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G20 Countries Join Together to Reduce Food Waste

This May, agricultural ministers from twenty of the world’s largest economies (G20) gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, to issue an Agricultural Communiqué outlining key actions to advance global food security and sustainable food systems. What topped the list of their priorities? Reducing food loss and waste worldwide.

The G20 is not the only international group to recognize the importance of reducing food loss and waste. High-levels of food loss and waste, which are currently estimated by the Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations (FAO) at about 30 percent of the total global food supply, aggravate concerns about our ability to sustainably nourish the world’s growing population while safeguarding the earth’s natural resources.  As a result, reducing food loss and waste has become paramount for the FAO, the U.N. Environmental Program and a long list of international non-governmental organizations and international businesses. Read more »

The Price is Right: Local Beef Reporting in Vermont

Market News reporter Alex Wright with cattle in Vermont

This report is pioneering the way beef is marketed by providing local price information for farmers, increasing transparency in the marketplace, and enabling institutions to properly assess the value of a small or mid-sized farm, which sells its commodities locally. Pictured here is Market News reporter Alex Wright with cattle in Vermont.

There’s no doubt about it – gears are turning in the world of local food production.  From rural communities to large food retailers, local and regional food is a growing business across the country.  In the USDA’s Market News division, developing market reports to keep up with the growing need for local food data is a priority for us.

Following Secretary Tom Vilsack’s lead to ramp up local and regional food efforts, USDA Market News – part of the Agricultural Marketing Service – issues a local beef report for the state of Vermont each month.  Two Market News reporters from Pennsylvania ventured to the Green Mountain State to meet with existing customers and recruit new ones.  Trekking all throughout the state, they visited a total of 10 farms, talked to numerous people about grass-fed beef, and learned about how Market News can better serve this sector of the industry. Read more »

Could Forest Thinning Help Ease Water Shortages in the United States?

A river beside forests below a blue sky

Researchers found that thinning could boost water yield, but the results are not proportional. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

Planning for the future of the nation’s water resources is more important now than ever before as severe drought grips the West, affecting heavily populated areas and critical agricultural regions. Forests generally yield huge quantities of water—much more than crops or grasslands—but also use a lot of water during the growing season, so some land managers wonder if forest thinning could boost water supplies to people and ecosystems in a changing climate.

U.S. Forest Service researchers from the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center and the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory tested this idea and found that the results were not so cut and dried. Their findings were recently published in a special issue* of the journal Hydrological Processes. Read more »

USDA Introduces New Food Safety Practices Survey for Producers, Processors

A farmworker rinsing just-picked yellow squash in a processing tub

A farmworker rinses just-picked yellow squash in a processing tub. USDA photo by Lance Cheung. Public Domain.

As the mom of a young boy, I am eager to learn more about the activities of growers and processors who supply my family and millions of others with our fruits and vegetables. In addition to being a mom, however, I am an agricultural statistician. Providing official statistics about agriculture gives me an opportunity to share knowledge about various aspects of the American food system, including food safety measures taken by fruit and vegetable operations across the United States.

To bring that crucial information into the spotlight, USDA’s Economic Research Service and the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) joined efforts and created a series of surveys, which I have the honor of administrating. The surveys focus on food safety practices used in fruit and vegetable production and processing. The data obtained may inform our understanding of how the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) may impact operators. Read more »

The Climate Hubs Tool Shed – An Inventory of Relevant Tools to Help Land Managers Respond to Climate Variability

Climate Hubs Tool Shed screenshot

Users can search using keywords, user-friendly categories, or a combination of variables via the advanced search feature. (Click to enlarge)

Producers want tools that can help implement adaptation strategies to reduce climate-related pressures and ensure the quality of production. They also need information about the effects of climate change on production systems. These range from management of labor resources in specialty crop production, to market demand for nursery crops, to marketing of locally grown produce. The Climate Hubs Tool Shed can be used to develop innovative management systems that increase profitability and product quality across all systems.

Launched in early 2014, USDA’s Regional Climate Hubs were established to deliver science-based knowledge, practical information, and program support to farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and resource managers. To this end, the Hubs are excited to announce the release of the Climate Hubs Tool Shed. The Tool Shed is an online, searchable database of tools (data-driven, interactive websites and mobile apps) that can assist land managers, land owners, and extension professionals in adapting working lands to the impacts of climate change. Users can search using keywords, user-friendly categories, or a combination of variables via the advanced search feature. While many of these tools were developed specifically to adapt to climate variability, several were developed to aid in mitigating the indirect effects of climate change such as drought, pests, wildfire, and extreme weather. Read more »

New Report Highlights Sage Conservation Successes, Stories

Signing an agreement supporting sage grouse conservation

SGI today unveiled a new report that highlights the people and partnerships responsible for sage grouse conservation efforts on private lands.

Statistics associated with the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) are quite impressive. Since 2010, more than 1,100 ranchers have teamed up with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in the partnership led by the agency to conserve habitat on 4.4 million acres, an area of working lands twice the size of Yellowstone National Park. The partnership has invested more than $424 million, of which more than 75 percent are invested in the highest priority areas.

NRCS helps restore habitat for sage grouse, an iconic, at-risk bird of the American West, by restoring and protecting key landscapes through removal of encroaching conifers, up by 14-fold, and through the establishment of conservation easements, up by 18-fold. While these numbers are indeed important, they do not share the real story. It’s the people and partnerships behind the numbers that truly matter as they are the ones that actually put the conservation on the ground. These conservation heroes and their tremendous accomplishments are highlighted in the brand new publication called “Success on the Range,” unveiled today by SGI. Read more »