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Farming at the Crossroads of America

Indiana State Infographic

Indiana is “The Crossroads of America” and the state’s farms, dairies, and agricultural operations are as varied as America itself. Check back next Thursday for another spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday 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 2012 Census of Agriculture results are out and, just as many predicted, Indiana agriculture continues to grow. True to our state’s motto, “The Crossroads of America,” the state of Indiana has a very diverse agriculture. The Hoosier State is a large contributor of corn, soybeans, tomatoes, ducks, milk, hogs, chickens and turkeys. And these are just a few of many commodities produced in Indiana.

According to the census results, there are 58,695 farms (ranking 7th nationally) on 14,720,396 acres of farm land in Indiana. Even though 2012 was a drought year, Indiana ranked 10th nationally in total sales by topping $11 billion, a 36 percent increase from just five years ago, which was the last time my agency conducted the Census of Agriculture. We also ranked 7th nationally in crop sales with just over $7.5 billion and 18th nationally in livestock sales with just over $3.6 billion. Read more »

Cover Crops Provide Multiple Benefits, Higher Yields

USDA employees, Paul Youngstrum and Eric McTaggart, examine a cover crop radish. NRCS photo by Jody Christiansen.

USDA employees, Paul Youngstrum and Eric McTaggart, examine a cover crop radish. NRCS photo by Jody Christiansen.

Corn and soybean farmers across the nation saw an increase in yields last year thanks in part to soil health-building cover crops.

More than 1,900 farmers responded last winter to a survey about cover crops conducted by the USDA’s North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and the Conservation Technology Information Center. The results to the survey were released in late fall.

Farmers who planted corn in a field following a cover crop had a 3.1 percent increase in yield compared to side-by-side fields with no cover crops. Likewise, soybean yields increased 4.3 percent following cover crops, according to the survey. Read more »

USDA Proposes Tougher Food Safety Standards for Chicken and Turkey

The graphic above illustrates how proposed new federal standards could help reduce poultry-related Salmonella illnesses by an estimated 50,000 each year. Click to enlarge.

The graphic above illustrates how proposed new federal standards could help reduce poultry-related Salmonella illnesses by an estimated 50,000 each year. Click to enlarge.

It’s no secret that Americans eat a lot of chicken and turkey. In fact, USDA estimates that a single American will eat 102 pounds of poultry in 2015. It is USDA’s job to ensure the meat and poultry products we enjoy are also safe to eat, and that means adapting federal food safety regulations to meet changes in production technology, scientific understanding of foodborne illness, and consumer demand.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1 million Americans contract foodborne Salmonella poisoning each year, and 200,000 of those illnesses can be attributed to poultry. Today, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service proposed new food safety standards that would reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter, another common cause of foodborne illness, on ground chicken and turkey, as well as chicken legs, breasts and wings, which represent the majority of poultry items that Americans purchase and feed their families. Read more »

2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum – Panel Discussion on Innovation, Biotechnology and Big Data

Innovation, biotechnology and big data are changing the way we produce, distribute and even consume food. From using innovative approaches to improve food safety to sharing market data to assist producers in reaching larger markets, big data and new technologies continue to change the face of agriculture.  USDA strives to meet these evolving challenges and will be discussing these issues through the lens of agriculture at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum on Feb. 19-20 in Arlington, Virginia.

Big data isn’t just massive amounts of numbers and codes for scientists, researchers and marketers.  That information, when interpreted and applied, can help people understand – and change – the world around them.  We are discussing how data helps producers of agricultural commodities in adapting their strategies to meet changing consumer demands, marketing practices and technologies. Read more »

USDA Foods Hatches New Chicken Product for Schools

USDA’s new unseasoned chicken strip provides school chefs with versatile and healthy options.

USDA’s new unseasoned chicken strip provides school chefs with versatile and healthy options.

School lunches have evolved since many of our childhood days to keep pace with new dietary guidelines and school meal patterns, but one food has been an enduring component: chicken.  The popular protein graces the center of the plate in a variety of forms and flavors, and the new USDA Foods unseasoned chicken strip provides school nutrition professionals with a versatile and healthy option to add to their recipes.  USDA develops new products for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) based on feedback from states and school districts.  Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how chicken flies the coop from farms to a pilot program to cafeterias across the country.

Did you know that on any given day, USDA Foods comprise 15 to 20 percent of the value of food served on the lunch line, or that the School Year 2015 Foods Available List contains more than 200 options?  For more than 70 years, USDA has provided states with 100 percent American grown food for school lunches to support the dual mission of strengthening our nutrition safety net and supporting American agriculture.  The unseasoned, non-breaded chicken strip is just the latest contribution to a long history of providing nutritious foods for school meals. Read more »

Meet Your Wellness Goals in the New Year with the USDA DRI Calculator for Healthcare Professionals App

USDA Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals app screenshot

New “USDA Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals” app allows users to keep track of nutrient calculations and recommendations based on the DRI values.

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.

The USDA National Agricultural Library’s (NAL) Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) today launched its mobile application, or “app,” which calculates Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).  The “USDA Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals” app allows users to keep track of nutrient calculations and recommendations that are based on the DRI values in a more convenient and user-friendly format. Through this new app, healthcare professionals can save time in the nutrition care process for patients and clients, while having access to credible nutrition guidance.

The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine first developed the DRIs in the mid-1990s. DRIs are recommended amounts of each nutrient a healthy person should consume to prevent deficiency or harmful health effects. Initially presented in tables, this information allows healthcare professionals to use the DRIs to assess and plan diets for groups or individuals. For example, if you are a female between 19 and 50, your registered dietitian or doctor may recommend that you increase your dairy consumption to meet the 1,000mg/day calcium recommendation outlined in the DRIs. The DRIs are also used in policy-making such as setting calorie and sodium guidelines for healthy school lunches. Read more »