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Secretary’s Column: A New Farm Bill to Carry On America’s Record Agricultural Trade

Over the course of 2013, we’ve seen yet another banner year for U.S. agricultural exports. Exports of U.S. farm and ranch products reached a record $140.9 billion in 2013 and supported about a million U.S. jobs. In fact, compared to the previous five-year period from 2004-2008, U.S. agricultural exports from 2009-2013 increased by a total of nearly $230 billion.

All told, the past five years represent the strongest five-year period in our nation’s history for agricultural exports.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has focused on two key factors in recent years to help make this success possible. First, an unprecedented effort by USDA and our Federal partners to expand and grow markets around the world. Second, a commitment to make sure our farmers and ranchers have the tools to grow more, even in the face of uncertainty. Read more »

Organic 101: Organic Trade Basics

Expanding trade for U.S. organic products—like the carrots pictured above—creates opportunities for small businesses and increases jobs for Americans who grow, package, ship and market their organic products.

Expanding trade for U.S. organic products—like the carrots pictured above—creates opportunities for small businesses and increases jobs for Americans who grow, package, ship and market their organic products.

This is the fourteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Are you a certified organic operation looking to increase your market presence? USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) recently published two fact sheets that explain the basics of importing and exporting organic products to assist organic producers and processors in accessing new markets for their products.

Expanding trade for U.S. organic products creates opportunities for small businesses and increases jobs for Americans who grow, package, ship and market organic products. During this Administration, USDA has streamlined trade with multiple foreign governments. Read more »

Home for the Holidays: A Pennsylvania Mom’s Story

Misty Allen (right), her daughter Deanna and puppy Odysseus are ready for family and friends to share the holidays in their new home. (USDA photo)

Misty Allen (right), her daughter Deanna and puppy Odysseus are ready for family and friends to share the holidays in their new home. (USDA photo)

A year ago this week, Misty Allen and her daughter Deanna came home to the American Dream they thought would forever be out of reach.

“It was magical!” said Allen. “This house is more than I could ever have asked for. I never imagined I could have a three-bedroom house for less than I was paying in rent.”

Flooded out of their most recent apartment and facing a significant rent increase to offset repairs, Allen learned about Rural Development’s 502 Direct Home Loan Program through her local Realtor. Just before Christmas, she and Deanna settled into their picturesque Athens, Pa., neighborhood, their new puppy Odysseus joining Loki, the mischievous German Shepherd, in the mix. Read more »

What Will Become of Your Forest Land When You are Gone?

Family forest owners may use consulting foresters or state extension foresters for advice on the technical details of land management, but many owners shy away from thinking about how best to pass their forest on to the next generation.

Poor estate planning – or no planning at all – can result in a tax bill that requires selling timber or forest land, which in turn can lead to subdivision and development.

Estate Planning for Forest Landowners is a free publication developed by the U.S. Forest Service that provides a comprehensive guide to estate planning specifically designed for forest landowners. Read more »

Expanding the American Brand

The American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide. The last four years represent the strongest in history for agricultural trade, with U.S. agricultural exports exceeding $478 billion. This international success is critical to achieving one of USDA’s core missions – fostering economic opportunity and innovation that will continue to help American agriculture grow and thrive in a global economy.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) plays a key role in this area by opening new markets for American producers. We enjoy a close working relationship and collaborate on many projects with our colleagues at USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).  Through our export certification and verification programs, we create opportunities for American farmers and businesses to succeed by connecting them with foreign markets. Read more »

StrikeForce Helps S.C. Family Protect & Preserve Forest Land

NRCS District Conservationist Frank Stephens talks with brothers Martin and Oliver Smith about their forest management plan. NRCS photo.

NRCS District Conservationist Frank Stephens talks with brothers Martin and Oliver Smith about their forest management plan. NRCS photo.

The soil in Marlboro County, S.C. is known to be fertile, and legend has it that the land was once so productive it was sold by the pound instead of the acre.

In this agricultural oasis, brothers Oliver and Martin Smith are continuing the farming tradition that has been in their family for three generations.

Oliver Smith credits his grandmother, a freed slave, for starting the family farm on 400 acres of land in the state’s Pee Dee region. Now, he and his brother manage the forestry operation, which their father helped grow by another 50 acres. They’re working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to use conservation to help their operation and the environment. Read more »