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August 2013

Woodpecker Condos Bring Endangered Bird Back from the Brink in South Carolina

Many stories emerging from the share a common genesis in Hurricane Hugo, the massive storm estimated to have knocked down nearly a billion board feet of timber on the coastal South Carolina forest in 1989.

But in a comeback success story, there was no knock-out for the .

Before Hugo, the Francis Marion had the densest, second-largest, and only known, naturally increasing population of red-cockaded woodpeckers in the country. Prior to 1989, an estimated 475 breeding pairs lived on the forest.

Secretary's Column: Immigration Reform Also an Important Labor Issue

Each year on Labor Day, we take time to reflect on the productivity of America’s workers and our responsibility as a nation to support their efforts.

This year, as we gather to celebrate, Congress has a timely opportunity to create an even stronger American workforce for generations to come. They can do so by fixing America’s broken immigration system.

The broad impacts that immigration reform would have for our economy are well documented. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and Social Security Office of the Chief Actuary, the bipartisan Senate immigration reform bill would boost our economy by 3.3 percent, reduce the deficit by a projected $850 billion and add nearly $300 billion to our Social Security system by the end of the decade.

Go Outside, Play This Labor Day Weekend

What better way to spend a three-day weekend than outside with friends and family? offer a wide variety of recreation opportunities ranging from backcountry camping far from civilization to developed picnic areas with all the facilities you need for the perfect end-of-summer barbecue with family and friends.

Of course, there are still fires burning in some areas of the country so check the status of your destination before heading out. Safety is key.

Here are a few ideas to help you plan your weekend:

Tackling a Tailgate, Food Safety Wins!

Cross posted from the :

It’s tailgate season, are you ready for the kick off? Planning is the key to keeping your food safe during a tailgate so get your gear ready now. Do you have enough coolers, and all the tools you need to cook? In addition to a grill and fuel for cooking make sure you don’t forget your most valuable player, the food thermometer. It’s the only way you can be sure your meat or poultry has reached a safe temperature.

Reach Your Goals: Start with a Healthy Breakfast

At a very early age, I learned about the value of healthy eating. By the time I was 11 years old and training daily as a gymnast, I knew that eating right would help me achieve my goals. The goals I had for health, athletics, and academic performance were all tied to eating nutritious foods, and that started with breakfast. As an adult, I’ve maintained goals for fitness and health and that’s why I make sure to start each morning with a healthy breakfast.

As a young athlete it was critical to give my body the nutrients it needed to compete at a high level in the gym and in school. I learned about healthy eating by going grocery shopping with my parents and then helping to prepare meals with my family. I was also influenced by the food around me at school. Now with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s expanded School Breakfast Program beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, our nation’s youth will now have more options for starting their day off right.

Beginning Farmers Cattle Operation Benefits from Initiative for Underserved Farmers

For over a year, Mississippi retirees Percy and Emma Brown traveled 50 miles roundtrip three times a week from their home in Vicksburg, Miss. to their farm in Port Gibson in order to water their cattle. It was a time consuming process that involved filling up eight barrels with many gallons of water for the growing cattle herd.

That all changed when the Browns, who were new to farming, heard about USDA’s , an agency that helps private landowners implement conservation. They visited the Port Gibson field office and learned that they could receive funding from NRCS for livestock water troughs through the USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative.

Celebrate Labor Day with a MyPlate Picnic

A picnic is an easy and relaxing holiday activity. USDA's MyPlate resources can help take the “labor” out of your Labor Day picnic. You can enjoy an easy, healthy meal by following this simple MyPlate formula: 5 food groups + family and friends = fun! When planning your picnic, be sure to include more healthful choices of menu items from each food group (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy) and water or 100% juice to drink.

Fruit
Celebrate the end of summer by enjoying seasonal fruits. You can make an easy (and portable) fruit salad by dicing up fresh fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, kiwi, and strawberries. If you choose to include apples, bananas, or pears, just add a splash of citrus (like orange juice) to prevent browning. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, try this refreshing MyPlate . You can bring it in a lidded container, or divide into jars for individual portions.

CDFI - Important Part of Infrastructure

The 8th Annual Governor’s Native American Summit was held last week at Utah Valley University in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Utah’s Rural Development State Director Wilson “David” Conine wanted to share with attendees the importance a community development financial institution (CDFI) can play in tribal development.  He turned to his counterpart, South Dakota Rural Development State Director Elsie M. Meeks who has over 20 years of experience working for Native community economic development.

Meeks recognized CDFI as an important part of the infrastructure for delivering consistent funding for housing and small business development activities that benefit low and moderate income people.  They combine multiple sources of public and private capital in order to make loans and investments available in ways tailored to the particular underserved geographies and types of businesses or borrowers.  Developing capacity among these types of organizations can increase utilization of USDA programs in a region, many of which provide long-term below-market capital for permanent improvements in rural areas.

The Track & Field Fuel-Up Challenge! Summer Fun that Helps Kids Learn

It’s summer time! And kids’ thoughts naturally turn to ways to have fun and enjoy themselves! Moms, on the other hand, want kids to continue to learn and develop their skills while they enjoy the lazy days of summer.  The is an online game that meets the needs of moms and kids. The game inspires kids to jump into good nutrition and have fun while learning. It also helps kids to make good food choices and encourages them to be physically active between events to warm them up for the next challenge and to celebrate!

In this online game from USDA, kids pick their player and progress through four track and field events including the javelin, high jump, long jump, and the dash. To win, players must quickly pick the right answer to questions about healthy eating and nutrition. As players advance from one event to the next, they are encouraged to be active: “Now jump up and down five times to celebrate!” When kids answer correctly, their players get a medal at the end of the game. Questions are randomly selected so kids can play multiple times to get a better score or “go for the gold” on the winner’s stand.

Schools Around the Country Successfully Implementing New Meal Standards

Today a news report claimed that schools across the country are dropping out of the National School Lunch Program because the standards are too difficult to implement.

The truth is that the vast majority of schools across the country are meeting the updated meal standards successfully, which is so important to help all our Nations children lead healthier lives. Even before the new standards took effect and more resources were available, many schools across the country were leading the way with healthier options and appropriate portion sizes. In fact, schools that adopted the changes earlier report that participation increased as students and parents became accustomed to the healthier options. USDA continues to provide additional flexibility and technical assistance to schools as they all now work to offer healthier meals. We also encourage the very few eligible school districts that have chosen not to participate in the program to take steps to ensure all children will still have access to healthy, affordable meals during the school day.