check if it is raw or cooked. Always check labels to avoid eating raw foods.
  • Chill. Keep food out of the danger zone. Don’t leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours. This includes your lunch. Packed lunches need two cold sources to stay safe. Pack your lunch with a frozen gel pack and frozen juice box or water bottle to keep it cold.

Your sixth- to eighth-grader is more kitchen savvy and may explore with preparing and cooking more. Remind them of these additional food safety steps to avoid foodborne illness:

  • Clean: Wash hands with clean, running water and soap for at least 20 seconds before you start handling and preparing food, especially if you just finished chores like taking out the trash or feeding your pet. Clean counters and surfaces with soap and hot water before preparing foods to avoid cross-contamination. Sanitizing wipes are also handy for surfaces.
  • Separate: Don’t mix fruits with raw meat or poultry. Bacteria can contaminate the items you won’t be cooking and make you sick. And no, it won’t be fun to stay home from school with food poisoning. Raw chicken nuggets could contaminate fruit and other ready to eat foods.
  • Cook: Before using the microwave to cook, did you read the food label? If they’re old enough to use a microwave, follow these tips:
    • Make sure to read the label carefully and follow cooking instructions (or recipe instructions). If a range of time is given, start with the fewest minutes recommended. If a safe internal temperature has not been reached after that, add additional cooking time until a safe internal temperature is reached as measured by a food thermometer.
    • Foods and liquids are heated unevenly in the microwave, so cover and stir or rotate food midway through cooking. If you don’t, you’ll have cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive.
    • Use only glass and other containers labeled “made for microwave use.”
  • Chill: Throw away leftover perishable foods that were out longer than two hours – or one hour if it’s above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. When in doubt, throw it out! Discard leftovers from lunch that weren’t kept cold. When preparing after school snacks, such as cut fruit or other perishable food, refrigerate them within two hours.

Multitasking Teenagers (Ninth – 12th grade)

At this age, kids are always busy with lots of schoolwork and activities. In addition to the information included above, here are important tips for this age group:

  • Clean: Washing hands properly is important at any age. Teenagers are always on the run, so keep hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes in their backpack and in the car.
  • Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat and poultry away from ready-to-eat foods. Use different cutting boards for raw meat or poultry and another for ready-to-eat foods like fruits or vegetables.
  • Cook: When cooking either in the microwave or on the stove, use a food thermometer to make sure your food is done. You can’t tell by looking if meat or poultry is fully cooked; color and texture are not reliable indicators of safety. Just as you take time to learn how to drive safely, it is as important to know how to use a food thermometer to check for safety and doneness. Place the food thermometer in the thickest part of food, without touching bone, fat or gristle. Follow these recommended internal temperatures.
    • Beef, pork, veal and lamb (roast, steaks and chops) should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit with a three minute “rest time” after removal from the heat source.
    • For ground meats, like burgers or sausage, cook them to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Cook eggs and egg dishes to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Poultry, such as chicken wings, breast and thighs should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Chill: Takeout foods should be treated the same way as leftovers at home. Don’t leave that pizza or carry out food in the car. Most foodborne illness-causing organisms grow quickly at room temperature; after two hours, they may be so numerous they cannot be killed by reheating.

Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov, by following @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter and by liking Facebook.com/FoodSafety.gov. Consumers with questions about food safety can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish, or email to mphotline@usda.gov. Consumers can also chat live at ask.usda.gov.

If you have questions about storage times for food or beverages, download USDA’s FoodKeeper application for Android and iOS devices.

Category/Topic: Health and Safety

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Automation Helps Solve Specialty Crop Challenges

Posted by Sara Delheimer, NIFA-funded Multistate Research Fund Impacts Program in Research and Science

Aug 28, 2020

A drone used to map orchards and deter birds that damage crops
Multistate efforts across 17 land-grant Universities focus on automation to overcome labor shortages, fine-tune management decisions, conserve resources and meet growing demand for specialty crops. Photo credit: Andre Daccache, UC Davis

Advances in technology, automation, and remote sensing is a cross-cutting, macro movement in science impacting agriculture outlined in the USDA Science Blueprint (PDF, 2.6 MB). The Science Blueprint guides USDA’s science priorities for the next 5 years, building from past success. Relative to other crops, many specialty crops are more dependent on agricultural labor for production, harvesting, and processing. This is part of a blog series that highlights research investments to advance automation and mechanization for specialty crops.

With support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Multistate Research Fund, researchers at 17 land-grant universities are working together to develop automated systems that work well for labor-intensive specialty crops like fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, and nursery plants. A multi-state collaborative approach lifts the burden of research and development from a single specialty crop sector and spurs major advances.

Automation is helping the specialty crop industry overcome labor shortages, fine-tune management decisions, conserve resources and meet growing demand. Consistent with the USDA Agriculture Innovation Agenda, advances in technology for growing, harvesting, handling, and processing are generating significant savings for growers and consumers, while improving sustainability.

University of Florida scientists developed a robot that counts and maps the fruit on citrus trees, and University of California-Davis researchers developed fruit-picking carts with instruments that map orchard fruits. These automated devices have helped farmers see if and where production issues arise, so they can make targeted, effective management decisions. Accurate yield estimates are also important for programming harvest machines and making marketing decisions.

Automated disease detection and management technologies could mitigate crop losses. For example, Iowa State University scientists are guiding the manufacturing of technology that reduces pesticide drift. Washington State University scientists developed drones to deter birds that eat and damage fruit crops. And, handheld devices designed by University of Hawaii researchers give coffee growers an inexpensive way to spot leaf water stress and optimize irrigation.

To overcome labor shortages and cut labor costs, Washington State University scientists designed a robotic twining machine for hops, and University of Georgia researchers are perfecting affordable automated technologies for efficient blueberry harvest. A new pruning method recommended by Pennsylvania State University Extension could cut pruning time by 42% and save $136 per acre. Automation can also make labor less dangerous. For example, a harvest-assist device designed at Penn State eliminated ladder falls and reduced the time apple pickers spent in awkward, dangerous postures from 65% to 43% of picking time.

Automation won’t soon replace the keen eye of talented growers, but these technologies will reduce costs, improve quality, and ensure consumer satisfaction, while eliminating some on-farm health risks, increasing efficiency, and reducing environmental impacts.

Learn more about this USDA-NIFA funded project: W2009: Integrated Systems Research and Development in Automation and Sensor for Sustainability of Specialty Crops (2013-2018).

This research supports the “value-added innovation” theme outlined in the USDA Science Blueprint and moves us closer to meeting the goals outlined in USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda.

Category/Topic: Research and Science

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Scholarly Pursuits

Posted by Martin Barbre, Administrator, USDA Risk Management Agency in Initiatives

Aug 27, 2020

A group photo
Group photo taken August 14, 2019.

The Secretary of Agriculture’s vision for USDA is to be “the most effective, efficient, and customer-focused department in the entire federal government”. As the Department’s agency that oversees Federal crop insurance, we have maintained three key goals to meet that vision:

  1. Expanding Federal crop insurance by covering more commodities.
  2. Ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent as efficiently as possible.
  3. Encouraging and supporting the next generation of producers, especially limited-resource, socially disadvantaged, and historically under-served farmers and ranchers.

When it comes to the third goal, we are proud of how we assist beginning farmers and ranchers, fund education and training through partnerships and outreach, and support a great program that I would like to highlight – the 1890 National Scholars Program.

Established in 1992, the 1890 National Scholars Program is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the 1890 Land-Grant Universities. College students accepted into the program receive valuable on-the-job training with USDA agencies and are often eligible for conversion to full-time employment after successful completion of degree requirements.

The 1890 National Scholars Program provides full tuition, employment, employee benefits, fees, books, and room and board each year, for up to four years, to selected students pursuing a bachelor’s degree at 19 designated schools. Most of these institutions are historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, such as Alcorn State University in Mississippi.

As one of several agencies within USDA, the Risk Management Agency has financially supported the program for many years. We were excited to recently bring our first-ever 1890 National Scholar, Deborah Shows, on board at our regional office in Jackson, Mississippi.

Deborah is a native of the Magnolia State’s capital. Growing up in Jackson, she was introduced to agriculture at a young age by her grandfather and later attended Alcorn State University.

“During high school, I had a conversation with my 4th grade math teacher, and agricultural economics was brought to my attention as a potential major,” Deborah explains. “Alcorn State was recommended to me by a 10th grade chemistry teacher. He praised the agriculture department for its dedication toward its students. I ultimately chose Alcorn State University and agricultural economics as the major.”

Deborah excelled in her studies at Alcorn State, and the opportunity to apply to the 1890 National Scholars Program was presented to her by Michael Trusclair from USDA’s Office of Partnership and Public Engagements.

“Deborah was selected to intern with the Risk Management Agency, Jackson Regional Field Office over two summers, and she was one of the hardest working scholars,” Michael says. “Her knowledge and skill set rapidly expanded.”

Since coming on board with USDA and supporting the Federal crop insurance program, Deborah has excelled in analyzing data, received praise for her plant date reviews, and created informative charts and materials.

“Being an 1890 scholar is an honor that has presented numerous career opportunities,” Deborah says. “It has taught me an abundance of skills required to become a risk management specialist.”

It is my pleasure to report that Deborah became a permanent hire with USDA last month. It is wonderful to hear about the 1890 National Scholars Program and its goals and incredibly gratifying to see its successes throughout the Department and in our own agency.

You can read more about the 1890 National Scholars Program on USDA’s website, www.usda.gov.

Martin Barbre is the Administrator for USDA’s Risk Management Agency. He has served as President of the National Corn Growers Association, a member of USDA’s Illinois Farm Service Agency State Committee, and is a long-time farmer from Carmi, Illinois.

Deborah Shows, USDA Risk Management Agency
Deborah Shows with USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) regional office in Jackson, Mississippi, gained valuable training, experience and opportunities as part of USDA’s 1890 National Scholars Program.
Category/Topic: Initiatives

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Trillion Trees: Reducing Wildfire Risk, Protecting People and Wildlife

Posted by Aurora Cutler, Office of Sustainability and Climate, USDA Forest Service in Forestry

Aug 28, 2020

Trees in the background with smoke in the foreground
Currently, the USDA Forest Service has opportunities to increase reforestation rates on 1.3 million acres of national forests, including 700,000 acres of tree planting and 600,000 acres of activities to ensure successful natural regeneration.

An opaque, autumn haze smothers much of the western United States from the millions of acres burning across forests in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains. Fire size and severity are rising in tandem with record heat, low winter snowpack, decreased summer rains, and abundant forest fuels. Wildfires in the West doubled in total size between 2000-2015 compared to the previous 15 years, burning an average 6.8 million acres annually in the last decade. This trend has wide-ranging consequences on the health and productivity of our national forests, our drinking water supplies, and wildlife habitat.

That’s why the U.S. Chapter of 1t.org (us.1t.org), launched today, and supported by the USDA Forest Service, will enhance the long-term resilience of national forests by planting trees and restoring ecosystems over the next 10 years. Planting trees after catastrophic wildfire is becoming increasingly more important to the sustainability of our forests, especially in areas where wildfire wipes out entire stands and the seed source necessary to forests’ natural regrowth.

The USDA Forest Service manages national forests using a variety of active management techniques to increase resource resilience while sustaining the many benefits and services wildlife and people need and enjoy. Healthy forests support natural stream systems and watersheds, filtering drinking water for 180 million Americans. Our national forests are an important source of rural prosperity, providing forest industry jobs to more than 2.5 million Americans. Wildlife thrives in our national forests.

In areas where we have lost forests to fire, the trillion trees platform provides an opportunity to accelerate the renewal or reproduction of forest benefits, like carbon sequestration and clean water, over natural rates by tapping the expertise and resources of our many partnership groups and other state and local agencies. Currently, the USDA Forest Service has opportunities to increase reforestation rates on 1.3 million acres of national forests, including 700,000 acres of tree planting and 600,000 acres of activities to ensure successful natural regeneration.

Current active forest management techniques, to regenerate, replace, and grow more resilient forests in the future, reduce the likelihood of severe wildfire. By using novel planting techniques we can create forests with more resilience to future wildfires.

The USDA Forest Service is protecting lives and property in forest adjacent communities, with timber harvests, reducing high fuel risk stands, and hazardous fuel treatments, including mechanical thinning and prescribed burning. Our primary tools to address these risks are reducing the amount of hazardous fuels and limiting the number of healthy trees on specified terrain. Hazardous fuel treatments on national forests protect roughly 60 million to 200 million trees per year from wildfire. This year, the USDA Forest Service plans to treat 3.5 million acres of hazardous fuels.

With the momentum of trillion trees platform, it is evident how active forest management can ensure sustainable and resilient forests will endure for future generations.

A wildfire near trees
In areas where we have lost forests to fire, the Trillion Trees initiative provides an opportunity to accelerate the renewal or reproduction of forest benefits, like carbon sequestration and clean water, over natural rates.
Category/Topic: Forestry

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An Important Action to Take: Check Your Trees!

Posted by Jeffrey Davidson, Commodity Specialist for Forest Products, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Animals Forestry

Aug 24, 2020

Asian longhorned beetle shown on an index finger
Adult Asian longhorned beetles are large, distinctive-looking insects measuring 1 to 1.5 inches in length with long antennae. Their bodies are black with small white spots, and their antennae are banded in black and white. USDA photo by R. Anson Eaglin.

Did you know that USDA has declared August as Tree Check Month? That’s because August is the peak time of year to spot the Asian longhorned beetle (ALB)—an invasive wood-boring beetle that attacks 12 types of hardwood trees in North America, such as maples, elms, horse chestnuts, birches and willows. Checking trees for the beetle and the damage it causes is one way residents can protect their own trees and help USDA’s efforts to eliminate this pest from the United States.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably relaxed in your yard or a park and enjoyed the beautiful trees, the peace and quiet, wildlife running about, and the fresh air. In these moments, it seems like all is well. But sometimes, nothing could be further from the truth.

Former President Abraham Lincoln was widely known for telling stories to make a point. In one well-known tale, he talked about a farmer’s very large, stately shade tree that towered next to his house. As the story goes, the farmer was working in his garden and noticed a squirrel running up the tree and into a hole. When the farmer checked it out, he discovered that his stately tree was hollow from top to bottom. He was devastated. If he cut it down, it could cause great damage because of its size. If he let it stand, his family would be in constant danger of it falling on their house. As he walked away, the farmer wished he hadn’t seen the squirrel.

We find ourselves in a similar situation today with the Asian longhorned beetle. This insect feeds inside tree trunks and branches during the colder months. Then it chews its way out as an adult in the warmer months. Infested trees do not recover and eventually die. They can become safety hazards as branches drop and trees can fall over, especially during storms.

That’s why it’s so important to check your trees. Recently, an alert homeowner in South Carolina noticed a dead Asian longhorned beetle on her property and reported it to the state officials. This report lead to the discovery of a new infestation. This homeowner is a hero. Her action is now helping USDA save trees that could have been attacked by this beetle.

So, I urge you to check your trees. While you may not always like what you find, your action may help USDA detect a harmful invasive pest before it’s too late. Like the farmer in Lincoln’s story, you may wish you had never seen that squirrel, but all of us will be thankful you did and acted because of it.

To learn more about the Asian longhorned beetle or to report sightings of the beetle and the damage it causes, visit www.asianlonghornedbeetle.com.

USDA's U.S. Forest Service employee, Mike Bohne, pointing to an Asian longhorned beetle (ALB) exit hole on an infested tree
When adult Asian longhorned beetles emerge from trees, they leave behind a perfectly round exit hole that is about the size of a dime or smaller. USDA photo by R. Anson Eaglin.
Category/Topic: Animals Forestry

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Crickenberger Family Farm of Augusta County

Crickenberger farm specializes in table ready produce and use all natural methods in producing all they grow. They are located just outside of Waynesboro Virginia In Augusta County. Crickenberger farm has an established CSA program and delivers weekly to Staunton, Fishersville, and Waynesboro, Virginia. Aside from the CSA program they also offer a fully stocked stand right on their farm and encourage customers to come by at their convenience excluding Sunday if possible. There are never any sprays used on the produce and they use succession planting, so if bugs get the first crop they have more coming off and that works very well. The tree fruit comes from trees with low spray ratios. They offer in bulk with a little leeway for people that freeze and can. In the Spring of the year they offer garden plants directly from their greenhouse and this also takes place for the Fall planting as well. You can also find their produce at Waynesboro Landscaping and Fishersville Lunchbox. The simplest way to find Crickenberger farm is to travel 400ft north of the intersections of State Routes 254 and 608. Their phone number is 540-910-0349, calls and text messages are preferred ask for Ronnie.

Rohan Farm Rabbitry

I wanted to make special mention of Rohan Farm Rabbitry. Not only are they our first vendor but they arer our long time associates. Peggy and her family run Rohan Farm of Rixeyville VA and while they do raise heritage breed chickens their main business is rabbiits. Peggy currently has over 400 rabbits in her expansive barn and mainly raises just 2 types of rabbiits. Peggy raises the netherland dwarf of which has imported stock and she also raises the giant chinchilla rabbits. Be sure to give peggy a call when you decided to start out with rabbits and she will get you started in the right direction. Rohan Farm Rabbitry Rixeyville VA rohanfarm@yahoo.com

Thursday Market Report For Small Animals

AJ_PY049                                                                        
Atlanta, GA          Thu. Jun 25, 2020          USDA Market News                
                                                                                
Weekly Graystone Small Animal Auction Sale                                      
                                                                                

***  AI PAPERS REQUIRED TO SELL ALL OUT OF STATE POULTRY  ***                   

DATE OF AUCTION: JUNE 23, 2020                                                  
PRICES PAID PER POUND, EXCEPT AS NOTED                                          
                                                                                

                                            RANGE                               

Muscovy Ducks - Drakes                     1.80 -   2.20 lbs.                   
Turkey Poults                                   -   7.00 ea.                    
Pekin Ducks                                9.00 -  11.00 ea.                    
Pullets 4-6 LBS                                 -   1.85 lbs.                   
Red Fowl 5-6 LBS                           1.40 -   1.90 lbs.                   
Red Fowl 4-5 LBS                           1.20 -   1.70 lbs.                   
Crossbred Roosters 7-11 LBS                1.40 -   1.70 lbs.                   
Crossbred Roosters 4-6 LBS                 2.00 -   2.50 lbs.                   
Crossbred Fowl 5-9 LBS                     1.50 -   1.95 lbs.                   
Banty Roosters                             8.00 -  12.00 ea.                    
Banty Hens                                 9.00 -  11.00 ea.                    
Guinea Pigs                                3.00 -   5.00 ea.                    
Guinea Fowl                                2.40 -   2.50 lbs.                   
Kid Goats                                 70.00 -  80.00 ea.                    
Pigeons                                    5.25 -   6.00 ea.                    
White Pigeons                              6.25 -   6.50 ea.                    
Rabbits 7-10 LBS                           2.40 -   2.60 lbs.                   
Rabbits 4-6 LBS                            2.00 -   2.10 lbs.                   
Bunnies                                    5.00 -  18.00 ea.                    
Silkies                                    7.00 -  19.00 ea.                    
Goats                                    110.00 - 125.00 ea.                    
Turkeys                                   15.00 -  40.00 ea.                    
Guinea Keets                               3.25 -   7.00 ea.                    
Chicks                                      .50 -   2.00 ea.                    
Quail                                       .50 -   1.10 ea.                    
Parakeets                                  9.00 -  13.00 ea.                    
Peacocks                                        - 135.00 ea.                    
Ducklings                                  1.25 -   3.00 ea.                    
Pheasants                                       -  15.00 ea.                    
Laying Pullets                                  -  10.00 ea.                    
Fancy Bantams                             12.00 -  18.00 ea.                    
Fancy Pigeons                                   -  18.00 ea.                    
Muscovy Ducks - Hens                       1.30 -   1.70 lbs.   
Colored Broilers			   1.65 -   2.00 lbs. 
White Broilers				    .75 -   1.05 lbs.  
Hy-Bred Guinea Fowl			   1.60 -   1.65 lbs.             

Total Coops Sold  3790                                                          

Source:   USDA Livestock, Poultry, and Grain Market News                        
          Atlanta, GA    404-562-5850  email: Atlanta.LPGMN@ams.usda.gov        
          http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/AJ_PY049.txt                        
                                                                                
Prepared: 25-Jun-20 08:29 AM E SKT                                              
                                                                                

Welcome to Flatsome

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

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Just another post with A Gallery

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A Video Blog Post

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Just a cool blog post with Images

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Another post with A Gallery

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New Client Landed

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An Amazing responsive and Retina ready theme.

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