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Former U.S. Sen. John Walsh Lands Job in Montana with USDA

by Q2 News   Former U.S. Sen. John Walsh has been appointed the state director of the USDA Rural Development agency in Montana. An agency spokesman in Washington D.C. confirmed the appointment Thursday afternoon. Walsh's appointment becomes effective Feb. 8. Walsh is a combat veteran of Iraq who served as the Adjunct General of Montana's National Guard between 2008 and 2012. Walsh then served as Bullock's Lt. Gov. in 2013 and 2014 until he was appointed by Bullock to the Senate to serve the remaining term of Max Baucus, who took an appointment as the U.S. Ambassador to China. Walsh had already declared his intention to run for the seat when he was appointed by Bullock. But Walsh's campaign stumbled then collapsed when reports surfaced that he had plagiarized a paper he submitted to the War College. He dropped out of the race in August, 2014.

Banking on Ag Research

by Todd Neeley DTN Staff Reporter OMAHA (DTN) -- As sequestration has pressed USDA to make budget cuts in recent years, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters Wednesday he hopes Congress will support the president's budget proposal, which will include a doubling of federal dollars spent on agriculture research and development. President Barack Obama's proposed 2017 budget will be announced next week and would bump federal spending on ag research from about $350 million to $700 million -- the amount called for in the 2008 farm bill. The funding was re-authorized in the 2014 farm bill. Vilsack said he believes Congress will get behind the need to fully fund research through the USDA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, or AFRI. "I think people understand and appreciate the need for additional innovation," he said. "I'm hopeful that people will see the benefits of innovation in agriculture. That would be my hope. The budget gives us the opportunity this year to finally meet the amount ($700 million)." On Wednesday USDA announced $30.1 million in competitive grants to fund 80 research projects centered on improving food safety, reduce antibiotic resistance in food, and to increase plant resilience. Since 2008 AFRI has been funded at below half the levels established in the farm bill. Vilsack said Wednesday this means USDA has turned away about 90% of the research proposals presented for funding. Grants typically are awarded to universities, non-profits, community groups, businesses, foundations, associations and federal agency and international partnerships. John P. Holdren, science and technology adviser to the president and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told reporters the president understands the importance of agriculture research and development. "Further strengthening our investments in agricultural research will be essential for U.S. farmers to be able to keep the nation's food supply abundant, healthy, reliable and sustainable through the 21st century," he said. "That's why the president's forthcoming 2017 budget request doubles funding for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative to the full authorized level of $700 million." AFRI grants are administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The latest $31.1 million in grants includes $15.1 million to fund 35 projects in AFRI's food safety area. Those projects will focus on enhancing food safety through improved processing technologies, mitigation strategies for antimicrobial resistance, improving food safety and improving food quality. The funding includes $3.4 million to address antimicrobial resistance throughout the food chain. NIFA also is awarding $15 million to universities, laboratories, and research organizations to fund 45 projects on plant breeding for agricultural production, plant growth and development, composition, stress tolerance, photosynthesis and nutrient use in agricultural plants. The grants awarded cover a wide variety of research areas, from improving alfalfa yields, to plant resistance to drought, to plant use of nitrogen, http://tinyurl.com/…. Since AFRI was established in 2008, the program has led to innovations and discoveries in agriculture to combat childhood obesity, improve and sustain rural economic growth, address water availability issues, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate the impacts of climate variability and enhance resiliency of our food systems, and ensure food safety. "In the face of diminishing land and water resources and increasingly variable climatic conditions, food production must increase to meet the demands of world population projected to pass 9 billion by 2050," Vilsack said. "Funding in research to respond to these challenges should be considered as an investment in our nation's future, an investment which will pay big dividends in the years to come." The National Institute of Food and Agriculture awards AFRI grants in six farm bill priority areas including plant health and production and plant products; animal health and production and animal products; food safety, nutrition, and health; bioenergy, natural resources, and environment; agriculture systems and technology; and agriculture economics and rural communities. Read details about filing for the grants here, http://tinyurl.com/…       © Copyright 2016 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved.     " Soybean Research Greenhouse " ( CC BY 2.0 ) by    UnitedSoybeanBoard  

New Report: Strategic Land-Use Planning Can Increase Firefighting Efficiency

New report suggests strategic land-use planning can increase firefighting efficiency Building houses far apart and in locales beyond town – the wildland-urban interface – increases firefighting costs in the Rocky Mountain West, according to a new report from the Open Spaces Initiative at the University of Wyoming. The authors suggest strategic land use planning can reduce wildfire suppression costs by increasing firefighting efficiency. “Residential Development Effects on Firefighting Costs in the Wildland-Urban Interface” lead author Anna Scofield spent 10 years as a wildland firefighter before taking up the research at the University of Wyoming.  According to the report, available from the University of Wyoming Extension at bit.ly/Firedevelopmentcost , the dramatic rise in firefighting costs over the last decade is due in part to the growth of residential development in the wildland-urban interface. “Protecting homes from fire is dangerous and expensive. Solutions to rising costs must address that reality,” said Scofield. ( See bit.ly/firecost for a report on Forest Service firefighting expenses.) Costs are higher i n the wildland-urban interface because firefighters shift from simple fire containment to structure protection, she said, and added that the cost of full suppression is significantly higher. Widely dispersed developments and isolated homes also require more resources to protect than homes clustered in one area. Land use decisions at the town and county levels have major consequences for federal wildland fire management, said Scofield. “Our research offers local governments a middle ground between legislation that ignores the increased suppression costs of development in the wildland-urban interface and policies that exclude that development altogether,” she said. Using data from 291 wildfires in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming from 2002 to 2011, researchers found a single isolated home can add $225,000 to overall firefighting costs, while a home within a dense cluster can contribute as little as $100. The Wyoming Open Spaces Initiative supports Wyoming citizens’ conservation of open spaces through research, information, education and decision-making assistance, according to its website. Its research explores agricultural sustainability, community planning and development, wildlife and other cultural, economic and environmental issues. The initiative is a collaborative effort of the University of Wyoming Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center, the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics, the Department of Geography, University of Wyoming Extension and the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database. “Residential Development Effects on Firefighting Costs in the Wildland-Urban Interface” is also available for download from the Ruckelshaus Institute at bit.ly/haubfirecosts . To request a hard copy, contact ruckelshaus@uwyo.edu or 307-766-5146.  Source:   University of Wyoming Extension     " Wildfires " ( CC BY 2.0 ) by    FairbanksMike