Each day, the work of USDA scientists and researchers touches the lives of every American: from the farm field to the kitchen table – from the air we breathe to the energy that powers our country.
No matter where you look, USDA science is on the cutting edge, helping improve American agriculture, providing insight into our health and nutrition, and protecting our natural resources.
For over 100 years, USDA scientists and research funding have supported the farmers and ranchers who produce a safe and abundant food supply for our families. This work has helped sustain an agricultural trade surplus since the 1960s and led to the record farm income we’re enjoying today.
Our work to sustain and improve on the incredible productivity of our farmers and ranchers required innovative science matched by producers willing to embrace new ideas and techniques. This partnership has flourished. Studies show that every dollar invested in agricultural research returns over $20 to our economy.
In the past few years, work by USDA scientists and their university partners revealed the genetic blueprints of a host of plants and animals including the genomes of apples, pigs, and turkeys. Thanks to this research, we can bypass generations of selective breeding to make livestock and crop production more efficient and bring more abundant, nutritious food to the American table.
We have also worked to protect staple crops from disease and pests. A recent USDA study located a gene in corn that makes the plant resistant to three blights. This could help protect from lesions on corn leaves that affect the crop across the Midwest and elsewhere. And our scientists are looking at using selective, controlled fires to reduce grasshopper infestations that cost state and federal governments millions when they attack our wheat or alfalfa crops.
USDA research also helps preserve and protect our environment. We have helped develop no-till farming practices and new crop rotation systems tailored to meet the needs of American farmers and increase their bottom line. At the same time, these practices – and other new techniques like using wood chips as part of a sub-surface drainage system – reduce runoff of soil and chemicals that can get into our water supply, with negative environmental impacts.
In the years and decades to come, agricultural science must do so much more. It’s how we’ll develop renewable energy solutions to power our cars and trucks – it can provide the keys to good health and nutrition for our families – and ag science will promote sustainable food production to feed the world.
USDA is proud to be a part of these efforts. The science and technology we’re bringing to the American people and the world makes a difference every day.
You can find the audio version of the Secretary’s Column here.