Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Native Grass Project on Utah Mesa Serves as Model for Navajo Nation

NRCS field staff work closely with Tribal members on education, outreach and implementation of on-the-ground conservation practices. Loren Crank Jr. and Barry Hamilton with NRCS worked with Bill Todachennie, the chapter’s vice president, on this project.

NRCS field staff work closely with Tribal members on education, outreach and implementation of on-the-ground conservation practices. Loren Crank Jr. and Barry Hamilton with NRCS worked with Bill Todachennie, the chapter’s vice president, on this project.

Grasses for grazing livestock are making a comeback on Utah’s McCracken Mesa thanks to a project partnership among the Aneth Chapter of the Navajo Nation, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Known as the McCracken Mesa Rangeland Project, the Aneth Chapter is working to rehabilitate degraded land through a grass establishment project. McCracken Mesa rises 5,500 feet and covers 57,000 acres. An estimated 37,000 acres are intended for grazing livestock. But the mesa’s terrain, extreme weather and overgrazing from livestock have left much of the land bare.

The use of native grasses ensures a more sustainable ground cover for the mesa along with habitat for wildlife. Plants that are native to an area typically are the most suitable for restoration efforts because they boast advantages such as adaptability to the soil and have mastered surviving and thriving in the sometimes harsh environment. Read more »

How Does Ag Census Work?

Secretary Vilsack will present the preliminary results from the Census of Agriculture at the Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, VA on Feb. 20.

Secretary Vilsack will present the preliminary results from the Census of Agriculture at the Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, VA on Feb. 20.

Since 1840, the U.S. government has collected important census data on agriculture. The purpose of the Census of Agriculture is to account for all U.S. farms and to summarize the characteristics of those farms and their operators at the national, state, and county levels.

Today, the Census is the only comprehensive source of statistics on American agriculture that provides information by county. So, why do we call the numbers we produce estimates? Aren’t the numbers known exactly? These are the questions I am often asked when discussing the agricultural census.  The fact is that we do not know the numbers exactly so we produce the best estimates we can, given the data we collect. Read more »

Midwest Climate Hub to Help Producers, Coordinate Climate-Related Agricultural Research

Flooding and water damage in the Park and Tongue River Watershed

Producers endure the weather across the Midwest and wonder if it will be too wet to plant, too wet to harvest, too wet to spray, or if the rain will come at the right time to produce a bumper or just an average crop. In all of the presentations I have given on climate and agriculture across the Midwest, during the last year the prevailing question has been about whether the increasing variation in precipitation and temperature we’re experiencing is the “new” normal during the growing season. Producers point to the last four growing seasons as examples of the variation they face each year: 2010 was hot and wet during the grain-filling stage of growth causing the crops to mature more quickly, 2011 was almost normal with some dry periods during the last part of the growing season, 2012 was a drought year, and 2013 experienced two different extremes. In 2013, it was wet in the early growing season, delaying and in some places preventing planting, followed by a dry summer.  Across the Midwest, the early spring rains are increasing erosion from fields. Producers are now asking what they can do to protect their natural resources and the crops that depend on them, and what the next season will be like. If these extremes continue, how do they adapt their farming operations? Read more »

Addressing California’s Water Challenges Through Action and Collaboration

Cross posted from DOI News:

California is in the throes of the worst drought in the 160 years during which records have been kept. As a result, the state’s overextended water system is in crisis. All segments of California’s economy— one of the largest in the world—are experiencing the effects of this drought. The economic, social and environmental impacts on agriculture, industry, jobs, communities’ drinking water and the ecosystem will reverberate across the country, and that is why actions need to be taken to address the situation not just in the short term, but also to sustain the state over the long run.

Following two years of dry conditions, on January 17, California Governor Jerry Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency for drought. Subsequently, the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce have committed to helping California prepare for and lessen drought impacts. In addition, as called for in President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, the National Drought Resilience Partnership, which includes the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, and Department of Energy, will help align federal resources and policies to better support response to drought impacts and build long term sustainability and resilience in California’s water system. Read more »

USDA Then and Now

For over a century and a half, USDA has worked alongside farmers, businesses, and community leaders to ensure USDA programs put forward the most innovative thinking to meet the changing needs of a modern agricultural landscape. Mission areas across USDA, from agricultural research to forest management to nutrition programs and more, also look forward to create a stronger rural America, better prepared to meet 21st century challenges.

To illustrate some of the major innovations in our recent history to continuously serve communities across the nation – and in honor of Throwback Thursday – we’ve collected several historic photos and paired them with their modern counterparts. This photo series features USDA programs and services, Then and Now, and shows the impact of creative and innovative investments for a brighter future for rural Americans.

Food Stamps to SNAP: Converting from paper coupons to Electronic Benefit Transfer has allowed USDA to increase access to fresh healthy food, including farmers markets, while reducing fraud, waste and abuse within the SNAP program.

A book of paper food stamps used in 1941

This electronic card reader using a wireless connection allows consumers to use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Electronic Benefits Transfer cards

 

Rural Infrastructure: Rural broadband creates educational, health and economic benefits for rural America, and provides access to new opportunities that may not have been available before.

Rural Electrification Administration workers erect telephone lines in rural areas.

Family Nurse Practitioner and patient using telemedicine equipment to meet virtually with doctors.

 

On the Farm Technology: Modern technology allows agriculture to be more productive than ever before, leading to the strongest 5 years of agriculture exports in our history. Modern tractors and farm equipment often utilize GPS for precision planting or harvesting, and are able to perform tasks like measuring moisture content and weight in real time, and can update yield per acres on the fly during harvest time.

Man planting corn with a team of horses in 1940

A tractor turns the cover crop into the soil in preparation for planting.

 

Conservation: Conservation and risk management practices have helped to bring us into a 21st century of land stewardship, promoting soil health and healthy land management that help to ensure that the dust bowl of the 1930′s is history. Making reliable, effective risk management tools available for producers to make sound decisions that benefit the land is just one way USDA helps farmers and ranchers help the land.

Dust blown by the wind from an Iowa field that was not planted to grass to prevent soil erosion in 1890.

View of farmland and mountain range.

These are the first of many Then and Now images we’ll share, but we’d love to hear from you. We know some of agriculture’s most compelling innovation stories are the ones seldom told. Use #AgInnovates to add your voice to our shared story and tell us how your family or community has evolved to meet the needs of the 21st century.