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Year One: Building Up the Future of Agriculture

One year ago this week, I was honored to be sworn in as Deputy Secretary of USDA.

Along with Secretary Vilsack, I have had the privilege to lead a remarkable team here at USDA as we have worked to implement the 2014 Farm Bill, create a one-stop-shop for new farmers and ranchers seeking access to resources as they begin their farm businesses and lead a nation-wide discussion about who our next generation of farmers and farm leaders will be.

I am most proud of the opportunities that I have had to meet, learn from, and support the thousands of new farmers and ranchers that I have met during my first year in office. As a daughter of farmers, shaping the future of farming and ranching is incredibly personal for me. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers are exceptionally productive, passionate stewards of our land and it is essential they have all the tools they need to be successful business people. Read more »

Uniting Industry Leaders to Propel Agricultural Research

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Everyday at USDA, we work to ensure that American agriculture delivers safe, nutritious food and clean, plentiful water. But we’re facing serious challenges worldwide affecting agriculture and natural resources. With our agricultural system under stress, we must partner to find new ways to approach solutions to these challenges.

A new partnership that’s creating a lot of excitement is the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR).  The Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill, established this new, private, non-profit Foundation to foster research, innovation, and public-private partnerships important to America’s agricultural economy.  This independent nonprofit foundation will consult with USDA to fund complementary research activities to address challenges relating to plant and animal health, production and products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and the environment; agricultural and food security; agriculture systems and technology; and agricultural economics and rural communities.   Congress provided $200 million for the Foundation, and this money must be matched by non-federal funds as the Foundation identifies and approves projects.  In this way, the Foundation will leverage private donations to fund research activities making this a truly public-private partnership. Read more »

Chinese High Tunnel Part of Innovation at Missouri Teaching Farm

Curtis Millsap works in the Chinese High Tunnel on his southwestern Missouri farm. NRCS photo.

Curtis Millsap works in the Chinese High Tunnel on his southwestern Missouri farm. NRCS photo.

You can get just about anything you want at Millsap Farms, including an education about market farming.

Curtis Millsap estimates that he, his family and a crew of interns feed about 200 families on 2.5 acres of his 20-acre farm near Springfield, Mo. While another seven acres of the farm sometimes includes sheep, poultry and cattle, it’s the vegetable operation that supports Millsap, his wife Sarah and their nine young children.

Millsap uses two greenhouses and three seasonal high tunnels to grow produce year-round. Read more »

Celebrating Farmers and Communities during National Farmers Market Week

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

We just wrapped up the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week here at USDA. It has been an AMAZING week filled with celebrations at farmers markets across the country.  Last Friday, at our own USDA Farmers Market, we hosted hundreds of youths to introduce them to healthy back-to-school snacks; and we even had a special guest appearance from our old friend Smokey Bear (who turned 70 years old on Saturday).

Every year, the first full week of August is our opportunity to highlight the country’s thousands of farmers markets, the farmers and ranchers who make them possible, and the communities that host them.  Farmers markets and, more broadly, local and regional food systems, are one of the four key pillars that USDA is focusing on in order to encourage rural economic development and improve the quality of life for rural Americans. Read more »

“Seeding” the Next Crop of Scientists

Future scientists conduct their first experiment: 1st grade students at the Salish School of Spokane hypothesize how different food choices and chemical scents will affect insect behavior and then record and discuss the actual results. Photo courtesy of ARS.

Future scientists conduct their first experiment: 1st grade students at the Salish School of Spokane hypothesize how different food choices and chemical scents will affect insect behavior and then record and discuss the actual results. Photo courtesy of ARS.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

2014 marks the eighth year of “Pumping Up the Math and Science Pipeline: Grade School to College,” an innovative science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational outreach program developed and administered by USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) employees David Weller and Kathleen Parker in cooperation with Washington State University-Pullman (WSU) and other partners.

“The goal of the program is enhance the flow of students from underserved and rural communities into STEM professions. We do this by engaging students of all ages in one-on-one and hands-on STEM education and other activities,” explains Weller, who leads the ARS Root Diseases and Biological Control Research Unit in Pullman. Read more »

States Use Regional Partnership, Innovation to Protect Rivers and a Way of Life

The Mid-Snake River, near Twin Falls.  Water Quality Trading is one way the States of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are working to protect their rivers. Photo courtesy of the Idaho DEQ Twin Falls Regional Office, used with permission.

The Mid-Snake River, near Twin Falls. Water Quality Trading is one way the States of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are working to protect their rivers. Photo courtesy of the Idaho DEQ Twin Falls Regional Office, used with permission.

The Pacific Northwest is known for its picturesque lakes, cascading streams and dramatic coastlines. The many rivers of the Pacific Northwest—the Yakima, the Snake, Snohomish, Willamette, Klamath, Boise, and others—are part of the cultural, economic and environmental foundation of the region. These waters are meaningful for local Native American Tribes, agricultural production, industries who rely on water resources, and local communities and tourists from around the world that enjoy fishing and other forms of recreation along Northwestern rivers and streams.

It’s no surprise that the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho are interested in protecting their rivers to preserve these values, and the wildlife and ecosystems they’re a part of. More surprising, however, is the innovative way the states are collaborating to do it. Read more »