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Crop Insurance Continues to Strengthen Rural Communities

The sweet potatoes harvest at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA

The sweet potatoes harvest at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA.

America’s farmers and ranchers work hard to provide food for the world, contributing to the nation’s economy, as well as to the strength of our rural communities. To support our nation’s hardworking producers, we’ve developed programs designed to help them stay at the forefront of global production, to adapt to market changes and protect their operations even after bad years.

Although many farm programs have come and gone, one program has continued to grow and become even more critical to the farm safety net. Federal crop insurance has become the preeminent risk management tool for our nation’s agricultural producers, and has adapted to meet the diverse needs now more than ever. In fact, even Congress recognized the importance of the federal crop insurance program in the 2014 Farm Bill. As other programs were eliminated or reduced, new requirements and expansions were mandated for the program as a cost-efficient and proven way to keep agriculture strong. Read more »

These “GAPs” in the Produce Industry Make for Safer Food Choices

Just-picked green zucchini squash waits to be loaded onto a processing trailer at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA

GAP certification can make it easier for commercial buyers to find farmers and producers that meet food-safety requirements and offer consumers greater access to fresh produce.

July is the height of summer grilling season and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence.

Although farmers and food businesses have anywhere from several months to three years or more before they will need to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new food safety rules, many producers are asking how they can bring their operation into compliance – and many buyers are beginning to ask how they’ll know if suppliers are following the rules.

USDA and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) are working with industry and other government agencies to help ensure that stakeholders in the produce industry know the answers to these questions. Read more »

Tracking Songbird Progress in Pennsylvania’s Forests

A golden-winged warbler

The golden-winged warbler has suffered a 66 percent population decline since the 1960s.

“Hear that?” Dr. Jeff Larkin bent his ears to a nearby cluster of trees amid a sea of briars.

“There’s one in there,” Larkin said excitedly. We were on the trail of a golden-winged warbler, a black-bibbed songbird, which winters in South and Central America and spends its springs and summers here in Appalachia where it breeds, nests and raises its young. Read more »

Digital Plant Diagnosis: Turning a Mobile App into an Agricultural Game-Changer

High quality images of plants

High quality images of plants are the foundation of PlantVillage’s plant disease diagnosis algorithm. (iStock image)

Ireland lost about 20 percent of its population to starvation and emigration during the great famine of 1845-1849 because disease destroyed that nation’s major food source – potato.  Today, an Irish-born professor at Penn State University believes that a similar situation in other regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, could be a thousand times worse.

But there’s hope, he said, because modern food producers have a tool the 19th century Irish did not – smartphones and mobile apps, like PlantVillage. Read more »

Simple, Inexpensive Camera System Detects Foodborne Toxins

A system used to detect active Shiga toxin

USDA-ARS scientists developed this low-cost yet effective system to detect active Shiga toxin. USDA-ARS photo by Reuven Rasooly.

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.

As the weather heats up this summer, many of us are firing up our grills and going on picnics. But one thing we all want to avoid is getting food poisoning from the food or beverages we consume.

Each year, an estimated 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. An obstacle to extensive testing of foods for microbes, pathogens and toxins that cause food poisoning is equipment cost, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist. Read more »

What Are You Doing a Month from Now?

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week graphic

We’re looking forward to celebrating National Farmers Market Week with markets across the nation, August 7-13! Market managers and organizers can download graphics and templates to create their own celebration materials.

What are you doing August 7 through 13? That’s National Farmers Market Week – a time to celebrate the farmers, ranchers and local food businesses, as well as the communities that support them. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has officially declared August 7 through August 13, 2016 as the 17th annual National Farmers Market Week, highlighting the key role that farmers markets play in bringing communities together around agriculture. And with more than 8,500 farmers markets around the country, there are lots of opportunities to celebrate!

I will be celebrating that week by visiting markets across the nation, before wrapping up the week at the USDA’s Farmers Market in Washington, D.C., on Friday, August 12. You can celebrate at your local market too! The National Farmers Market Directory makes it convenient to find farmers markets in your area with weekday, weekend, and evening options. Read more »