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USDA Visit to the Philippines Supports Bilateral Ag Trade

Bananas from the field collected and washed before exporting

Bananas from the field are collected and washed after harvest and prior to export.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture continuously seeks opportunities for U.S. agricultural products and producers to expand access to overseas markets and contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, in turn creating jobs and supporting economic growth. The past six years have represented the strongest period for American agricultural exports in the history of our country. In fiscal year 2014 American farmers and ranchers exported a record $152.5 billion of food and agricultural products to consumers worldwide.

To that end, I recently had the opportunity to visit the Philippines with APHIS employees and meet with U.S. Embassy personnel, Philippine government officials, and Philippine industry representatives.  On my trip, I met with our Philippine counterparts at all levels and learned first-hand the value of outreach and relationship-building between APHIS colleagues stationed in Manila, Embassy colleagues, and locally employed staff.  Philip Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, who was very gracious with his time, acknowledged the close working relationship between APHIS personnel in Manila and their local plant and animal health counterparts and highlighted how resolutions of technical issues contribute to the overall strong bilateral partnership between the United States and the Philippines. Read more »

Farmers Markets: Important Sales Outlets for Organic Farmers

Organic Vegetables sign above vegetables and flowers

If a farmer or vendor at a farmers market uses the word “organic” to describe their products or practices, they must comply with the USDA organic standards and regulations. The organic label indicates that the product has been produced through approved methods that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.

Across the nation, farmers markets continue to be great places for communities to gather, shop for fresh, healthy food, and get to know local farmers and ranchers.  Farmers markets are also important outlets for the sale of organic agricultural products. 

In fact, more than 40 percent of organic operations report direct sales to consumers.  As consumer demand for organic and local food increases, farmers markets offer important opportunities for organic producers to enter new markets and grow their businesses. Read more »

From Tomatoes to Yarn: Value Added Producer Grants Help Agriculture Entrepreneurs Get Ahead

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admiring an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon.

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admires an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon. The Ranch used a USDA Value Added Producer Grant to develop the yarn.

“When you are a small farm, you don’t have a lot of capital.” says Julie Donnelly of Deepwoods Farm, a small tomato farm she runs with her husband in Bradley County, Arkansas. Despite being in an area known for its tomatoes, Deepwoods Farms was having a hard time getting ahead.  “We couldn’t get past the commercial tomatoes.” Julie remembers.  “We were almost bankrupt. I thought ‘I’ve got to do something!’ ”

What Julie decided to do was diversify her tomato crop to produce more varietals, including heirlooms and different colored tomatoes. She believed this would give her farm a competitive edge and open up new market opportunities. The tomatoes were growing well and tasted good.  However, no one knew the Donnelleys were doing something different than before. Deepwoods Farms needed marketing and branding support to tell customers why their tomatoes were different.   “When I heard about the Value Added Producer Grant, I thought this might be the answer,” said Julie. Read more »

Putting Antibiotic Stewardship into Action

The White House on June 2 convened a national forum to seek action on the problem of anti-microbial resistance. The development of antibiotics was one of the most significant medical achievements of the last century, and has helped to save millions of lives. But their overuse or misuse has resulted in the rise of bacteria strains that are resistant to antibiotics.

The White House has unveiled a National Action Plan designed to advance the appropriate use of antibiotics in food animals as well as promote collaborations among partners in medicine, veterinary medicine, and public health. This is consistent with a “One Health” approach that embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment can only be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions. USDA, which helped develop the National Action Plan, was pleased to join our many Federal partners and continue our work with the agriculture industry at the forum. Read more »

5 Facts You Should Know About the Role Trade Plays on America’s Farms and Ranches

Cross-posted from the White House blog:

Today, farmers, ranchers, and rural communities are more prosperous thanks to strong trade agreements. Foreign markets contribute to more than half of total sales for many American agricultural products. The last six years have been the strongest in history for agricultural exports, and agricultural exports now support more than 1 million good-paying American jobs. Without the expanded trade that came with past trade agreements, the agricultural economy and the American economy as a whole would not be as strong as it is today.

But new trade agreements are only possible if our negotiators can speak with one voice to negotiate free and fair trade deals. Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) — now being considered in Congress — allows them to do just that. Read more »

Let the Good Times Flow for National Dairy Month!

A man and pregnant woman have a snack and a glass of milk

June is Dairy Month! USDA Photo.

June is an eventful and versatile month—the start of warm summer days, school vacations, and holidays like Father’s Day and Flag Day.  We also celebrate many unusual observances in June such as Heimlich Maneuver Day, National Yo-Yo Day, and National Donut Day. But who can enjoy a donut without a nice, cold glass of milk?  June is the perfect month to combine the two as USDA joins the rest of the country in celebrating National Dairy Month.

For more than 75 years, we have celebrated dairy and all of its goodness during June.  What started out as National Milk Month in 1937 to promote milk consumption and stabilize the dairy demand has turned into a month-long celebration and tradition that acknowledges the dairy industry’s contributions to the United States and around the world.

Dairy has played an important role in America’s history since before the Revolutionary War, but it was not until Read more »