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Researchers Use NIFA Grant to Develop Rapid Food Safety Test

Measurement setup for direct pathogen detection on food

Measurement setup for direct pathogen detection on food. (Courtesy of Dr. Bryan Chin)

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.

Keeping the food on America’s tables safe to eat is a major priority at USDA, where we are constantly working to find innovative ways to stay a step ahead of bacteria and other dangerous contaminants that can cause illness. Thanks in part to a grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a research team led by Dr. Bryan Chin, director of the Auburn University Detection and Food Safety Center, has developed a cheap, portable and easy-to-use new screening tool to test fresh fruits and vegetables for the presence of bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses.

Currently available screening methods for produce can be costly in terms of time, equipment, and expertise. The multidisciplinary research team of engineers, microbiologists, and genomicists based at Auburn University and the University of Georgia wanted to create a new method that could be used more broadly. Read more »

Cold War Heroes Honored by U.S. Forest Service

A vault filled with personal mementos from the victims’ loved ones lies at the foot of the Silent Heroes of the Cold War Memorial

A vault filled with personal mementos from the victims’ loved ones lies at the foot of the Silent Heroes of the Cold War Memorial. The marble slab that covers it is blank, signifying the secrecy under which these heroes worked. Photo credit: US Forest Service

The Cold War was called a war for a reason—many died in the defense of democracy and free markets.

To honor those who died in the Cold War era, which lasted for more than 40 years, the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’ Spring Mountains National Recreation Area partnered with Silent Heroes of the Cold War and GO Mt. Charleston to dedicate the Visitor Gateway site, home to the Silent Heroes of the Cold War Memorial.

The new site is our nation’s first national memorial honoring the lives lost during the Cold War. Read more »

Relationships and Technology Are the Keys to Better Data for Farmers and Ranchers

NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer speaking to a small farms conference

Hubert Hamer speaks to a small farms conference about the value of NASS data and the importance of responding to NASS surveys.

Like nearly all organizations that use surveys to collect information, we have seen declining response rates in recent years. The value of accurate data is now more important than ever for decision-making on the farm, and by USDA farm program administrators, policy makers, researchers, market participants and, really, every aspect of agriculture. It is critical that we work closely with potential respondents and their industry representatives.

End-of-year crop production and stocks surveys, including the county agricultural production survey, which are critical for the Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency to administer programs that benefit farmers and ranchers are upon us.  These agencies need accurate data to serve producers with beneficial programs such as the Price Loss Coverage (PLC), Agriculture Risk Coverage (PLC), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and many crop insurance programs. Read more »

A Moment in Time Look at Organic Retail Prices

Organic "dinosaur" kale grown at Ground Stew Farms in San Martin, Monterey County, CA

AMS plays an integral role by providing organic data, standards, and other resources to small producers and consumers across the country.

Consumers can find certified organic products at most grocery stores and demand for organic products continues to increase, with U.S. retail sales valued at more than $43 billion in 2015.  Organic products are grown, raised and produced by over 31,000 certified operations, and many of those operations receive higher prices, or premiums, for their products.

Recently, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) issued a report entitled Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010.  The report highlights the retail price premium charged for organic foods compared to conventional products.  For the report, ERS used a virtual shopping basket of 17 products and data collected from Nielsen scanners to calculate the organic prices and how they changed from 2004-2010. Read more »

Following Water in the Rocky Mountains

Tom Brown hiking Chasm Lake

Tom Brown hiking Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo credit: Tom Brown

In cycling the Continental Divide in Colorado, you get a vivid picture of where much of our water comes from. During my long bike rides up there, I commonly find snow still melting in June. This snowmelt adds to streamflow that becomes our renewable water supply and my drinking water supply.

The part of rain and snowfall that does not naturally go back into the atmosphere becomes our water supply and it varies greatly across the United States. In the wettest regions, such as New England, precipitation is plentiful and about half of it ends up in streams or replenishes ground water supplies. Read more »

Cleaner Air through Cleaner Burning

Cindy Collins in Oregon's Hood River Valley

Cindy Collins (pictured) and about 20 other growers in Oregon’s Hood River Valley use an environmentally-friendly ‘burn box’ to eliminate pruned and diseased wood from their orchards.

“The burn box lets us burn during the summer months, when normally there’s a ban. It’s a useful tool. It burns really clean.” — Cindy Collins

See more photos from the Hood River Air Quality Project on Flickr.

When Cindy Collins wakes up in Oregon and looks out at her 46-acre orchard—with Mt. Adams towering in the background—she feels like she’s at summer camp. Read more »