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April Brings Forth Crop Progress Reports

A tractor turns the cover crop into the soil in preparation for planting at Leafy Greens, a farm in the Salinas Valley of California. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

A tractor turns the cover crop into the soil in preparation for planting at Leafy Greens, a farm in the Salinas Valley of California. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

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.

It’s been said, “April showers bring forth May flowers.”  For USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and others involved in farming, April also brings forth the start of each year’s planting season for many key U.S. crops and the weekly Crop Progress report series.

With the help of about 4,000 reporters, including extension agents, Farm Service Agency staff, and others whose jobs involve frequent visual observations of farms and interaction with growers, NASS tracks and reports on planting, maturity, and harvest of major crops, such as corn, soybeans, wheat, and cotton. Read more »

In the Wake of the Rim Fire, What Comes Next? A Story of Recovery, Restoration and Reforestation

Current restoration goals include thinning and using fire as a management tool to reduce fuel loads. (Photo by Clint Gould, U.S. Forest Service)

Current restoration goals include thinning and using fire as a management tool to reduce fuel loads. (Photo by Clint Gould, U.S. Forest Service)

Like a phoenix rising from ashes, blackened portions of the Stanislaus National Forest, which were left by the Rim Fire that blazed through the Sierras in August of 2013, have begun to spring to life. Left with a burn scar that is one-third larger than New York City, a reforestation team is diligently working to bring forth a new forest.

Since the fire, much has been done in the way of making the forest safe for public travel and recreation along main travel routes. Snags and fire-damaged trees present significant safety hazards to humans. They also create a tremendous fuel load on the ground (biomass) as they fall. This fuel can feed future fires, which can be severely damaging to the soil. Read more »

EFNEP: Delivering Nutrition Education to Limited-Resource Families

EFNEP provides food and nutrition information to limited-resource families, including how to understand the nutrition information provided on food labels. (iStock image)

EFNEP provides food and nutrition information to limited-resource families, including how to understand the nutrition information provided on food labels. (iStock image)

Educators from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories recently met in Arlington, Virginia to discuss local implementation of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), one of the nation’s largest nutrition education programs.

Through nutrition education, EFNEP helps limited-resource families and children gain the knowledge and skills to change their current attitudes and behaviors when it comes to choosing nutritionally sound diets and improve their health and well-being.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers EFNEP and provides national program leadership.

“The 2015 EFNEP Conference brought together about 170 representatives from 1862 and 1890 land-grant universities (LGUs) to coordinate, collaborate, and receive training that they can take back and implement in their respective university programs,” said Stephanie Blake, NIFA EFNEP program coordinator. Read more »

In the West, Preparing for Uncertain Water Supply

The April 1 Snowpack Map shows the dramatic, early reduction in snowpack across the West.

The April 1 Snowpack Map shows the dramatic, early reduction in snowpack across the West.

“Well, this shouldn’t take long,” Dr. David Garen said as I sat down to interview him about April snowpack conditions. “March was warm and dry. Spring came early and the snowpack is already melting across most of the West. The End.”

Garen is a hydrologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Among other duties, he creates forecast maps and helps write the West-wide forecast summary for the Snow Survey Program.

“This year we had record low snowpack up and down the West Coast,” said Garen. “But even in the areas that had normal snowpack, it’s melting earlier than usual.” Historically, April 1st is when the snowpack peaks. This year has been different. Read more »

Removing Barriers to Agricultural Trade Ensures US Products Can Thrive in Foreign Markets

Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 saw the United States once again make significant gains in the international trade as USDA expanded opportunities for American producers overseas.  In FY14 American farmers and ranchers exported a record $152.5 billion of food and agricultural goods to consumers worldwide, an $11.6 billion increase over FY13’s figures.

USDA plays a key role in fostering American agricultural exports by opening new markets for our producers and ensuring their products meet foreign requirements for import.  As a result of these efforts, U.S. agricultural exports now drive overall U.S. economic growth by supporting nearly 1 million American jobs on and off the farm.  These trade efforts also contribute to a strong rural economy, which is critical to the overall economic health of the United States. Read more »

Farming Going Strong in Kansas According to #AgCensus

Agriculture is blooming in the Sunflower State! Be sure to check back next week for more highlights from another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Agriculture is blooming in the Sunflower State! Be sure to check back next week for more highlights from another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

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.

The Kansas state seal and state flag both feature a farmer, and looking at the results of the most recent Census of Agriculture, it is not hard to see why. In 2012, the year for which the Census was conducted, there were almost 62,000 farms covering more than 46 million acres of land in Kansas. That year Kansas producers sold close to $18.5 billion worth of agricultural products.

Crops have long been a symbol of Kansas farming. According to the Census, in 2012 Kansans produced almost 360 million bushels of winter wheat from more than 9 million harvested acres. More than 20 percent of all winter wheat in the U.S. that year came from Kansas – more than double both the acreage and production of Oklahoma which was the second-largest winter wheat producer in the nation. Read more »