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USDA Investments Make Big Impact in Rural America

USDA Rural Development 2015 Progress Report

USDA Rural Development 2015 Progress Report.

USDA Rural Development’s just released 2015 Progress Report highlights the many ways that the Agency’s investments in businesses and communities created jobs, provided economic opportunities and improved local infrastructure for millions of rural residents.

This report also presents the historic level of investment in rural communities since President Obama took office in 2009. Among the highlights, USDA: Read more »

Fun New eBooks Help Kids Discover MyPlate

Mobile devices showing "Discover MyPlate, Two Bite Club and A MyPlate Meal"

Team Nutrition’s free MyPlate eBooks make learning about new foods fun for kids.

The recently-released Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 highlights how many Americans need to shift their dietary patterns to include more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, seafood, and oils and eat fewer refined grains, added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.  Perhaps your family has also set some new year’s resolutions to try some new vegetables or whole grains or choose fruit as snacks.

To help your family embrace these small changes towards a healthier lifestyle, the Food and Nutrition Service provides a variety of recipes, tips, and materials for kids through its Team Nutrition initiative.  Our latest resource is a collection of eight eBooks that teach young children about MyPlate and the types of foods found in each food group.  It’s nutrition education that’s fun and easy to use right from your mobile device! Read more »

A Home for the Backbone of California Agriculture

Children at Calistoga Family Apartments, a farm labor housing complex, enjoying one of the many group games during the after-school program “Kids Club”

Children at Calistoga Family Apartments, a farm labor housing complex, enjoy one of the many group games during the after-school program “Kids Club”. The on-site program also offers healthy snacks, help with homework and access to computers.

California and agriculture go hand in hand; it’s hard to talk about one without mentioning the other. Similarly, we can’t talk about our farmers and ranchers and not mention the farm workers – the backbone of California’s agriculture industry.

Eduardo Jaramillo has spent much of his life working in the vineyards in Calistoga, part of California’s world-renowned Napa Valley wine region. “I love working with the earth, I can’t imagine ever doing anything else,” he explained. To afford housing, he and his wife shared a house with their adult son. But when an electrical malfunction caused a fire – destroying the house – they were devastated. They lost everything. With help from their church they were able to find new housing, but the high rent coupled with the added burden of replacing their furniture and other basic necessities proved too much. They faced the real possibility of being forced to leave Calistoga, and the vineyards Eduardo had spent his life cultivating. Read more »

Shiitake Mushrooms: A Commercial Forest Farming Enterprise

Workshop participants examining forest grown lion’s mane mushrooms

Workshop participants examine forest grown lion’s mane mushrooms. (Photo credit: Ken Mudge / Cornell University and Allen Matthews / Chatham University)

Helping landowners care for their forests and strengthen local economies is an important goal of the U.S. Forest Service, USDA National Agroforestry Center and their partnering organizations.

According to Ken Mudge of Cornell University, any farmer with a woodlot and the drive to diversify should consider forest-cultivated shiitake mushrooms. They are well suited to the increasing demand for locally produced, healthy foods.

With a retail price of $12 to $20 per pound, the demand for shiitakes is considerable throughout the Northeast. As an added benefit, growing mushrooms encourages landowners to learn more about managing their forests. Read more »

Future of Agriculture: Creating Change from the Ground Up

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Congresswoman Gwen Graham standing with others at the 2016 North Florida Farm Tour

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden and Congresswoman Gwen Graham standing with others at the 2016 North Florida Farm Tour.

The face of agriculture is changing. At USDA, we want you to know that whether you come from a farming background or not, grew up in a rural, suburban or urban area, that there are opportunities for you to get involved in agriculture. It is my highest priority as Deputy Secretary to ensure that beginning farmers and the growing ranks of agriculture – women, young people, immigrants, minorities, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees – have access to the programs and support they need.

That is why yesterday, I joined Congresswoman Gwen Graham at Florida A&M University to talk about the importance of diversity in agriculture. There are a host of resources available at USDA and beyond, especially now that Florida has been named a StrikeForce state. I also announced that farmers can now use our popular microloans to gain access to land. These are just some of the tools that are helping new farmers succeed. Read more »

Understanding AMS’ Withdrawal of Two Voluntary Marketing Claim Standards

Cattle grazing with clouds behind them

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service strongly supports the nation’s grass-fed beef industry by serving as an independent verifier of various grass-fed beef marketing programs, and by providing timely market reports that help producers better understand the value of grass-fed cattle and beef.

Last week, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced that effective January 12, 2016, the agency withdrew two voluntary marketing claim standards – the Grass (Forage) Fed Marketing Claim Standard and the Naturally Raised Marketing Claim Standard. The Naturally Raised Marketing Claim Standard has never been used by anyone.  What does the announcement really mean to grass-fed beef producers and consumers?  The honest answer is nothing.

Consumers and beef producers alike can be assured, AMS still strongly supports the nation’s grass-fed beef industry by serving as an independent verifier of various grass-fed beef marketing programs, and by providing timely market reports that help producers better understand the value of grass-fed cattle and beef. Read more »