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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 »

Secretary’s Column: Farm Bill Supports Specialty Crop Growers, Improves Access to Healthy Food

The 2014 Farm Bill has already set in motion and accomplished so much for our country. With historic support for specialty crop producers across the country, the bill will touch every one of our lives through one of the most basic of human needs: food.

Specialty crops make up the bulk of what we eat—all of our fruits and vegetables, tree nuts and dried fruits—as well as things like cut flowers and nursery crops. They are half of MyPlate at every meal, and the daily source for most of our vitamins and nutrients. For many in rural America, these crops not only provide nutrition, they are also a primary source of income.

For nearly a decade, USDA supported specialty crop growers across the country through the Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) program. These grants enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops, sustain the livelihood of American farmers, and strengthen rural economies. Read more »

When it Comes to Honoring Our Agricultural Heroes, Thank You Is Not Enough

Agriculture Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service (FFAS) Michael Scuse (left) speaks to farmers about the drought conditions being felt across the country.

Agriculture Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service (FFAS) Michael Scuse (left) speaks to farmers about the drought conditions being felt across the country.

This is the final post of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog. To see previous blogs, go to the Microloan Success feature series.

I’ve got one of the best jobs in the country, hands down. As Under Secretary for the Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, I get to meet with – and talk to – farmers and ranchers across America every day. These hard working men and women, and their families are the backbone of U.S. agriculture. Their dedication and commitment inspire me.

It’s an honor to be able to service these agricultural heroes through the programs we offer at the Farm Service Agency (FSA). When severe weather devastates our nation’s cropland, FSA is there helping producers recover. Read more »

A Census Story from Benton County, Mississippi

Cattle graze on a farm in Benton County, Mississippi. Cattle and calves ranked as the top livestock inventory item for the Benton County in the previous census of agriculture – what will the 2012 Census results reveal? (Photo courtesy of Dennis Garner)

Cattle graze on a farm in Benton County, Mississippi. Cattle and calves ranked as the top livestock inventory item for the Benton County in the previous census of agriculture – what will the 2012 Census results reveal? (Photo courtesy of Dennis Garner)

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every week 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 final 2012 Census of Agriculture release is just around the corner. My passion for Census data is rooted not only in the benefits the Census results provide for agriculture as a whole, but also in the value it provides at the local level. To help you see and share all the ways Census data are working for you, USDA is kicking off a dialogue to share how the Census is working for you and your community.

Through Your Census. Your Story., you can become engaged in the Census Story. Read more »

Top Five Reasons You Should “Root” for Soil Health Farmers on Earth Day 2014

What's underneath? Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the importance of soil health.

What's underneath? Healthy soil has amazing water-retention capacity. USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the importance of soil health.

Earth Day is next Tuesday.  To meet the growing sustainability challenges of the 21st Century, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is reminding people that many of the solutions are right at our feet — in the soil.

Here are the top five reasons NRCS says why on Earth Day 2014 you should “root” for soil health farmers: Read more »

New Frontiers of Food Safety

Over the last few decades, food safety has been marked by profound social, economic and political evolutions and technological breakthroughs such as 3D printing of food and the adoption of laboratory testing for pathogens. Laboratory testing for pathogens continues to evolve with the advancement of genome sequencing. However, there is always more to do.  There is a potential for advancing existing and promoting greater gains in the future.

What if there were more apps that could allow farmers, producers, consumers and stakeholders access to USDA data? The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) posts a variety of reports using data collected while inspecting and testing meat and poultry products, but more and more, people want direct access to the information.  For instance, what if a consumer could walk into a grocery store, scan a product, and instantly know where it was produced or where it was farmed? What if a farmer had an app that directly informed them about crop forecasting or crop variations? What if people and organizations who would never have had the opportunity before could individually and collectively mash up data in unique and exciting ways, leading to new opportunities to solve complex problems? The potential is endless as more tools are becoming available. Read more »