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New Farm Bill Program to Help Protect Longleaf’s Legacy for Future Generations

Longleaf Pine forest (photo by William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)

Longleaf Pine forest (photo by William D. Boyer, U.S. Forest Service)

As a kid, I spent Christmas vacations with my family and my grandfather in the longleaf pine forests of South Carolina.  While my grandfather and father (and later me) were quail hunters, you don’t have to be a sportsman or a sportswoman to appreciate longleaf pine.  Longleaf forests are home to countless wildlife species, a diversity of plants, and provide valuable wood products, such as heart-pine floors that are cherished across the South.  Longleaf forests once covered some 90 million acres along the Southeast coastal plain, but over the past two centuries, development, conversion, ill-planned timbering, and fire suppression have reduced longleaf’s range to a mere sliver of its former extent.

USDA and our many conservation partners are working to restore longleaf forests, and we’ve seen significant progress in the recent years. Now, a new Farm Bill program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, or RCPP, is providing additional support to the effort. Read more »

Puerto Rico: Collaborating for the Future of Our Climate

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden listens to  farmer José Delgado describe his initiative to introduce locally-grown sorghum feed to Puerto Rico on Jan. 25, 2015. USDA photo by Julie Wright.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden listens to farmer José Delgado describe his initiative to introduce locally-grown sorghum feed to Puerto Rico on Jan. 25, 2015. USDA photo by Julie Wright.

Climate change has been deemed one of the greatest challenges facing agriculture, world food security, and human development in the 21st century.  It’s a challenge that USDA is working to mitigate while also making sure that our farmers, ranchers and forest landowners are ready to adapt to the challenges it will pose. Just last year we announced the creation of several regional climate hubs — information centers that help to connect a community of farmers, ranchers, researchers and partners committed to finding viable climate solutions. One area that’s been identified as particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change is the Caribbean.

On a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I had the pleasure of visiting the USDA Caribbean Climate Sub Hub in Rio Piedras where I was joined by the Puerto Rico Secretary of Agriculture Hon. Myrna Comas and the Puerto Rico Secretary of Natural Resources Hon. Carmen Guerrero. I was truly impressed by the collaboration taking place at the Caribbean Climate Sub Hub at every level – federal, state, and local. While at the hub, I saw some examples of products, from musical instruments to home decor, made from native wood grown on the island. By working collaboratively with the hub, local producers are able to harvest native woods in a way that both supports forest health and creates new market opportunities. Read more »

Affordable Care Act Gives New Farmers the Freedom to Farm

As every farmer and rancher will tell you, life on the farm means you make tough choices every day. At times the challenges and risks facing farmers, especially those just starting out, can seem difficult and daunting. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new farmers have one less thing to worry about: they no longer have to choose between doing what they love and having access to affordable, reliable health insurance coverage for themselves and their families.

There are stories like Elena, who worked alongside her father on their Colorado farm throughout her early 20s. The Affordable Care Act allowed her to remain on her parent’s health insurance through the age of 25. But after she turned 26, she had to take a job in town that came with health benefits. By getting Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage, she was able to come back to her family farm while maintaining access to health coverage. Read more »

California Boasts Unique and Powerful Agricultural Industry

California’s moderate climate allow for year round production of many crops, making agriculture in the Golden State important for the U.S. and the world.  Check back next week for another state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

California’s moderate climate allow for year round production of many crops, making agriculture in the Golden State important for the U.S. and the world. Check back next week for another state spotlight from 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.

From entertainment to high-tech to world-class wine, California’s diverse industries dazzle and delight people all over the world, and our agricultural industry is no exception. The Census of Agriculture results are in and the numbers confirm what many have always known – agriculture shines bright in The Golden State. California is the agricultural powerhouse in the U.S., generating over $42.6 billion in market value of agricultural products sold. With over 25.6 million acres of land dedicated to a diversified agricultural production, it is no surprise California leads the nation.

Diversity in all things is a proud hallmark of our state, and it lends its strength to our agriculture. California is the sole producer of an amazing array of commodities eaten by people all over the world. Enjoy pomegranate juice? Almost 99 percent of all pomegranates produced in the U.S. come from California. Love almonds? Very nearly 100 percent of all almonds produced in the U.S. are grown in California. Gotta have olives?  Close to 98 percent of all olives grown in the U.S. are from California. Need artichokes?  It is the California state vegetable, and as you might have guessed, almost all of the artichokes grown in the U.S. are grown in California. California also has most if not all of the dates, figs, kiwifruit, pistachios, raisins, sweet rice and walnuts in the country. Read more »

Let’s Move Into the Kitchen and See What’s Cooking

The recipes on What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl offer nutrition information to help you choose dishes for you and your family.

The recipes on What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl offer nutrition information to help you choose dishes for you and your family.

This is the first installment of the What’s Cooking? Blog Series. In honor of the Let’s Move 5th Anniversary, and the commitment USDA shares with Let’s Move to promote healthy eating and access to healthy foods, this month-long series will high­­light the various features of the What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl recipe website.

Did you know that one of the easiest ways to eat healthfully is to cook at home? When you cook at home, you can often make better choices about what and how much you eat and drink. Cooking can also be a fun activity and a way for you to spend time with family and friends.

If you don’t usually cook, start gradually. Make it a goal to cook once a week and work up to cooking more frequently. First, you’ll need to plan your meal and purchase ingredients that you do not already have on hand. Planning ahead can also help you make better food choices. Read more »

Grant Workshops Continue USDA’s Solid Investment into Local Food Sector

Last year, AMS awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing opportunities through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program. The AMSTA Project will help potential grant applicants understand how to develop and submit solid grant applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. Photo courtesy of Danie Becknell.

Last year, AMS awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing opportunities through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program. The AMSTA Project will help potential grant applicants understand how to develop and submit solid grant applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. Photo courtesy of Danie Becknell.

A year ago, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) into law. Equipped with resources from the Bill, USDA continues to support the growth of farmers markets and local and regional food systems. In fact, last year the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing opportunities through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program.

In addition to financial investments into our communities, we also invest our time and expertise to help farmers, ranchers and others strengthen the local and regional food sector and the communities it supports. That’s why we’re excited to begin a series of grant writing workshops with our sister agency, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »