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Know Where Your Food Comes From with USDA Foods

USDA Foods Map

Map of the dollar value of USDA Foods purchased in FY 2014; icons represent the states that are the largest sources of a particular type of USDA Foods. (Click to view a larger version)

Do you know where your food comes from?  If you can pinpoint where your food was grown and produced, you can make more informed decisions to maximize quality, freshness, and nutritional value.  You can also help support local economies through your purchases.  The USDA Foods program takes this mantra to heart and publishes state of origin reports with procurement information on all USDA Foods every year.  As we like to say at FNS, “All USDA Foods are local to someone.”

USDA Foods are 100 percent American grown and produced.  Each year, USDA procures more than 200 types of food, including meat, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, flour, cereals, and dairy products, totaling approximately $2 billion.  Organizations such as food banks, disaster and emergency feeding organizations, Indian Tribal Organizations, schools, and other feeding groups receive these USDA Foods for use in meal service or distribution to households through programs like the National School Lunch Program, The Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations. Read more »

Changes in a Key Source of Honey Bee Nutrition

A honey bee pollinating a flower

Goldenrod pollen is a key protein source for honey bees in the fall. Photo by David C. Smith, Williams College

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers who are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

Honey bee health and climate change would both rank high on anyone’s list of hot topics in agriculture these days.

Lewis H. Ziska, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) plant physiologist, with what is part of the Northeast Climate Hub in Beltsville, Maryland, knows this. He also knows that any study involving both honey bees and climate change should be carefully conducted and cautiously interpreted.  Ziska has been studying the effects of climate change on plants since 1988. He has been focusing on how rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels accompanying climate change are affecting a wide range of plants—from important food crops to noxious weeds. Read more »

Email Alerts for Changing Climate Impacts on Drought, Pests, Livestock Heat Stress, El Niño, and More

Soybeans in drought conditions

SERCH LIGHTS tools can give soybean producers the heads up about drought. USDA photo by Bob Nichols

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

If you’re a farmer, rancher or working land manager in the southeastern United States, the USDA Southeast Regional Climate Hub (SERCH) can be a valuable resource in delivering timely and applicable climate information and tools.  Located in Raleigh, North Carolina, on the campus of North Carolina State University, SERCH is led by the Forest Service.  The mission is to increase the resilience of working lands – agriculture, forest, and grazing lands – to climate change and variability through adaptive management.  SERCH assesses the vulnerability of key southeastern resources to climate changes; connects with Land Grant Universities, extension professionals, and other technical assistance providers to understand the needs of southeastern land managers; develops new or amends existing tools to support the emerging climate needs of land managers; and delivers climate-smart information through established networks. Read more »

Clean Air Provides Healthy Lands and Lets You Breathe a Little Easier

Allegheny National Forest’s Allegheny Reservoir

The air is clean above and the water is clear below in the Allegheny National Forest’s Allegheny Reservoir in Pennsylvania. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

Something we do every day for survival is something we often take for granted – breathing.  And a very important component of breathing is clean air. Air quality has a direct effect not only on the health of people, but also ecosystems.

The Air Program in the Eastern and Southern regions of the U.S. Forest Service oversees a resource that affects and integrates with other resources, from smoke management to watersheds and wilderness to recreation and vegetation. Read more »

Statistical Information Critical to Efficient Markets

Lance Honig, NASS' Crops Branch Chief, presenting monthly Crop Production report overview

Lance Honig, NASS' Crops Branch Chief, presenting monthly Crop Production report overview.

Starting next week, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will reach out to tens of thousands of farmers across the United States. Our interviewers will go door to door and make phone calls to collect the most accurate information possible about farmland in each state. In addition, we’ll ask farmers to report their acres planted by crop, and total grains & oilseeds stored on their farms. We will then spend several weeks processing and analyzing the responses we receive so that we can publish some of the most anticipated reports by the end of the month. Let’s just say we keep things busy in June!

Personally, I’ve gone through all aspects of NASS surveys. Growing up on our family farm in Kansas, I saw my father fill out surveys he received from USDA’s statistical agency. Later I joined NASS myself and got a chance to work with and survey farmers in Kansas, Indiana, and North Dakota. Over time, my career brought me to NASS’ Washington, D.C. office where I lead teams of statisticians who analyze survey data and other information to publish official U.S. crop estimates. Read more »

In A Changing Climate What Investments Make Sense?

Drought damage on the Fresno Harlen Ranch

Drought damage on the Fresno Harlen Ranch in Fresno, CA. USDA photo by Cynthia Mendoza

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

At a recent meeting in Kennewick, WA, panelists representing agricultural industries in the Pacific Northwest addressed the need for climate change adaptation and mitigation.  A wheat farmer representative said that farmers are flexible and can change how and when they plant as changes in weather occur.  An irrigation association representative indicated that after several years of long dry seasons and low snowpack, members were interested in re-thinking how water rights are administered.  The grape growers were worried about the changing climate and thinking about new strategies—mostly planting more heat-tolerant varieties.  The shellfish representative seemed astounded that anyone would question climate change.  He indicated that shellfish growers were already sending their “crops” to Hawaii where the water is less acidic, and were planning new strategies for raising shellfish.  The lesson here is what affects people directly gets their attention. Read more »