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Decades of Research Show Increased Sustainability for American Agriculture

The Pioneers of Progress booklet illustrates how U.S. cotton has increased sustainability over the last 4 decades.  The original cover art was inspired by vintage almanacs, acknowledging the heritage of the U.S. cotton industry. Image courtesy Cotton Inc.

The Pioneers of Progress booklet illustrates how U.S. cotton has increased sustainability over the last 4 decades. The original cover art was inspired by vintage almanacs, acknowledging the heritage of the U.S. cotton industry. Image courtesy Cotton Inc.

U.S. agricultural producers have been engaged in sustainable farming practices for many years as an inherent part of their work.  They need the environment to flourish and thrive in order to continue producing the foods we eat and the materials we use.  Agricultural research and promotion groups, with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), allow producers and businesses across a commodity industry to pool their expertise and resources in order to help create new markets and invest in research.  The research they conduct helps improve production, discover new uses, and plays an important part in helping their industry identify and adopt sustainable practices. Read more »

Celebrating Our Glorious Planet

Map of USDA’s Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) sites and farm resource regions.

Map of USDA’s Long-Term Agro-ecosystem Research (LTAR) sites and farm resource regions.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine. For example, finding sustainable ways to produce food for Americans and the growing global population.

Today is Earth Day, which gives us the opportunity to celebrate the magnificence of our planet.  It’s a day to observe and support our environmental commitment to our planet now and in the future.

USDA scientists play an important role in protecting our environment.  Much of our research is focused on finding sustainable agricultural solutions to producing food, feed and fiber to meet our nation’s and the world’s ever-growing demand.  We develop environmentally friendly practices that farmers, ranchers, and others involved in food production can integrate into their operations. Read more »

Los Angeles Soil Survey Unearths Cradle of the City

Kit Paris and Randy Riddle with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service are taking soil samples in downtown Los Angeles. (NRCS photo)

Kit Paris and Randy Riddle with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service are taking soil samples in downtown Los Angeles. (NRCS photo)

It has been 88 years since the hammers and crowbars went silent. Sweat ran for more than a month as teams of workers smashed and destroyed Los Angeles’s original buildings between First, Temple, Spring and Main streets.

Construction began in the 1850s, and these buildings quickly became known as the cradle for an infant city. The footprint is now buried deep below present day Los Angeles City Hall and its adjacent park. It was not until March 2014 that local historians were reminded of this past for the second largest city in the United States.

It started last fall when a soil survey team from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) began to dig a soil pit in City Hall Park adjacent to city hall, as part of the agency’s soil survey. Read more »

Get Ready for Earth Day 2014: Small Communities Doing Big Projects to Protect Water and the Environment

The future of rural communities depends on safe, clean water supplies and healthy watersheds. That future is being challenged like never before and USDA RD is helping them meet the challenge.

The future of rural communities depends on safe, clean water supplies and healthy watersheds. That future is being challenged like never before and USDA RD is helping them meet the challenge.

With Earth Day on the horizon for tomorrow, we at USDA Rural Development are looking forward to sharing some very big news about efforts kicking off across the nation to ensure clean drinking water and healthy watersheds in small, rural communities that face increasing challenges with aging infrastructure, drought and climate change.

As you probably know, Rural Development works hard to help rural communities plan and build the critical infrastructure they need to grow and prosper sustainably. Read more »

Microwave Pasteurization: A New Industrial Process Producing High Quality and Safe Food

A Washington State University-led research team member works on the prototype microwave assisted pasteurization system (MAPS) unit.  MAPS allows packaged foods to be safely processed more quickly and at lower cost than conventional processes. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.

A Washington State University-led research team member works on the prototype microwave assisted pasteurization system (MAPS) unit. MAPS allows packaged foods to be safely processed more quickly and at lower cost than conventional processes. Photo courtesy of Washington State University.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, like innovative ways to make food safer.

More than 90 percent of American households have microwave ovens where people heat their food, yet this same technology is seldom used for large-scale production in the food industry.

As home cooks know, microwave ovens do not excel at heating food evenly.  The lack of commercial-scale microwave processing technology is, in part, due to the challenge of designing equipment that is capable of pasteurization – heating all of the food evenly to a predetermined temperature for a certain length of time.  Pasteurization makes food safe to eat, by inactivating bacterial and viral pathogens that can make people sick. Read more »

Farm Bill Listening Session: New and Expanding Opportunities for the Organic Industry

Steve Etka with the National Organic Coalition provides input during the listening session.  The session gave USDA the opportunity to hear from stakeholders about their priorities during the implementation process and the impact that the new provisions will have on their communities.

Steve Etka with the National Organic Coalition provides input during the listening session. The session gave USDA the opportunity to hear from stakeholders about their priorities during the implementation process and the impact that the new provisions will have on their communities.

Organic agriculture serves as an engine for rural development, representing a $35 billion industry in the United States alone. USDA is committed to protecting the integrity of organic products, and ensuring that all of our agencies work together to help the organic sector continue to grow.

Members of the organic community are important partners in these efforts. As Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which includes the National Organic Program, I have had the privilege of getting to know our organic stakeholders – visiting their farms and talking to them about their priorities – and I have been very impressed. Thanks to the recently passed Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill), USDA is now even better equipped to support the success of organic operations. Read more »