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1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities: Ensuring Access to Higher Education and Opportunity for All

Earlier this week I caught up with Tom Joyner on the Tom Joyner Morning Show to announce $35 million in grant support for high quality research, teaching and Extension activities at 1890 Historically Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities. Tom, a graduate of Tuskegee University, and I discussed how these additional resources will help support exciting new opportunities and innovative research at 1890s institutions.

These grants are just a small piece of USDA’s nearly 125 year partnership with 1890s schools to support cutting edge research, innovation and student achievement. Since 2009 alone, USDA has awarded $647 million to 1890s schools.

In addition to highlighting the great work of these universities with Tom Joyner, I also joined Congresswoman Marcia Fudge—a champion of education and an extraordinary advocate for underserved Americans—to announce the designation of Central State University, a historically black university in Wilberforce, Ohio, as a land-grant institution. Read more »

USDA Then and Now: Part IV

Thanks for tuning in this month to our installments of USDA Then and Now photo series on the amazing innovations that have helped rural America grow and respond to a constantly evolving agricultural landscape. Here you can see Part I, Part II, and Part III.

In our fourth and final Then and Now, we look to some of our long-standing historical programs and missions then, versus how they look today in 2014.

Please keep your stories coming using #AgInnovates! Read more »

It’s Said That No One can Predict the Weather, but Scientists at the Ag Outlook Forum Give it a Shot

This graphic shows past records and predictions based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Provided the by U.S. Forest Service.

This graphic shows past records and predictions based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Provided the by U.S. Forest Service.

Weather….  We all care about it. In many communities, local TV and radio weather forecasters are celebrities, and for good reason.  While we can’t do much about the weather, it affects us all every day.

During last week’s Agricultural Outlook Forum two sessions drew exceptionally large crowds.  One was the Friday afternoon “Weather and Agriculture” segment and another was the morning “Markets and Weather” presentation.  While no one can say for sure what the weather outlook will be for the 2014 summer growing season, Brad Rippey, agricultural meteorologist with USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE), Eric Luebehusen, OCE ag. meteorologist and Anthony Artusa, meteorologist with the Climate Protection Section of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made some observations and predictions in the afternoon session.  The snowpack in the West’s Sierra Nevada is far below normal.  The Western winter wet season has been a bust, with winter precipitation less than 10 percent of average in some areas.  California, the Great Basin and southern Great Plains are in drought.  The meteorologists said California, the lower gulf coast and much of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas could see above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation in March, April and May.  According to Rippey, “We need a miracle March in 2014 to avoid major problems in California.”  The most current information is available through NOAA’s Seasonal Drought Outlook map and the USDA drought monitor. Read more »

#MyFarmBill Responds to Devastating Drought

Last Friday, Secretary Vilsack joined President Obama in California to announce new resources to help farmers and ranchers cope with devastating losses due to one of the state’s worst droughts in over 100 years. This much-needed relief will provide up to $100 million in livestock disaster assistance and an additional $10 million for water conservation, and it would not be possible without the 2014 Agricultural Act.

Times like these underscore the importance of the Farm Bill to America’s farmers, providing them with the resources they need to keep American agriculture productive and profitable and giving them confidence to grow and invest even when disaster strikes. Read more »

USDA Then and Now: Part II

This month, USDA is sharing the story of rural American creativity, innovation and constant adaptation to meet 21st century challenges in communities across the nation.

This blog is Part II of a photo series highlighting some of the ways USDA has worked alongside farmers, ranchers and rural communities to carry out our mission in the communities we serve nationwide. You can see Part I here.

Below are historic photos paired with their modern counterparts, illustrating creative and innovative ways that USDA programs and services have evolved to build a brighter future filled with opportunities for rural Americans.

Don’t forget, you can share your innovation stories, too, using the hashtag #AgInnovates!

Forest and Land Restoration
Restoration of our public and private lands benefits the environment, creates jobs in rural communities and helps USDA to address a variety of threats to the health of our forest ecosystems including climate change,  fire, pests, and others.

On average, the USDA Forest Service is projected to complete treatments such as watershed, forest and wildlife habitat restoration, and hazardous fuel reduction on over 3 million acres of state, private and Federal lands each year, while USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service helps producers plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and improve soil, water, plan, animal, and air on public and private lands.


 

Food Safety
Food Safety has always been an crucial part of USDA’s mission, but in recent years, modern technology has made it easier than ever to help consumers get the answers they need to their important food safety questions and keep them safe from illness. Ask Karen, provides 24/7 virtual assistance on tips preventing foodborne illness, safe food handling and storage and is available via web or mobile app.

 

Rural Housing
Part of USDA’s mission is to work to continuously improve the quality of life in rural areas. Housing and Community Facilities Programs help rural communities and individuals by providing loans and grants for housing and community facilities such as cutting edge hospitals, health clinics, schools, fire houses, community centers and many other community based initiatives, expanding access to state-of-the-art facilities to rural Americans.


#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.