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Assisting the Organic Community through Cost Share Programs

Man showing vegetables

Organic certification cost share programs puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes. It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.

Consumers are increasingly looking for organic products when they visit the supermarket.  Last year, organic products reached a record number of sales, accounting for over $39 billion in U.S. retail sales.  To meet consumer demand, the industry needs more organic operations to produce everything from organic milk to organic granola bars. 

Thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA has two cost share programs that assist organic farms and businesses with about $11 million per year in certification assistance– making it possible for producers and handlers of all sizes to consider organic certification.  Cost share programs support certified operations across the organic supply chain by making certification more affordable. Read more »

Mighty Agriculture in Little State Grows

Rhode Island State Infographic

“Buying Local” has helped Rhode Island agriculture grow. We hope you have enjoyed these weekly spotlights of the states taken from the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Planning is already underway for the 2017 Census – stay tuned!

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.

Rhode Island may be one of the smallest States in terms of agriculture but the 2012 Census of Agriculture shows Rhode Island has something most states don’t have – more farmers. The number of farmers in Rhode Island tallied 1,243, up slightly from 1,219 in 2007. As of 2012, almost 70,000 acres of our land are now dedicated to farming. That’s quite a bit, if you consider the fact that we are the smallest state in the Union.

Our agricultural growth is boosted by the “buy local” movement. According to the Census, Rhode Island growers sold almost $6.3 million worth, or 10.5 percent, of our agricultural products directly to consumers in 2012. This is the second highest percentage in the nation. Read more »

Photo-Worthy Meals

Girl with a plate of food

Beautiful meals like this are what’s for lunch today and every day in schools across the country. (Photo credit: Matthew Noel)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the digital age we have ample opportunity to document and broadcast every moment, meeting and meal. We have all seen those unappetizing photos of food served at school that quickly go viral. A lonesome whole wheat bun atop a sad fish fillet; a mysterious-looking meat mixture served next to an apple. It’s natural to ask, “Is this what they serve for lunch!?”

No, it’s really not. Read more »

Texas Water District, USDA Partner to Show Producers Way to Use Water Wisely

Micro-subsurface drip irrigation

Multiple cropping systems were used in the demonstration including corn and cotton. Micro-subsurface drip irrigation was one of the irrigation systems used to irrigate crops and conserve water.

In the High Plains of Texas, water reigns. The area is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, making a reliable water supply key to the area’s rural economies.

The High Plains draws its water from the Ogallala Aquifer, an underground aquifer that spans eight states. Currently, the use of groundwater from the aquifer is unsustainable as withdrawals for cities, farms, ranches, industries and other uses exceed the natural recharge of the aquifer. Read more »

Walk, Run, Ride to the First USDA Farmers Market at Night

USDA Farmers Market at Night poster

This Friday, the USDA Farmers Market will host its first night farmers market. Join us for live music, food trucks, and much more. We’ll provide everything you need for a perfect evening picnic on the National Mall. (Click to enlarge)

For 20 years, my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has managed the USDA Farmers Market.  It’s quite a milestone, and I’m thrilled to celebrate it this week by hosting the first night farmers market in Washington, DC!  There will be live music, food trucks, and an array of farmers, growers, and vendors offering cured meats, fruits and vegetables, cut flowers, cheese and dairy, and delicious baked goods—everything you need for a perfect evening picnic on the National Mall!

As part of our work to support local and regional food systems, AMS is always looking for innovative ways to help farmers markets succeed, including our own market in Washington, DC.  As we celebrate the USDA market’s 20th season, we are introducing night markets from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 15, June 19, July 17, Aug. 21, Sept. 18, and Oct. 16.  Each night market will have a different theme featuring live music and educational exhibits. Read more »

Industry & Government Benefit from Streamlined User-Fee Rulemaking

Inspector testing food quality

AMS quality assurance programs tell consumers and businesses that an impartial, unbiased third-party has assessed the quality and verified various aspects of their products. AMS inspectors provide a number of services spanning from visual inspection to taste testing.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides voluntary grading, inspection, laboratory analysis, audit verification and certification services for meat, poultry and egg establishments, fruit and vegetable handlers and processors, dairy processors, cotton producers and other parts of the agriculture sector to facilitate marketing and communicate quality attributes to consumers.

AMS quality assurance programs tell consumers and businesses that an impartial, unbiased third-party has assessed the quality and verified various aspects of their products.  Through the delivery of these programs AMS facilitates marketing of more than $150 billion worth of agricultural products that help to fuel America’s agricultural economy. Read more »