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Friday, December 30, 2016

Utah’s Causey Dam

From Bureau of Reclamation:

It’s #FridayFunday! What are your weekend plans? If you need something to do, why not take a road trip to Utah’s Causey Dam? It’s so beautiful! Photo credit: Alex Stephens, USBR.
#FridayFunday #TGIF #GetOutside #HaveFun#Utah #CauseyDam #usbr #BureauOfReclamation



Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Archibald Stuart, Philadelphia (December 23, 1791)

From The Founders, Religion and Government:

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it."
~ Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Archibald Stuart, Philadelphia (December 23, 1791)

There is always a balance between freedom and security. People want both, but both cannot be attained equally. Jefferson and the Founders preferred liberty over security. They trusted themselves enough to provide for themselves and their families.

Android Vs. iOS Shows How the Market Rewards Openness | Foundation for Economic Education

The first generation iPhone was released on June 29, 2007, revolutionized the mobile industry for decades to come. In the third quarter alone, Apple, as a company that had never produced a firmware for a mobile, let alone a phone on its own[1], sold 270,000 phones and ended up bringing 6.1 million iPhones over the counter in just 6 quarters

Android Vs. iOS Shows How the Market Rewards Openness | Foundation for Economic Education

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tornadoes in the Southeast

From National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

NOAA's National Severe Storms Laboratory is leading a new research project in the southeastern United States to learn more about the environmental factors that may affect tornadoes in that part of the country. For more about this project, visit Photo from NOAA's National Weather Service, courtesy of Brad Goddard 

The UPS Store Celebrates Literacy at the 2017 Rose Parade

The UPS Store today officially announced the company’s first-ever float in the 2017 Tournament of Roses® Parade. The float, “Books Bring Us Together”, brings to life the Toys for Tots Literacy Program, highlighting the importance of childhood literacy on a national stage. The float complements the 2017 Rose Parade® “Echoes of Success” theme as literacy is an essential ingredient to every child’s success.

The UPS Store Celebrates Literacy at the 2017 Rose Parade

Tim Ferriss and Dave Rubin: Groupthink, 'Bigoteers,' and the Tools of Ti...

Kulundra Steppes

From NOAA Satellite and Information Service:

This false-color infrared image from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard the NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite offers a unique perspective on the Kulundra Steppes in southcentral Russia’s Altai Krai region.

When examined with infrared imagery, the striped pattern of the landscape becomes more apparent. Shown here are differing surface temperatures of the region's agricultural fields (pink), forested areas (green), and bodies of water (black).

These false-color images are created by combining three of the Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS infrared imagery channels -- the channels sensitive to the red, green, and blue wavelengths of light -- to generate an RGB (or red, green, blue) composite image.

This false-color infrared image was created on December 23, 2016, but the original, true-color image was acquired on June 6, 2015. To see the true-color version in NOAA View, go



IR-2016-173: Many ITINs Expire Jan. 1; Renew Now to Avoid Refund Delays, IRS Says

IR-2016-173: Many ITINs Expire Jan. 1; Renew Now to Avoid Refund Delays, IRS Says

IR-2016-174: Tax Professionals Provide Insights on IRS Future State; Feedback Efforts Continue in 2017 as Online Account Shows Strong Early Use

IR-2016-174: Tax Professionals Provide Insights on IRS Future State; Feedback Efforts Continue in 2017 as Online Account Shows Strong Early Use

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Foggy Peruvian Valleys

From NASA Earth:

Foggy Peruvian Valleys

The valleys along Peru’s southern coast are among the deepest on Earth. They are also frequently filled with clouds. On July 26, 2015, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured this natural-color image of the cloud-filled canyons through which the Yauca and AcarĂ­ rivers empty into the Pacific Ocean.

You can’t see it, but the Pacific lies below the clouds in the lower-left of the image. The clouds are marine stratocumulus—a type of low-level cloud so close to the surface that it is essentially fog. According to David Painemal, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center, these clouds are a “climatologically persistent feature over the southeast Pacific off the coast of Peru and Chile.”

This cloud type persists here because the region has just the right oceanic and atmospheric conditions. An air circulation pattern known as the Hadley Cell lifts air near the equator and drops it at higher latitudes, including this part of South America. The circulation produces trade winds that draw the deep, cool water of the Humboldt Current to the ocean surface. The cool water also cools the near-surface air, causing the humid air over the Pacific Ocean to condense and form clouds. The descending air of the Hadley Cell also prevents convection, keeping the cloud layer low to the surface and stable.

Marine stratocumulus clouds most frequently develop off of Chile and Peru during the austral winter (June through August) and early spring. On some occasions, prevailing winds can push the clouds inland. Because the marine clouds are low, they are easily blocked by coastal mountains and hills, such as the Andes. But in areas where low valleys open to the ocean—such as the Yauca and AcarĂ­ canyons—the clouds find “a free passage eastward,” Painemal said.

Temperature inversions cap the elevation of the fog. Ralf Hesse, a scientist at the State Office for Cultural Heritage in Germany, has used remote sensing to study the phenomenon. He notes that fog in the valleys pictured here traces along the flanks of the mountains at a top elevation of 910 meters. Assuming that the cloud layer extends downward for at least a few hundred meters, there is a zone where conditions are favorable for plants to grow.

“Fog interception by the canopies of shrubs and trees within this zone bring an added source of moisture, producing communities called ‘lomas,’” said Philip Rundel, an ecologist at University of California, Los Angeles. “These are natural fog communities with many endemic plant species.”

Adequate frequency, duration, and density of fog is critical for the establishment and success of vegetation growing in lomas. The fog also must move. “Movement across the surface is necessary for the fog droplets to be ‘combed out’ of the air by plant leaves,” Hesse said. “Stagnant fog is not sufficient.” 

Live with Dave in the New Studio (New Stream)


Monday, December 26, 2016

Laguna del Negro Francisco

From NASA Earth:

Laguna del Negro Francisco

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station used a long lens to photograph an unusual lake in the high Andes Mountains of central Chile. Its two contrasting colors are separated by a narrow bank of sand. Dry desert washes lead down from adjacent highlands, spreading out as alluvial fans on all sides of the lake.

The contrasting colors of Laguna del Negro Francisco are controlled by the salt content of the water on either side of the sand bank. The 5 kilometer-long north basin is orange because it is shallow: evaporation results in salt accumulation that allows salt-loving algae to thrive. These organisms display different colors depending on the temperature and salinity of the water. Previous photos suggest that orange is an uncommon color for this lake, which is usually a light yellow-green.

By contrast, the south basin is fed by a larger watershed and is fresher, deeper, and more permanent. It is rich with wetland vegetation, and the depth of the water helps maintain a dark green color.

Strong westerly winds (from top left) blow most of the year and affect many landforms in the high Andean deserts. The winds promote wave action in the north basin, which is probably responsible for building the curved central sand bank. Wind has had a different effect on the south basin. Here the wind drives several slowly rotating water circulations in the deeper water. Over time, these currents sweep sand from the bank into the lake, forming short capes or spits. Sand spits are typical in shallow lakes, and have been observed by astronauts in other South American lakes.

Old shorelines ring Laguna del Negro Francisco, showing that water levels have been sometimes high enough in the past to drown the sand bank and make a single continuous body of water.



Rattlesnake Dam

From Bureau of Reclamation:

The #damoftheweek is Rattlesnake Dam, part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, CO. Rattlesnake Dam lies in an erosional gap cut by Rattlesnake Creek.



Sunday, December 25, 2016

Winter Sunset

From Bureau of Reclamation:

Happy Holidays from the Bureau of Reclamation! Enjoy this winter sunset in Boise, ID. Reclamation photo by Dave Walsh. #sunriseandsunsets#happyholidays #winter #letitsnow



Friday, December 23, 2016

A New Retirement Account Option for Farm Households

From the #USDA:

Oklahoma farmer Steve Burris feeding Angus cattle on his farm
Oklahoma farmer Steve Burris feeds Angus cattle on his farm, purchased from his father-in-law, who retired after 69 years. myRA, offers retiring farmers and ranchers a simple, safe, and affordable method to start saving for retirement.
In agriculture, retirement can mean something quite different compared with other U.S. households.
Often, our parents and senior relatives on the farm or ranch are far from “retired,” and, in fact, remain active participants in daily operations and decisions.
Financially, retirement in agriculture can be different, too. Compared to the general population, farmers and ranchers have a distinctive combination of assets, income sources, and saving habits, with large percentages of their financial portfolios intertwined in the business equity, all which must be carefully considered when planning for intergenerational transfers, and while generating and maintaining retirement income.
As for actual savings accounts, while 60 percent of all households nationwide participate in some type of a retirement account, just 40 percent of eligible farm households do. In fact, only 7 percent of farmers and ranchers contribute to the types of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) that can provide helpful tax advantages, with just 3 percent of the general population having an IRA.
That’s why the U.S. Department of the Treasury recently launched a new tool, known as myRA, for anyone interested in a simple, safe, understandable, and affordable method to start saving for retirement.
It costs nothing to open an account, there are no fees, and contributions are invested in a U.S. Treasury security that safely earns interest. You can contribute as little as a few dollars each month, or even create automatic contributions from your bank account or paycheck, up to $5,500 per year. When you’re ready, you can roll over these savings into a private sector Roth IRA at any time to continue growing your savings.
The myRA is not intended to replace existing employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as a 401(k) plan, because those accounts may offer special incentives like an employer matching payment. But if you don’t have access to a retirement savings plan, or excessive fees and complicated investment options are daunting, or perhaps you would like the younger members of your family to have better retirement awareness, then the U.S. Treasury’s myRA savings account might be an option for you?
Even if your future goal is to receive on-farm income, inheritance, or varying degrees of off-farm income such as social security, rental income, or veterans benefits, a myRA account still may be a helpful addition to your portfolio. Plus it is never too early to start saving: if you are 18 or older, not a full time student, and not a dependent, you are eligible.
So as the holidays approach, and the year nears its end, perhaps a new myRA could be a great way to take that first step towards building, or complementing, that retirement nest egg. To learn more about the program and its beneficial tax attributes, visit

Minneapolis School Embraces Family-Style Dining

From the #USDA:

A woman with students
Sarah, a regular Webster volunteer, enjoys joining kindergarten students for lunch.
How do you create a better lunch experience for students? It all started with a conversation between Ginger Davis Kranz, Principal of Webster Elementary School, and the Minneapolis Public Schools’ Director of Food Service, Bertrand Weber. In September 2016, I was fortunate enough to visit Webster Elementary School in Minneapolis and see for myself how their family-style dining works. I’d like to share Webster Principal Ginger Davis Kranz’s inspiring blog about her school’s innovative and thoughtful approach to the students’ mealtime experience.
By Ginger Davis Kranz, Principal of Webster Elementary School
What if school lunchtime was more than just a wait in line and a race to find a seat and eat, but instead was more like a traditional family meal – a time when friends gather to enjoy their food, engage in meaningful conversation, build relationships and gain important life skills? After reflecting on this question, Webster Elementary, a Minneapolis public school, made the decision to abandon the typical chaotic and impersonal lunchroom experience and create a family-style dining program.
Our goal was to look at lunch in a different way. We seized the opportunity that lunch can provide students a chance to gain important knowledge, life skills and habits. We reflected on what that would look like and decided to eliminate the lunch line, seat children at round tables where food is served family style, give the children meal responsibilities where they help their peers and maintain the environment and bring teachers, staff and volunteers in the dining hall to join students for the 30 minute lunch. We have found that family-style dining is helping us reach our vision for our students’ lunch experience. Bringing an appreciation of food and where it comes from; an awareness of self and others; an understanding of healthy eating; a calm space for eating, learning and manners; time to eat and socialize in a healthy way; a reduction in waste and students taking responsibility for their meal time.
During the meal, our staff monitors portions and meal pattern requirements, while students take responsibility for themselves and their community by helping to set the table, passing food around, serving themselves and get assigned clean up jobs to restore the environment. The student “table leads” or “hosts” get milk orders from their tables, then pour it into cups and serve to their peers. Water is also available, and students assist in serving their peers that as well. Volunteers encourage healthy eating, sharing conversation, helping each other and taking care of the environment.
The change has been embraced by students, volunteers and staff. Students comment that “I like not having to spend lunch time waiting in line.” Others enjoy having jobs to do. Many beam with pride as they take drink orders and pour the glasses themselves. Our volunteers think this opportunity to connect with students is a treat. They have shared how they are impressed by student conversation skills.
Such a large change does not come without challenges and a need for flexibility to adjust along the way. Gaining support from building staff and food service was critical, as well as carefully observing, listening to feedback and making changes to ensure the process works for everyone.  Since we started last January, we continue to tweak the process, but overall, it has been well received by students, families and the community. Instead of a chaotic, student management problem, our lunchroom is a welcoming community that enriches students and adults alike.
Family-style dining serving bowls
Serving bowls for family-style dining

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Learning More About the Solar System

From NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration:

What to know about the solar system this week? Learn about our Deep Space Network, where to watch the Ursid meteor shower, Cassini’s ring-grazing at Saturn and more:


Sunday, December 18, 2016

�� Behold! The Biggest Cleanout in Gold Rush History! ��

Pay It Forward – FEJCA

Pay It Forward is an initiative of the Federally Employed Job Corps Alumni (FEJCA). Through this program, FEJCA outreaches to and motivates Job Corps students to vigorously pursue success and to consider careers in natural resources. By reaching back to inspire students and reaching across to help each other, FEJCA members are building a community of practice that encourages all Job Corps alumni to Pay It Forward in various ways.

Job Corps is the nation’s largest residential, educational, and career technical training program that prepares economically disadvantaged youth, ranging in age from 16 to 24, for productive employment.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Hannibal Locks and Dam

From U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Headquarters:

A photo from the Pittsburgh District, US Army Corps of Engineers archives of #HannibalLocksandDam under construction during October 1970.
Hannibal Locks and Dam lies on the right descending bank in Monroe County, Ohio. The locks are directly across from the town of New Martinsville, W.Va. A private hydropower facility is located on the abutment side of the dam in New Martinsville.
Construction of the Hannibal lock chambers began in 1967 and was completed in 1972 when the locks were opened to river traffic. Work on the high-lift gated dam began in 1970 and was completed in 1975. The installation replaced three older wicket-type projects, Locks and Dams 12, 13 and 14.
Follow the Pittsburgh District throughout its #150thAnniversary on Facebook! #lockingthroughtime #sesquicentennial

American Falls Reservoir

From Bureau of Reclamation:

Enjoy another beauty shot of the first snowfall at American Falls Reservoir, ID. Reclamation photo by Kirsten Strough #scenic #AmericanFalls


Lake Ouachita

From U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Headquarters:

Winter at Vicksburg District - USACE Lake Ouachita! Just beautiful!


Landsat Mosaic of Indiana

From U.S. Geological Survey (USGS):

As we begin to close out 2016, celebrate Indiana's Bicentennial with this Landsat mosaic of the state: 

It's called a mosaic because it was stitched together from various Landsat views. Each of the scenes was taken during the summer, meaning the state is seen at the height of the growing season.

Image shows a mosaic view of the state of Indiana. Credit: USGS/NASA Landsat. #USGS#SatelliteImagery #Indiana #IndianaBicentennial#Science

SNAP E&T Boosts Job Skills, Transforms Lives

From the #USDA:

Administrator Rowe speaking with an attendee at the Jobs NOW! event in San Francisco
Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe (left) speaks with an attendee at the Jobs NOW! event in San Francisco. Photo courtesy: Barbara Utuchian, FNS
On a recent trip to California,  I took part in a wonderful event in San Francisco’s Mission District – also known as “The Mission” – one of the most racially and economically diverse areas in the nation.  After parking the car, Jesus Mendoza Jr., Regional Administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region, escorted me to a room buzzing with activity and excitement. Now given my role as Administrator for the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), you might expect that we were visiting a food bank or a meal program for low-income children.
But this visit wasn’t about food.
It was about jobs!
Employers were strategically located around the room, waiting to interview the hundred-plus jobseekers attending the recruitment event for Jobs NOW!, San Francisco’s nationally recognized Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training (E&T) program. I had the chance to meet with several employers. Some were new to the program, while others had participated for years and hired dozens of program graduates. But they all had one thing in common: their support of the E&T program and the quality work it does preparing participants for employment.
In the second room, jobseekers sat patiently awaiting their opportunity for a job interview. They looked confident and ready, and rightly so. Interview preparation is one of the E&T program’s many critical components. But it doesn’t stop there, because the program doesn’t only promote job readiness. It also provides training, work experience opportunities, and supportive services such as clothes, tools, and transportation.
The E&T program is centered on seven intensive components that provide employment opportunities to participants at every level of job readiness.  It simultaneously, creates a new, untapped talent pool for San Francisco area employers struggling to find workers.
Although San Francisco has a minimum wage of $13/hour, Jobs NOW! understands how difficult it can be to afford housing in one of the most expensive cities in the United States on those wages.
So the E&T program’s goal of self-sufficiency means that Jobs NOW! works to move people into job opportunities that pay more than minimum wage.
Following the tour of the recruitment event, I met five former Jobs NOW! participants who had all moved into unsubsidized employment, most with incomes in the $25/hour range. This diverse group each had barriers ranging from alcohol and drug abuse to incarceration and homelessness prior to enrollment in the program. And each, like countless other program participants, credits SNAP E&T with changing their lives.  Eighteen months after exiting the program, 53 percent of participants no longer required SNAP benefits, according to Jobs NOW!
It was a thrill to meet real people and families to hear the stories of how our programs transform lives. The evidence shows that these programs really work to move people with significant barriers to employment into steady employment with family supporting wages. The SNAP E&T program is demonstrating, throughout the nation, how quality training and work readiness programs can achieve exactly that result. In San Francisco, Jobs NOW! is one of the programs leading the charge.

Small Business Lending from Big Banks and Institutional Lenders Surges, Biz2Credit Reports

Big banks and institutional lenders continue giving small businesses a reason to smile.
According to the newly released Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index report for November 2016, loan approval rates at both big banks and institutional lenders continued to rise, improving to new highs.

American Falls Dam and Reservoir, Idaho

From Bureau of Reclamation:

First week of snow at American Falls Dam and Reservoir, Idaho. Are you ready for winter? Reclamation photo by Kirsten Strough. #scenic#AmericanFalls #winter #letitsnow


FutureFlight Central

From NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration:

Heading home for the holidays may fill you with joy, as well as a little dread at the thought of the complexities of air travel at one of the busiest times of the year. The good news is that NASA is working on new technologies and concepts in air traffic management that will not only provide some relief from holiday travel headaches, but increase the efficiency, safety and environmental friendliness of air transportation.

Today, researchers are testing these new tools at FutureFlight Central, a comprehensive, 360-degree simulation of an air traffic control tower at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. Details:


Star Wars: Fact or Fiction?

From NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration:

"Star Wars"--fact or fiction? Some of the planets and technologies really exist in ths galaxy at this time. Test your knowledge. Take the quiz:


Exelon to hire 400 workers after Rauner signed law last week

CLINTON, Ill. (AP) - Exelon Corp. says it plans to hire more than 400 permanent employees to work on capital projects at two Illinois nuclear plants.

Exelon to hire 400 workers after Rauner signed law last week: Exelon Corp. says it plans to hire more than 400 permanent employees to work on capital projects at two Illinois nuclear plants.

Ice, Ocean and Desert Planets

From NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration:

In the universe of "Star Wars," ice, ocean and desert planets burst from the darkness as your ship drops out of light speed. But such worlds might be more than just science fiction. Learn more:


Friday, December 16, 2016

Working with the Private Sector, Guaranteeing Affordable Housing Opportunities in Rural America

From the #USDA:

People at Pine Glade Apartments
In 2015, the Pine Glade apartments for elderly and disabled people received USDA funding to modernize 32 affordable apartments in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Groceries, childcare, education, transportation, insurance, utilities: these are just some of the essential places families nationwide spend their paychecks every month. Making ends meet takes hard work, but sometimes even after working long hours and shopping right families need help to make it.
Twenty years ago essential affordable housing opportunities were scarce in rural America. Banks weren’t investing in these opportunities because deals that would build affordable rentals required long-term, patient capital that turned profit much slower than those big, new, luxury apartments in cities and larger towns.
Congress recognized this shortage twenty years ago, and determined banks needed to be incentivized to invest in affordable housing in rural America. Congress also recognized the incentives needed to be managed and overseen by a Department that knew and safeguarded rural America’s needs. In 1996, the Guaranteed Rural Rental Housing Program was born at USDA.
For 20 years USDA has acted as the guarantor of more than $1 billion in private investments that create and preserve affordable rural rental housing. We’ve done more than guaranteed loans – we’ve worked with the private sector to create more than 41,700 affordable apartments in rural America since 1996.
That’s more than 41,700 affordable homes to do homework, to make dinner, to spend time with family, and to relax after a long day at work. These investments have created 41,700 reasons to be proud of the work USDA does in rural America.
Families, senior citizens, people with disabilities, and all other hardworking Americans deserve to have access to affordable housing opportunities. USDA’s Guaranteed Rural Rental Housing Program works with private lenders, both national and local, to help them provide affordable housing opportunities to their communities. These are investments that matter, and USDA is proud to support them.
If you or a loved one is in need of an affordable rural housing opportunity reach out to your local USDA Rural Development office today and request a list of USDA rental properties in your area.

Union Pacific’s Responsible Care® Certification Marks Two Decades of Safely Transporting Hazardous Materials

From Union Pacific:

Union Pacific’s Responsible Care® Certification Marks Two Decades of Safely Transporting Hazardous Materials

Union Pacific recently earned its 20th American Chemistry Council's Responsible Care® Management System (RCMS) certification, recognizing its safe and secure handling of hazardous materials while transporting customer shipments.
RCMS is the chemical industry's initiative to drive continuous improvement and achieve excellence in environmental, health and safety and security. Certification requires meeting the chemical industry's stringent global standards, addressing risks and consenting to independent audits by certified inspectors.
"Receiving the RCMS certification for two continuous decades reflects Union Pacific's commitment and is a tribute to our dedicated employees who handle our customers' products in the safest, most secure manner," said Kari Kirchhoefer, vice president and general manager – Chemicals. "We pledge to continue meeting or exceeding the chemical industry's standards."
Companies electing to become RCMS certified pledge to operate according to a set of guiding and ethical principles. Non-chemical companies handling hazardous materials, such as railroads, were allowed to begin participating in 1995. Union Pacific was the first railroad to engage in the process, receiving the rail industry's first RCMS certification in 1996. More information about Union Pacific's efforts to move hazardous materials safely is available in its 2015 Building America Report.
About Union Pacific
Union Pacific Railroad is the principal operating company of Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE: UNP). One of America's most recognized companies, Union Pacific Railroad connects 23 states in the western two-thirds of the country by rail, providing a critical link in the global supply chain. From 2006-2015, Union Pacific invested approximately $33 billion in its network and operations to support America's transportation infrastructure. The railroad's diversified business mix includes Agricultural Products, Automotive, Chemicals, Coal, Industrial Products and Intermodal. Union Pacific serves many of the fastest-growing U.S. population centers, operates from all major West Coast and Gulf Coast ports to eastern gateways, connects with Canada's rail systems and is the only railroad serving all six major Mexico gateways. Union Pacific provides value to its roughly 10,000 customers by delivering products in a safe, reliable, fuel-efficient and environmentally responsible manner.
The statements and information contained in the news releases provided by Union Pacific speak only as of the date issued. Such information by its nature may become outdated, and investors should not assume that the statements and information contained in Union Pacific's news releases remain current after the date issued. Union Pacific makes no commitment, and disclaims any duty, to update any of this information.

Eight Things Every Entrepreneur Must Do to Get Ready for 2017

So many people put energy into making an exhaustive list of New Year’s Resolutions for their businesses, but often these fall by the wayside after just a few weeks into a new year. This year, I’m here to shake things up. Rather than waiting until January to set your year up for success, I’m offering eight easy things you can do right now that will ensure that 2017 is a blowout year for your business.

Family Farm Co-op in Missouri Shows Commitment to Food Safety

From the #USDA:

Tony Schwager, Good Natured Family Farms Project Manager; Sara Cano, USDA Senior Auditor; Doreen Choffel, USDA Senior Auditor; and Diana Endicott, GNFF Founder and Director
From left to right: Tony Schwager, Good Natured Family Farms Project Manager; Sara Cano, USDA Senior Auditor; Doreen Choffel, USDA Senior Auditor; and Diana Endicott, GNFF Founder and Director review audit information. In August, Good Natured Family Farms became the first cooperative certified under USDA’s GroupGAP program.
For more than four generations, Amish farmers in the Kansas City area have abided by a simple tenet:  farm sustainably and care for the earth to preserve their way of life for future generations.  Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF), a cooperative of 18 Amish family farms in Missouri, is using GroupGAP, a new USDA audit program, to help them safeguard their future by building strong markets for the high-quality, local foods they produce. In August, the group made USDA history as the first to receive an official USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification through our new GroupGAP program.
Since 2002, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has provided the traditional USDA GAP audit program to the fruit and vegetable industry. GAP is a voluntary program that verifies its participants follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and industry best practices to minimize risks of food safety hazards when producing, handling, and storing fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops. In 2016, AMS conducted nearly 4,000 traditional GAP audits.
The new GroupGAP option has only been around since 2014, and began as a two-year pilot program. This new style of audit was developed to make food safety certification accessible to all growers—including small and mid-sized producers.  The program allows farmers, food hubs, and other organizations to pool their resources and go through certification as a group, rather than individually.
GroupGAP is designed to increase opportunities for the entire industry to supply and buy GAP-certified produce, opening doors for family farms and cooperatives like the GNFF farmers in Kansas City. The program officially became the newest food safety certification option offered by USDA in April 2016. Since then, AMS has conducted 10 GroupGAP audits representing more than 300 operations.
If you own or manage one of America’s more than 186,000 produce farms, or you’re thinking about starting one and want to know more about how to get your farm certified for food safety, learn more about our Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) & Good Handling Practices (GHP) options.