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A Firsthand Account: California Farmers Working to Weather Drought

Dairyman Bob Giacomini (center) discusses his dairy operations and the critical need for more rainfall to Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills and other participants.

Dairyman Bob Giacomini (center) discusses his dairy operations and the critical need for more rainfall to Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills and other participants.

On a recent trip to California, I had the pleasure meeting several farm families who are impacted by the state’s worsening drought. Both stops gave me a first-hand view of the challenges these farmers face. We discussed how USDA can further help them with available resources. While the discussion centered on concerns over water supply, I was heartened to see that the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) recommended conservation practices have helped them better prepare for the state’s historic water shortage.

During the first stop, I visited with a distinguished dairyman and conservationist in Marin County, Bob Giacomini, and his four daughters, who operate the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Driving over the hill towards Bob’s milking complex, I could see the pastures had little, if any, grass. In talking to Bob, he said that typically the grass would be at least two feet tall by now. He has real concerns about having enough forage for his cows. I also spoke with Paul Bianchi, who had joined us.  Paul owns a dairy operation in neighboring Sonoma County and, like Bob, is very concerned about his ability to feed his cows. Both discussed the real possibility that they may have to sell some of their herd. Read more »

The President Signs the Farm Bill: “A Jobs Bill, an Innovation Bill, a Research Bill, and a Conservation Bill”

Take a look at five ways the Farm Bill strengthens our economy -- and if you learn something new, pass it on. (Click to enlarge)

Take a look at five ways the Farm Bill strengthens our economy -- and if you learn something new, pass it on. (Click to enlarge)

Cross posted from the White House blog:

Today, President Obama traveled to Michigan State University’s equine performance center in East Lansing to deliver remarks on and sign into law the Agriculture Act of 2014 — also known as the Farm Bill, which Congress passed earlier this week.

It’s a bill whose reach extends far beyond our farms — it includes smart reforms to reduce our deficit, and the investments it makes in our rural communities will help strengthen our economy across the board. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Innovation for a Stronger Rural America

Innovation is at the heart of the American agriculture success story. As a matter of course, today’s farmers and ranchers must constantly prepare and adapt to get ahead of tomorrow’s challenges.

At USDA, we have a long history of fostering research and innovation that help agricultural production thrive. I am pleased that the 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law today by President Obama, includes new support for agricultural research and, through a new research foundation, recommits to innovation for years to come. Read more »

#MyFarmBill – You Were Heard, and Thank You

Today, Secretary Vilsack joined the President in Michigan to sign the 2014 Farm Bill, an accomplishment that would not have been possible without your engagement. Last year we began the #MyFarmBill campaign in an effort to share with all Americans the need for a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill to keep up momentum in American agriculture. Today that bill was signed and we are able to move forward to do work that grows the rural economy and creates jobs.

The new Farm Bill will allow the proud men and women who feed millions around the world to invest confidently in the future. While no legislation is perfect, this bill is a strong investment in American agriculture and supports the continued global leadership of our farmers and ranchers.  Take a look at how your voices were included in the 2014 Farm Bill: Read more »

Northern Plains Climate Hub Aims to Help Producers “No Matter What the Weather May Bring”

Flooding  and water damage in the Park and Tongue River Watersheds located in Cavalier, Pembina and Cavalaier Counties in North Dakota on Thursday, May 23, 2013. USDA photo by Keith Weston.

Flooding and water damage in the Park and Tongue River Watersheds located in Cavalier, Pembina and Cavalaier Counties in North Dakota on Thursday, May 23, 2013. USDA photo by Keith Weston.

Weather dominates the conversation at local coffee shops and community gathering locations across the Northern Plains.  Depending on the time of the year, I’ve heard things like this:

“We sure could use rain – really dry out there. Cattle are going to have to come off the pastures soon.”

Or…

“Hoping the rain will break here for a few days so I can get the hay cut without it getting rained on this time.” Read more »