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Illinois Farmers Have Plenty to Boast About

With more than 12,500 acres, Illinois growers account for more than three-fourths of all pumpkins harvested for processing in the United States. Check back next Thursday for more interesting information on another state from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

With more than 12,500 acres, Illinois growers account for more than three-fourths of all pumpkins harvested for processing in the United States. Check back next Thursday for more interesting information on another state 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.

Most people think of corn and soybeans when they imagine Illinois agriculture. That’s not surprising, considering that The Prairie State ranked second in the nation when it comes to harvested acres for both of these crops in 2012. Our farmers harvested more than 21 million acres of corn and soybeans in Illinois during 2012. That keeps a whole lot of combines rolling each fall.

However, Illinois agriculture achievements expand way beyond just corn and soybeans. Our farmers produce a wide variety of crops and livestock. For example, you can probably thank an Illinois farmer when you open that can of pumpkin pie filling this Thanksgiving. With more than 12,500 acres, Illinois growers account for more than three-fourths of all pumpkins harvested for processing in the United States. Read more »

New Day, Same Mission: The Evolution of SNAP

A collection of stamps and coupons from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Stamp Programs. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History.

A collection of stamps and coupons from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Stamp Programs. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History.

This fall, USDA is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Food Stamp Act of 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, which made the Food Stamp Program permanent.  In looking back over the past 50 years, there are two notable events in the program’s history that had a significant impact on the transformation of the original Food Stamp Program in 1964 to the program we know today as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

First, the Food Stamp Act of 1977 was a major program milestone, because it established national eligibility standards for participation and eliminated the purchase requirement for food stamps.  The new standards meant that the amount of benefits a household received depended on the household’s size, income, and expenses, a standard that remains today.  The elimination of the purchase requirement meant that people received their benefits upfront, without the intermediary step of purchasing the food stamp first.  The Food Stamp Act of 1977, therefore, removed a major barrier to participation in the program while also ensuring that benefits would be targeted to those most in need.  As a result, the mission of the Food Stamp Program to mitigate the effects of poverty was strengthened. Read more »

Life in the Colorado Wilderness: Journal Entry Reflects Rangers’ Experiences in Retracing Arthur Carhart’s First Journey to Trappers Lake

A group of U.S. Forest Service employees gathers together in the Flat Tops Wilderness to reflect upon the idea of preserving wilderness that led to the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Flat Tops Wilderness is in what is known as the Cradle of Wilderness, the area that inspired Forest Service landscape architect Aldo Leopold to recommend designating permanent wilderness areas that could be enjoyed by future generations. (U.S. Forest Service/Roger Poirier)

A group of U.S. Forest Service employees gathers together in the Flat Tops Wilderness to reflect upon the idea of preserving wilderness that led to the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Flat Tops Wilderness is in what is known as the Cradle of Wilderness, the area that inspired Forest Service landscape architect Aldo Leopold to recommend designating permanent wilderness areas that could be enjoyed by future generations. (U.S. Forest Service/Roger Poirier)

In 1919, landscape architect Arthur Carhart made his first journey to Colorado’s Trappers Lake and the Flat Top Wilderness. His idea of keeping natural areas of beauty free from development inspired the Forest Service to be the first natural resource agency to push for designated wilderness areas.

The grandeur of the area recently inspired Forest Service employees from the White River National Forest to retrace Carhart’s 25-mile hike through the wilderness across trails with names like Wall Lake and Trappers Lake to the Cradle of Wilderness on their way to the lake. Like many a hiker who visits wilderness areas, they were inspired by the variety of experiences they encountered during their pilgrimage. Read more »

Scientific Climate Info Now Available for Producers in the Northern Plains

The new Climate Hubs Northern Plains website provides producers with science-based information.

The new Climate Hubs Northern Plains website provides producers with science-based information.

This fall, ranchers, farmers, and land managers in the Northern Plains from Bartlett, Nebraska to the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming will be making decisions that will affect their operations in the coming year. Land managers often consider markets, weather and changing climatic conditions using data and information from various sources including newspapers and popular press publications, Cooperative Extension agents, State Climatologists, and the Internet.

With the recent launch of the USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub website, ranchers, farmers, and land managers have a new source for region-specific, science-based information, practical management and conservation strategies, and decision-support tools.  The national Hubs site features links to the latest climate news, events, thematic climate highlights (e.g. Croplands, Forestland, Grazing Lands and Livestock) as well as educational materials, factsheets, and regional contact information. Read more »

Working the Night Shift – Bats Play an Important Role in Pollinating Crops

Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Bracken Bat Cave. Photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer

Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Bracken Bat Cave. Photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer

Most people associate pollination with bees and birds but often forget the work of their furry colleagues: bats. Bats take the night shift, playing a major role in pollinating crops and spreading seeds.

One important bat is the Mexican long-nose bat, which dwells in large colonies. Their range includes the southern parts of Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona. Read more »

Building Local Food Systems, Cooperatively

John and Trudi Kretsinger of KW Farms promoting their grass-fed beef products at one of La Montanita’s stores.

John and Trudi Kretsinger of KW Farms promoting their grass-fed beef products at one of La Montanita’s stores.

As part of USDA’s ongoing celebration of National Cooperatives Month, please join us for an upcoming webinar exploring the intersection of two important economic trends: a new wave of cooperative development and the rapid growth in demand for local foods.

This webinar – The Role of Cooperatives in Local Food Systems Development, on Thursday, Oct. 30, 1 pm Eastern Time – will feature national cooperative leaders and development specialists and USDA experts discussing the critical role co-ops play in developing local and regional food systems. Among the USDA staff on the panel will be Ag Economist Jim Barham; Elanor Starmer, our national coordinator for local and regional food systems; and Margaret Bau, a co-op development specialist who has helped launch over 30 co-ops nationwide. Also joining the panel will be Jan Tusick, director of the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center in Montana; Karl Sutton, a farmer/member of the Western Montana Growers Cooperative; and Robin Seydel, Community Development for La Montanita, a retail and consumer co-op in New Mexico. Read more »