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What Explains the Recent Rise in Rural Child Poverty?

Two young boys enjoying lunch near their home in Knox County, Ky

Young children at lunch in Kentucky. Rising income inequality in rural areas over the past decade has coincided with an increase in child poverty, according to a recent report by USDA’s Economic Research Service. USDA photo

During the 1950s and 1960s, the adage “a rising tide lifts all boats” broadly applied to the U.S. economy. As average income grew, the share of the population living in poverty fell rapidly. In the 1970s and 1980s, however, this relationship changed: average income continued to rise, but poverty increased. This means that incomes actually fell for many families in the lower portion of the income distribution. In other words, income inequality increased, and this translated into higher poverty despite a growing economy.

Recent work by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) shows that this dynamic persists, and helps explain trends in poverty among children in rural areas. According to official estimates, the share of rural children living in poverty grew between 2003 and 2007 even as the national economy expanded. Between 2007 and 2010, this share continued to increase, as might be expected given the profound economic recession of 2007-09. But the rural child poverty rate continued to rise through 2012, peaking at 26.7 percent, its highest level since at least 1968 — despite the resumption of economic growth at the national level. The rate finally began to decline between 2012 and 2014, but the 2014 level was well above that of 2003. Read more »

California Farmers Count Every Drop with Efficient Irrigation Technologies

Micro-sprinklers in a mature almond orchard

Micro-sprinklers in a mature almond orchard in Merced County, CA. Photo by Amber Kerr

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.

Despite hopes for a drenching from El Niño, California farmers are facing another drought year in 2016.  Even after four years of the worst drought on record, California farm output was a record $54 billion in 2015, accounting for more than half of the nation’s fresh produce. Groundwater has helped compensate for California’s lack of rainfall, but groundwater overdraft cannot be continued indefinitely.

California farmers have responded to the drought by fallowing land; switching to crops that yield higher value per unit of water; and switching irrigation technologies.  Almost all California cropland is irrigated, so continued improvements in irrigation efficiency are key to weathering this and future droughts. Read more »

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 »