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Microwave Pasteurization: A New Industrial Process Producing High Quality and Safe Food

A Washington State University-led research team member works on the prototype microwave assisted pasteurization system (MAPS) unit.  MAPS allows packaged foods to be safely processed more quickly and at lower cost than conventional processes. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.

A Washington State University-led research team member works on the prototype microwave assisted pasteurization system (MAPS) unit. MAPS allows packaged foods to be safely processed more quickly and at lower cost than conventional processes. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, like innovative ways to make food safer.

More than 90 percent of American households have microwave ovens where people heat their food, yet this same technology is seldom used for large-scale production in the food industry.

As home cooks know, microwave ovens do not excel at heating food evenly.  The lack of commercial-scale microwave processing technology is, in part, due to the challenge of designing equipment that is capable of pasteurization – heating all of the food evenly to a predetermined temperature for a certain length of time.  Pasteurization makes food safe to eat, by inactivating bacterial and viral pathogens that can make people sick. Read more »

Farm Bill Listening Session: New and Expanding Opportunities for the Organic Industry

Steve Etka with the National Organic Coalition provides input during the listening session.  The session gave USDA the opportunity to hear from stakeholders about their priorities during the implementation process and the impact that the new provisions will have on their communities.

Steve Etka with the National Organic Coalition provides input during the listening session. The session gave USDA the opportunity to hear from stakeholders about their priorities during the implementation process and the impact that the new provisions will have on their communities.

Organic agriculture serves as an engine for rural development, representing a $35 billion industry in the United States alone. USDA is committed to protecting the integrity of organic products, and ensuring that all of our agencies work together to help the organic sector continue to grow.

Members of the organic community are important partners in these efforts. As Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which includes the National Organic Program, I have had the privilege of getting to know our organic stakeholders – visiting their farms and talking to them about their priorities – and I have been very impressed. Thanks to the recently passed Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill), USDA is now even better equipped to support the success of organic operations. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Farm Bill Supports Specialty Crop Growers, Improves Access to Healthy Food

The 2014 Farm Bill has already set in motion and accomplished so much for our country. With historic support for specialty crop producers across the country, the bill will touch every one of our lives through one of the most basic of human needs: food.

Specialty crops make up the bulk of what we eat—all of our fruits and vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits—as well as things like cut flowers and nursery crops. They are half of MyPlate at every meal, and the daily source for most of our vitamins and nutrients. For many in rural America, these crops not only provide nutrition, they are also a primary source of income.

For nearly a decade, USDA supported specialty crop growers across the country through the Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program. These grants enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, sustain the livelihood of American farmers, and strengthen rural economies. Read more »

When it Comes to Honoring Our Agricultural Heroes, Thank You Is Not Enough

Agriculture Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service (FFAS) Michael Scuse (left) speaks to farmers about the drought conditions being felt across the country.

Agriculture Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service (FFAS) Michael Scuse (left) speaks to farmers about the drought conditions being felt across the country.

This is the final post of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog. To see previous blogs, go to the Microloan Success feature series.

I’ve got one of the best jobs in the country, hands down. As Under Secretary for the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, I get to meet with – and talk to – farmers and ranchers across America every day. These hard working men and women, and their families are the backbone of U.S. agriculture. Their dedication and commitment inspire me.

It’s an honor to be able to service these agricultural heroes through the programs we offer at the Farm Service Agency (FSA). When severe weather devastates our nation’s cropland, FSA is there helping producers recover. Read more »

A Census Story from Benton County, Mississippi

Cattle graze on a farm in Benton County, Mississippi. Cattle and calves ranked as the top livestock inventory item for the Benton County in the previous census of agriculture – what will the 2012 Census results reveal? (Photo courtesy of Dennis Garner)

Cattle graze on a farm in Benton County, Mississippi. Cattle and calves ranked as the top livestock inventory item for the Benton County in the previous census of agriculture – what will the 2012 Census results reveal? (Photo courtesy of Dennis Garner)

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every week USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

The final 2012 Census of Agriculture release is just around the corner. My passion for Census data is rooted not only in the benefits the Census results provide for agriculture as a whole, but also in the value it provides at the local level. To help you see and share all the ways Census data are working for you, USDA is kicking off a dialogue to share how the Census is working for you and your community.

Through Your Census. Your Story., you can become engaged in the Census Story. Read more »

Top Five Reasons You Should “Root” for Soil Health Farmers on Earth Day 2014

What's underneath? Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the importance of soil health.

What's underneath? Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the importance of soil health.

Earth Day is next Tuesday.  To meet the growing sustainability challenges of the 21st Century, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is reminding people that many of the solutions are right at our feet — in the soil.

Here are the top five reasons NRCS says why on Earth Day 2014 you should “root” for soil health farmers: Read more »