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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 »

An Iowa Couple Grows Food, Family and a Community on an Organic Farm

Andy and Melissa Dunham, seen here with daughter Leonora, own and operate Grinnell Heritage Farm in Grinnell, Iowa. NRCS photo by Ron Nichols.

Andy and Melissa Dunham, seen here with daughter Leonora, own and operate Grinnell Heritage Farm in Grinnell, Iowa. NRCS photo by Ron Nichols.

Some people are born to farm. Others grow to love it. In Melissa Dunham’s case, she fell in love with a farmer — and now she loves both the farmer and the farm.

“I was happily employed in the Twin Cities, but then I fell in love with this wonderful man who told me he was an organic vegetable farmer,” Melissa said. “I thought, ‘Sure, why not?’ We got married within seven months.”

It was an unexpected career and life change. “Everybody thought I was nuts moving down here to central Iowa to be a farmer,” she said. But now she’s growing food she believes in — and in a way that will leave the land in better condition for the generations to follow. Read more »

Livestock Mandatory Reporting – Bringing Transparency to the Marketplace

Livestock grazing.

The purpose of the program is to provide marketing information for cattle, swine, lamb, and livestock products that can be readily understood and utilized by producers. USDA Photo Courtesy of the National Organic Program.

The Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting (LMR) Program was established to expand pricing information available in the livestock industry. Part of USDA Market News data, the information is distributed by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and allows analysts to dive in head first and fulfill all of their number crunching ambitions.

The purpose of the program is to provide marketing information for cattle, swine, lamb, and livestock products that can be readily understood and utilized by producers. Livestock Mandatory Reporting encourages competition in the marketplace by vastly improving price and supply data, bringing transparency, breadth and depth to market reporting. The program gets its authority through the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act of 1999, which must be reauthorized by Congress every five years. The program is up for reauthorization in September 2015. Read more »

RCPP to Help Improve Water Quality in Lake Erie, Other American Waterbodies

The Maumee River (shown here) flows into the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie at the city of Toledo, OH. USDA photo.

The Maumee River (shown here) flows into the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie at the city of Toledo, OH. USDA photo.

In the first wave of funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), 70 percent of the 100-plus projects focused on providing for clean and abundant water. Of these many projects, one in the Great Lakes region is poised to do an excellent job in engaging and empowering an army of partners.  The Tri-State Western Lake Erie Basin Phosphorous Reduction Initiative is a multi-state project that brings together more than 40 partnering organizations from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana to reduce the runoff of phosphorous into the waterways in the western basin of Lake Erie.

The lake has suffered from nutrient pollution for years, including last year’s water crisis that left 400,000 residents in the Toledo, Ohio area without water to drink, bathe or cook. Today, Michigan Senator and Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Debbie Stabenow and Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown visited with the many diverse organizations making this project possible. From providing clean drinking water to employing thousands of people in the tourism industry, the health of Lake Erie affects nearly every aspect of life in the region. Read more »