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Women are the Past, Present and Future of American Agriculture

Cross posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

From historic homesteaders to contemporary cattle ranchers, women have been the cornerstone of America’s agriculture heritage. We’ve produced food to feed our families, feed our neighbors and to feed the world.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture notes that nearly one million women are working America’s lands. That’s nearly a third of our nation’s farmers.  These women are generating $12.9 billion in annual agricultural sales.

Farm work isn’t the only way women are contributing to agriculture.  We are scientists, economists, foresters, veterinarians and conservationists. We are in the boardrooms and the corner offices of international enterprises, and are the owners and operators of small businesses. We are property owners and managers. We are policy makers and standard bearers.  Women are increasingly involved in every aspect of agriculture.

On October 20, I have invited a small group of leaders from almost all corners of the ag sector to join me at the White House and discuss the future of women in agriculture.  Co-hosted by the White House Rural Council, and co-organized by AGree (a collaborative initiative of nine of the world’s leading foundations to tackle long-term food and agriculture issues), this meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the impact women have had in American agriculture and the vision we have for the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Women principal farm operators average 60 years old. This means our daughters and granddaughters hold the future of American agriculture in their hands.  As women leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of women are educated, trained and prepared to usher agriculture into the future.

When I was a kid growing up on a Georgia peanut farm, I was inspired by my mother’s hard work on and off the farm. She taught me to carry my love of the land into all aspects of my life. As my career has developed, I have continued to be inspired by not only incredibly strong and talented women who are making a difference in agriculture, but also by men who recognize the vital role that women play in this industry. Monday’s dialogue will be just one of many parts of an important conversation on how we can better engage and empower women to continue helping agriculture succeed.

Join the conversation using #womeninag and share with the world the women who inspire you.

Field Day Supports Organic Dairy Producers

Dr. Hue Karreman demonstrates how to put your arm inside a cow’s mouth. Photo by Lisa McCrory

Dr. Hue Karreman demonstrates how to put your arm inside a cow’s mouth. Photo by Lisa McCrory

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) Field Days at Stonewall Farm in Keene, New Hampshire. The field days combine many activities for attending farmers, giving them the opportunity to learn from each other, speak with experts in the organic field, catch up with old friends and make some new friends too.

As Deputy Administrator for USDA’s National Organic Program, part of the Agricultural Marketing Service, I participated in a panel discussion on the future of organic certification with Dr. Jean Richardson, Chair of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and Henry Perkins, President of the Maine Organic Milk Producers.  I also had the opportunity to present information about the National Organic Program, including USDA’s programs that support organic agriculture, sound and sensible certification, the National Organic Standards Board and the revised sunset process. Read more »

Join Us for a Google+ Hangout: Growing the Organic Sector

On Wednesday, May 14th at 1:00 PM EDT, the USDA’s National Organic Program Specialist Betsy Rakola will host a Google+ Hangout to discuss strategies for growing U.S. organic production. During this Hangout, you’ll hear from farmers, organic certifiers, researchers, and community organizations at the forefront of todays’ organic market.

Participate in the Hangout on Wednesday by watching it live on the USDA Google+ page or on www.usda.gov/live.  Some of the questions we will discuss are: Read more »

Join us for a Google+ Hangout on April 1: Accessing Credit for your Farm or Ranch Business

Accessing credit can be challenging for new farmers and ranchers.  It’s hard to know where to start, what to ask for and, most importantly, who to ask.  USDA is here to help.  We have a portfolio of loan and credit options for farmers and ranchers like you. We also work closely with other financial institutions to make getting credit easier in other ways.

On Tuesday, April 1 at 4 p.m. EDT Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will host a Google+ Hangout to discuss types of agricultural credit and ways to access them in support of your farm or ranch business.

This Google Hangout is part of a discussion series hosted by Deputy Secretary Harden on the changing face of agriculture and the opportunities presented by a career in farming or ranching. You asked and we listened. Based on your feedback, new farmers and ranchers want to have a larger discussion on accessing credit and the financial know how that goes into starting an operation. Read more »

USDA Celebrates National Nutrition Month and Highlights Efforts to Promote a #HealthierNextGen

Today, as we mark the beginning of National Nutrition Month and the start of National School Breakfast Week, and throughout this month, USDA will be highlighting the work of our programs and partner organizations that support a healthier next generation by improving childhood nutrition and reducing obesity, supporting healthy families, enhancing food access, ensuring food security, promoting local markets, and providing science-based nutrition information and guidance for individuals and policy makers.

Through our nutrition assistance programs, support for farmers and ranchers, and our food safety and regulatory programs, USDA is working hard to ensure that all Americans have access to safe, affordable, healthy food.  The Agricultural Act of 2014 (a.k.a. “the Farm Bill”) which was passed by Congress a little over a month ago, as well as the Healthy Hunger-free Kid’s Act of 2010 enable us to continue making progress in this area, and support the health of our nation’s families. Read more »

Enhanced School Wellness Environments Make the Smart Choice the Easy Choice for a Healthier Next Generation

Given that many children today eat two meals a day at school, it’s vital that we make every effort to ensure that they have access to the healthy foods they need and the knowledge to make healthy choices. The proposed school wellness policy guidelines and the expansion of community eligibility announced by First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the White House this week mark important steps forward.

We are so excited to see all the great progress that is being made in schools today.  Over 90 percent of schools are successfully meeting the new school meal standards, and participation is up in many areas of the country. As more schools, parents, and children continue to embrace healthier school meals, we are seeing great progress in areas such as Dallas, large school districts in Florida, and the city of Los Angeles, where we saw a 14 percent increase under the new standards. Read more »