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Partnering with Farmers and Ranchers to Address Climate Change and Food Security Challenges

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack listening to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) supervisory plant physiologist Dr. Jerry Hatfield explain the equipment to gather information on climate changes and impacts on corn and soybean plants in Iowa

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack listens to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) supervisory plant physiologist Dr. Jerry Hatfield explain the equipment to gather information on climate changes and impacts on corn and soybean plants in Iowa.

As world leaders gather in Paris this week to negotiate a new global climate agreement, it is important to recognize the contributions of farmers, ranchers and foresters in the United States towards achieving a more food secure world while adapting to climate change, increasing carbon sequestration, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Over the course of my tenure as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. producers have faced a record drought, which the University of California estimates has cost farmers in California alone an estimated $3 billion in 2015. We’ve seen increasing incursions of invasive pests and diseases and extreme weather, everything from bark beetle to severe droughts, which have cost billions in lost productivity. We’ve faced a series of record wildfire seasons in the western United States—the worst decade in U.S. history for wildfire. The growing El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific has created the perfect storm for disasters to strike the already damaged and weakened western landscape. Read more »

In 2015, A #HighFive for Farmers

#HighFive for Farmers text box overlaid onto an image of a barn and crops

Throughout December, be sure to follow #HighFive to see just what we’ve been up to in the last 12 months, and stay tuned as we look forward to a 2016 that promises to be better than ever.

This year, millions of rural businesses and families were positively impacted by USDA investments in their communities. From helping farmers and ranchers bring their products to tables here and abroad, to building critical infrastructure in America’s rural areas, to conserving our nation’s natural resources with long-lasting partnerships, USDA is continuously working toward better results each year for the American people. As 2015 draws to a close, we want to thank our nation’s farmers and ranchers and rural families for all they’ve done by highlighting some of the most moving and motivating stories of the year. Read more »

Poinsettias: Helping an Icon to Bloom at the Right Time

A close-up of a poinsettia

Even though their sales period is just 6 weeks each year, poinsettias rank as one of the country’s best selling potted plant.

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.

Poinsettias are more than just an icon of the Christmas season. They’ve become the go-to plant for decorating homes, hotels, offices and just about everywhere from the Friday after Thanksgiving to well past New Year’s Day.

This wasn’t always the poinsettia’s story. In the 1950s, poinsettias were flashy plants that made a brief appearance in public places shortly before Christmas, only to drop their leaves and colorful flower-like bracts a few days later. They were expensive to grow because their blooming time was difficult to synchronize with the holidays, and the plants easily grew tall and leggy. Read more »

Mutually Beneficial Cooperation: The Three Sisters

Rory Hagerty, a seventh grade student from Alice Deal Middle School, planting beans in USDA’s Three Sisters Garden

Rory Hagerty, a seventh grade student from Alice Deal Middle School, plants beans in USDA’s Three Sisters Garden, part of the People’s Garden on the National Mall in Washington. USDA’s Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships office sponsored the event. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska. Follow along on the USDA blog.

For centuries, Native Americans have cultivated the soil and produced corn, beans and squash. Stories, ceremonies, songs and cultural traditions surround the annual planting, growing and harvest of gardens. Life lessons were learned throughout the gardening season. Stories of the Three Sisters refer to a tradition of interplanting corn, beans and squash in the same mound. It is a sophisticated, sustainable planting system that provided long term soil fertility and a healthy diet to generations of Native Americans. Read more »

Georgia Farmers and Ranchers are Growing Opportunities through Community Partnerships

USDA StrikeForce team with partner McIntosh SEED

USDA StrikeForce team with partner McIntosh SEED to bring information to rural Georgia.

Today, one-in-six Americans lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—and 90 percent of counties with the highest poverty rates are in rural America. These are also communities with high numbers of historically underserved groups, like African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans.

Last year, McIntosh Sustainable Environment and Economic Development (SEED) partnered with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with the goal of improving delivery of NRCS programs to Georgia’s socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in USDA StrikeForce counties.  SEED is a grassroots, community-based organization with a mission to improve social, economic, environmental and cultural interests of the community while providing quality education, better housing, recreational facilities, business opportunities and environmental protection and restoration. Read more »

Keeping U.S. Meat Competitive on the World Stage

Craig Morris at a UNECE meeting

Being an integral part of this international effort ensures that the American meat industry is represented and remains competitive in markets all over the world. Pictured here is Craig Morris at a UNECE meeting.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has the vital mission of administering programs that help market American agricultural products competitively in the global marketplace.  One of the ways AMS meets this mission is through the development of our own globally recognized meat standards, developed by the program I oversee, the AMS Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program.  However, separately, AMS works to achieve our mission through our participation and leadership in international standards setting organizations such as the UNECE.

For many years, I have represented the U.S. as the Vice-Chairperson of the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Specialized Section on Standardization of Meat.  UNECE is one of the many sections of the United Nations (UN), and facilitates international trade by developing agricultural quality standards. Read more »