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

USDA’s Climate Hubs: Providing Targeted Solutions to Modern Challenges

America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners face a complex and ever-changing threat in the form of a changing and shifting climate. The past three years alone have brought some of the most severe and devastating floods, droughts and fires our nation has experienced in recent history.

While no individual event can be linked to climate change, extreme weather conditions are increasingly impacting our farmers, ranchers and forest owners, to the detriment of their bottom lines, our food supply, and the future security of our farm economy.

We need a strategy that strengthens agriculture’s response to the impacts of a changing and shifting climate. Our farmers and ranchers need new and better tools to respond and prepare for the challenges of drought, heat stress, excessive moisture, longer growing seasons and changes in pest pressure. Read more »

Student Agricultural and Food Systems Innovation Prize Launched – Help Innovate Agriculture!

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Food ties all of humanity together, and making sure there is enough to go around while conserving our natural resources is critical to USDA’s mission. Our researchers think about how to sustainably produce greater quantities of safe and nutritious food every single day. Our in-house science agency, the Agricultural Research Service, has labs across the country that work on just those problems, while our National Institute of Food and Agriculture seeks out the most promising ideas from our university partners and awards the funding needed to get started.

Sometimes, all it takes is a fresh perspective to make a big jump in progress. Read more »

Organic Crop Insurance Is Growing in New Ways!

B & W Orchards owner Barbara Robinson grows blueberries and other produce on her eastern Mississippi farm. Photo by Mississippi State University Extension Service

B & W Orchards owner Barbara Robinson grows blueberries and other produce on her eastern Mississippi farm. Photo by Mississippi State University Extension Service

Federal crop insurance provides the risk management tools necessary for American farmers to stay in business after a difficult crop year. They can be the difference between a farmer going under because of a lean year or having a safety net that allows them to keep farming and rebuild.  These tools help farmers who rely on good farming practices for smart land use and preserve economic stability for generations.  And the Risk Management Agency (RMA) has worked hard to extend risk management tools for organic producers.

Organic producers were first able to obtain crop insurance under the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000. However, due to the lack of data, organic farmers were initially charged an additional 5 percent surcharge and were only able to insure the “conventional price” for their crop – not the organic price.  Many organic producers felt the surcharge was not justified and that crop insurance prices needed to better reflect what they received in the marketplace. Read more »

Web Soil Survey Update Improves Data Delivery, Customer Service

Data on soils on the nation’s 3,265 soil survey areas are now updated and available free online from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“This update is a major step-forward in meeting the growing demand for NRCS soils data,” said Dave Hoover, NRCS national leader of Soil Business Systems. “Our soil scientists in every state helped us upgrade all our software and databases, improve our spatial data, and put together a complete suite of soil interpretations and other products our customers want.” Read more »

#AgInnovates: Modern Solutions for a 21st Century Rural America

In the 151 years since the U.S. Department of Agriculture was founded, America’s oldest industry has evolved to meet the changing needs of our modern agricultural landscape. From growing overseas markets, building a 21st century rural infrastructure, and finding ways to address the challenges of climate change, USDA has worked beside farmers, businesses, and community leaders to streamline programs and spur innovative solutions for today’s challenges.

For USDA, that also means looking inward and changing the way we do business. We have done this by designing initiatives that collectively utilize the full scope of our mission, better focusing resources and staff across the Department to meet the needs of the communities we serve using modern tools, technology, and processes.

USDA’s recently expanded StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative illustrates this trend with a broad commitment to rally available tools and technical assistance to combat persistent poverty in rural communities in 20 states.

Our Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative aims to support the rapidly expanding local and regional food market with new products and services, as well as tailored cross-agency web resources and data that illustrate opportunities and promote local and regional food systems.

And finally, through the Blueprint for Stronger Service, USDA responded to the uncertain fiscal environment by streamlining mission critical work and taking a close look at operations to find ways to cut costs and modernize processes to be better stewards of taxpayer dollars – with great results.

Over the next month we’ll share more about the ways that USDA has evolved to meet the needs of modern agriculture in America. We’ll use hashtag #AgInnovates on social media to share these stories, but we want to hear from you too. In the video above, Secretary Vilsack asked you to lend your voice to our collective story of how YOUR community has evolved to meet the needs of the 21st century. A new hospital? Technology enhanced planning, harvest, or conservation practices? A better transportation infrastructure? Education programs to meet the needs of today’s high tech ag sector?

Use #AgInnovates to let us know. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Pioneer African-American Smokejumper Laid to Rest at Arlington National Cemetery

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., former chief of staff of the Army, talks to Lt. Col. Roger Walden during a recognition ceremony at the Pentagon on March 25, 2010. (U.S. Army)

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., former chief of staff of the Army, talks to Lt. Col. Roger Walden during a recognition ceremony at the Pentagon on March 25, 2010. (U.S. Army)

During World War II, a time when segregation was still a part of everyday life, a group of 17 brave men took the plunge to serve their country and become the first all African-American paratrooper unit known as the Triple Nickles.

The battalion’s original goal – to join the fight in Europe – was thwarted when military leaders in Europe feared racial tensions would disrupt operations. At about the same time, the U.S. Forest Service asked the military for help to minimize damage caused by balloon bombs launched by the Japanese across the Pacific Ocean with the intent to start forest fires in the western U.S. during World War II.

In the end, few of the incendiary devices reached U.S. soil, but the Triple Nickles were instrumental in helping the Forest Service fight naturally-caused fires. They became history’s first military smokejumpers who answered 36 fire calls and made more than 1,200 jumps that summer of 1945. Read more »