Department of Agriculture

he United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a valuable federal PATH partner. Three USDA agencies are especially active in housing: the Forest Service; the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES); and the Rural Housing Service (RHS).

USDA Forest Service

The Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory (FPL) in Madison, Wisconsin, serves the public as the nation’s leading wood research institute. Research concentrates on pulp and paper products, housing and structural uses of wood, wood preservation, wood and fungi identification, and the finishing and restoration of wood products.

A multiyear interagency agreement between PATH and FPL calls for the development of a national durability conference and implementation of three residential construction research projects over the next 4 years. The 1999 Forest Products Research Conference, "Durability and Disaster Mitigation in Wood Frame Housing," will be held November 1-3, 1999, at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, Madison, Wisconsin.

The conference agenda features presentations and panel discussions on national trends; moisture; codes, standards, and regulatory issues; new technologies and products; and builder practices. For more information on the conference, please contact Karen Martinson ((608) 231-9450, kmartinson/

FPL-PATH research projects are designed to develop:

  • Improved design of wood frame houses subjected to high winds and severe storms.

  • A grading standard for lumber from existing buildings to increase its marketability and reuse by the construction industry.

  • Greater understanding of the susceptibility of wood products to decay when subjected to repeated wetting and drying.

USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service

CSREES works with land-grant universities and their county extension services to improve economic, environmental, and social conditions throughout the United States. CSREES helps direct the research, higher education, and extension expertise of its university and extension service partners toward meeting the needs of both rural and urban citizens. The land-grant educators convert good research into language that consumers can understand. They deliver the information through local county agents who are employees of the university or of local governments. State and county staff provide consumers with information on indoor air quality, pollution prevention in and around the home, disaster mitigation, and the role of housing in rural community vitality. These CSREES partners carry out extensive homebuyer education and counseling activities often in conjunction with others such as HUD, the Federal Reserve, USDA’s Rural Housing Service, Fannie Mae, the National Association of Home Builders, the Consumer Information Center, and state and local agencies and groups. CSREES also conducts wood products research and extension programs aimed at transferring technology to builders and producers of building materials.

CSREES’s Cooperative Extension Service, with offices the land-grant universities, every state and territory, and many counties, maintains one of the country’s most extensive research and educational networks. The agency’s network is expected to become a key outlet for PATH’s findings on housing quality, affordability, durability, and energy efficiency.

USDA Rural Housing Service

The Rural Housing Service in Washington, D.C., is primarily a housing finance agency for rural areas. It also carries out demonstrations of innovative housing technologies. The agency’s current demonstrations include a steel-frame envelope house in New Mexico; a super-insulated house in Minnesota; a zero-lot line unit development in North Carolina; and a low-cost house (with smaller foundations and a truss roof) in Massachusetts.

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PATHways Vol. 1, Issue 2