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Local Food Systems: What Do We Know About National Trends?

Farms with intermediated sales of local foods are located largely in urban counties. Source: USDA Economic Research Service, data from Census of Agriculture, 2012; Agricultural Marketing Service, 2014.

Farms with intermediated sales of local foods are located largely in urban counties.

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.

American consumers are enjoying increasingly more opportunities to buy food directly from farmers and to patronize grocery stores and restaurants that offer local foods. Policymakers have taken notice, and as part of Congress’s FY14 Appropriations Bill, the House Agriculture Committee asked the Economic Research Service (ERS) to report on the scope of local and regional food systems and recent national trends. The result – Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: Report to Congress – details the latest economic information on local food producers and consumers, and reviews policies supporting local food systems.

The ERS report poses questions like how rapidly direct-to-consumer farm sales are growing, some characteristics of local-food farms, and the level of organic farm participation in local food sales. It addresses consumer issues such as willingness to pay premium prices for some local foods, and how local food prices compare with those at retail outlets. Read more »

Farm Bill Program Helps Improve Water Quality in the Delaware River Watershed

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills announces Farm Bill funding support to improve water quality in the Delaware River Basin. NRCS photo.

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills announces Farm Bill funding support to improve water quality in the Delaware River Basin. NRCS photo.

The Delaware River watershed is one of our nation’s most treasured resources. It is home to more than 7 million people and the water supply for more than 15 million in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. An historic new Farm Bill program at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will help farmers and local leaders make investments to keep the watershed healthy and vibrant for years to come.

Secretary Vilsack recently announced the recipients of the 2014 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awards.  This new program will invest $1.2 billion over five years in innovative, partner-driven strategies to protect air and water quality, make more efficient use of water resources, restore habitat and protect open spaces.  This year’s RCPP awards nation-wide total more than $370 million dollars. Counting the dollar-for-dollar partner match, almost three quarters of a billion dollars will be invested in private land conservation through the RCPP. Read more »

Old Dominion Agriculture by Numbers

Virginia State Infographic

The Old Dominion Dominates when it comes to farming – more than one-third of the state’s area is farmland. VA Farmers, take a BOW! Check back next week for another in-depth state focus 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.

Nothing can compare to the economic impact agriculture has in Virginia. 2012 Census of Agriculture counted more than 46,000 farms, which cover more than 8.3 million acres of farmland in the commonwealth. That’s nearly a third of our entire state! In fact, according to Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, agriculture is our state’s largest industry.

In the most recent census, Virginia farmers reported selling more than $3.7 billion worth of agricultural products. Of these, most came from the livestock sector. Broiler chickens were the top commodity sold in 2012, the year of the latest Census of Agriculture. That year, growers sold $638.3 million worth of broiler hens. Read more »

Don’t Let Bacteria Score a Touchdown at Your Super Bowl Party

Super Bowl Infographic, "Four Steps to Food Safety". Click to enlarge.

Super Bowl Infographic, "Four Steps to Food Safety". Click to enlarge.

The Super Bowl is one of the most popular sporting events in the United States and the second largest food consumption day. This means there are many opportunities for Americans to come into contact with some nasty bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 48 million Americans will order takeout or delivery during the game. In 2014, the National Chicken Council estimated that 1.25 billion chicken wings were consumed Super Bowl weekend. To promote proper food handling, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing safety recommendations to explain how you can keep your Super Bowl food both safe and delicious. Read more »

Big Data Implications for the Production of Official Statistics

Dr. Daniel Pfeffermann at the Morris Hansen Lecture.

Dr. Daniel Pfeffermann, current President of the International Association of Survey Statisticians, discussed the implications big data might have for the production of official statistics at the recent Morris Hansen Lecture, an annual, open-to the-public education and outreach event held at USDA’s Jefferson Auditorium in Washington D.C. Pfeffermann stressed that big data may improve the timeliness of statistics while reducing response burden, but only if big data can be properly assessed, analyzed and interpreted to provide high quality, accurate information that is truly of value to users. USDA/NASS Photo by Dan Beckler.

Unless you live completely off the grid, you likely have heard of, and contribute to, “big data,” the often-used catch phrase describing massive (and ever-increasing) volumes of information stored digitally on computers, servers and clouds.

From advertisers using data mined from customer interactions; to government agencies making data public so developers can create beneficial mobile apps; to farmers applying statistical data to determine their production and marketing practices, a wide-variety of people and industries use big data. Read more »

It’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month – Head for a National Forest

Kristin Merony and Tammy Randall-Parker, a Forest Service district ranger and a ski instructor at Telluride Mountain Resort, after Kristin’s first solo run down the mountain after a day of ski lessons. (U.S. Forest Service)

Kristin Merony and Tammy Randall-Parker, a Forest Service district ranger and a ski instructor at Telluride Mountain Resort, after Kristin’s first solo run down the mountain after a day of ski lessons. (U.S. Forest Service)

A new year means new resolutions and new adventures to embark upon. As many of you sit down to contemplate your goals of the year, I would like to suggest learning to ski or snowboard on national forests.

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, which means that on many resorts learning now can be the easiest and most affordable time to head to a forest near you. The U.S. Forest Service is host to 122 ski areas. The most visited forest, the White River National Forest, has 12 ski areas. Read more »