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When it Comes to Honoring Our Agricultural Heroes, Thank You Is Not Enough

Agriculture Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service (FFAS) Michael Scuse (left) speaks to farmers about the drought conditions being felt across the country.

Agriculture Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service (FFAS) Michael Scuse (left) speaks to farmers about the drought conditions being felt across the country.

This is the final post of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog. To see previous blogs, go to the Microloan Success feature series.

I’ve got one of the best jobs in the country, hands down. As Under Secretary for the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, I get to meet with – and talk to – farmers and ranchers across America every day. These hard working men and women, and their families are the backbone of U.S. agriculture. Their dedication and commitment inspire me.

It’s an honor to be able to service these agricultural heroes through the programs we offer at the Farm Service Agency (FSA). When severe weather devastates our nation’s cropland, FSA is there helping producers recover. Read more »

A Census Story from Benton County, Mississippi

Cattle graze on a farm in Benton County, Mississippi. Cattle and calves ranked as the top livestock inventory item for the Benton County in the previous census of agriculture – what will the 2012 Census results reveal? (Photo courtesy of Dennis Garner)

Cattle graze on a farm in Benton County, Mississippi. Cattle and calves ranked as the top livestock inventory item for the Benton County in the previous census of agriculture – what will the 2012 Census results reveal? (Photo courtesy of Dennis Garner)

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every week USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

The final 2012 Census of Agriculture release is just around the corner. My passion for Census data is rooted not only in the benefits the Census results provide for agriculture as a whole, but also in the value it provides at the local level. To help you see and share all the ways Census data are working for you, USDA is kicking off a dialogue to share how the Census is working for you and your community.

Through Your Census. Your Story., you can become engaged in the Census Story. Read more »

Top Five Reasons You Should “Root” for Soil Health Farmers on Earth Day 2014

What's underneath? Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the importance of soil health.

What's underneath? Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the importance of soil health.

Earth Day is next Tuesday.  To meet the growing sustainability challenges of the 21st Century, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is reminding people that many of the solutions are right at our feet — in the soil.

Here are the top five reasons NRCS says why on Earth Day 2014 you should “root” for soil health farmers: Read more »

New Frontiers of Food Safety

Over the last few decades, food safety has been marked by profound social, economic and political evolutions and technological breakthroughs such as 3D printing of food and the adoption of laboratory testing for pathogens. Laboratory testing for pathogens continues to evolve with the advancement of genome sequencing. However, there is always more to do.  There is a potential for advancing existing and promoting greater gains in the future.

What if there were more apps that could allow farmers, producers, consumers and stakeholders access to USDA data? The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) posts a variety of reports using data collected while inspecting and testing meat and poultry products, but more and more, people want direct access to the information.  For instance, what if a consumer could walk into a grocery store, scan a product, and instantly know where it was produced or where it was farmed? What if a farmer had an app that directly informed them about crop forecasting or crop variations? What if people and organizations who would never have had the opportunity before could individually and collectively mash up data in unique and exciting ways, leading to new opportunities to solve complex problems? The potential is endless as more tools are becoming available. Read more »

White House Champions of Change for the Future of American Agriculture

From the White House Champions of Change blog:

In the field of agriculture, we have a very important question to ask ourselves: who will the next generation of farmers and ranchers be?

For more than three decades, the share of farms operated by beginning farmers has been in decline.  Beginning farms and ranches accounted for 22 percent of the nation’s 2 million family farms and ranches in 2012down from about 35 percent in 1982. Consistent with this trend, the average age of principal farm operators in the United States has risen in that period, from 51 to 58.

Since day one, the Obama Administration has supported opportunities for people who want to work the land and produce food, fuel, and fiber for our country. The Administration continues to make these critical investments because of the great innovation and promise that agriculture holds. Read more »

Fieldprint Calculator Uses a USDA Tool to Help Farmers Track Water Quality Improvement

A stalk-puller attachment is drawn through this cotton test field near Weslaco, Texas, by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) field technician Victor Valladares. USDA photo by Jack Dykinga.

A stalk-puller attachment is drawn through this cotton test field near Weslaco, Texas, by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) field technician Victor Valladares. USDA photo by Jack Dykinga.

A nonprofit for sustainable agriculture recently launched a new metric in its calculator that relies on a popular tool from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Field to Market, the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, recently updated its Fieldprint Calculator that measures outcomes in the field to include a metric to measure water quality. This metric relies on NRCS’ Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff, or WQIag, which enables farmers to input variables about their field, such as slope, soil characteristics, nutrient and pest management, tillage practices and conservation practices to calculate impact on water quality. Read more »