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2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum: How Land Tenure & Transition Can Transform the Rural Economy

Farmer Randall Hildreth at his 500 acre farm in Marengo County, Alabama

2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum panelist, farmer Randall Hildreth at his 500 acre farm in Marengo County, Alabama. Nearly 200 of those acres were in Heir Property status and are currently in the process of getting a cleared title. (Photo courtesy of Randall Hildreth)

Focus on land tenure and transition issues has grown considerably in recent years, especially its impact on new and beginning farmers. “New and beginning farmers are the future of American agriculture,” said Deputy Secretary Harden.  “The average age of an American farmer is 58 and increasing, so we must help new farmers get started if America is going to continue feeding the world and maintain a strong agriculture economy.”  As the age of the principal farm operator continues to increase, the focus on this issue intensifies. Land tenure, succession and estate planning, and access to land for new and beginning farmers will be among the topics discussed in a session at USDA’s 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum this month. Read more »

A Walk in the Woods and Never be “The Marching Man”

A student constructing a snow shelter

Students attending the Westwide Snow Survey Training, in Bend, Oregon this year, construct their own snow shelters and spend the night in them. Training covers a variety of topics focused on outdoor survival. Photo by Jenn Cole.

On a sunny January morning in 2010, Tony Tolsdorf had no idea that a walk in the woods would become the longest night of his life.

“It was really warm that morning, probably 55 or 60 degrees,” he recalls. “It was one of those days where you just have to get outside and do something, so I went for a hike in the Columbia River Gorge.”

His plan was to hike on a creek side trail for about seven miles, then climb onto a ridge and hike back toward his car. Read more »

Hundreds of Free Webinar Series Offer On-Demand Conservation Training

2016 Planned Conservation Webinars screenshot

NRCS offers conservation webinars year-round. Hosting, automated reminders and CEU accreditation; made possible by our conservation partner, Southern Regional Extension Forestry. (Click for a larger version)

Conservation science is a broad, deep field that’s growing all the time. To help people brush up on conservation practices and learn about new technologies, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offers hundreds of free conservation webinars from its online Science and Technology Training Library.

Available live or on-demand, these webinars also count as Continuing Education Units for many different certifying organizations and programs. Read more »

USDA Scientists Take an Organic Approach to Improving Carrots

Multi-colored carrots arranged in a circle

Colorful ARS-bred carrots, packed with healthful pigments to punch up their nutrition level. ARS photo by Stephen Ausmus.

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.

Organic carrots are coming into their own. About 14 percent of U.S.-produced carrots are now classified as organic, making carrots one of the highest ranked crops in terms of the total percentage produced organically. With production and demand increasing in recent years, organic-carrot growers need help deciding which varieties to grow. Some varieties perform well as a conventional crop, but not so well under organic conditions. While conventional growers also can fumigate to control nematodes, bacterial diseases and fungal pathogens, organic growers don’t have that option. Read more »

Congrats to the Student Diversity Program Winners, See You at the 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum

A group of 30 university students, announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, will get a head start to a career in agriculture as winners of USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program.  Twenty university juniors and seniors were chosen based their essays on “Agriculture as a Career.”  Additionally, 10 graduate students were chosen in response to “The Greatest Challenge Facing Agriculture over the Next Five Years.” Read more »

Western Water Threatened by Wildfire

The Negative Effects of High Intensity Wildfire on Forested Land infographic

Catastrophic wildfire affects forests by baking the ground below, causing it to become a hard-packed layer that will not absorb moisture. Photo credit: American Forest Foundation

By Tom Fry, Western Conservation Director, American Forest Foundation

Tom Fry is the Western Conservation Director of the American Forest Foundation (AFF). AFF and the U.S. Forest Service hold a long-standing partnership in pursuit of protecting and conserving the important forest benefits that come from family and individually owned forest lands across the United States and ensuring the next generation of Americans understands and value forests for all the benefits they provide.

As we get ready for the 2016 wildfire season, a recent report from the American Forest Foundation (AFF) looks at one of the most important, but often overlooked, issues related to forest health: the relationship between water supply and the risk of fire to our forests. Read more »