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USDA Leaders Participate in Ecosystem Services Conference – Discuss New Markets for Producers

At the ACES conference last week, NRCS Chief Jason Weller (standing) outlined USDA’s approach to incorporating ecosystem services and environmental markets into its conservation mission. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

At the ACES conference last week, NRCS Chief Jason Weller (standing) outlined USDA’s approach to incorporating ecosystem services and environmental markets into its conservation mission. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller was one of several government leaders to present last week at the A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES) Conference to discuss how USDA incorporates ecosystem services and market-based approaches into its conservation mission.

Every two years, leaders in the study and practice of ecosystem services and environmental markets meet at a large conference. The conference, held in Arlington, Virginia this year, aims to link science, practice and sustainable decision-making by bringing together stakeholders from across the nation and world. Read more »

Partnerships Make “Gouda” on USDA’s Commitment to Rural America

With over 11,000 dairy farms, more than a million cows, and over 200 dairy plants, Wisconsin produces more than 25 percent of all cheese in the United States. Photo courtesy of Yelp Inc.

With over 11,000 dairy farms, more than a million cows, and over 200 dairy plants, Wisconsin produces more than 25 percent of all cheese in the United States. Photo courtesy of Yelp Inc.

’Tis the season for good cheer, holiday festivities and cheese plates.   There are seemingly endless varieties to enjoy – Gouda, Blue, Cheddar, Asiago, Feta, Muenster and many more.  Hardworking American dairy farmers and cheese artisans make these delicious products. A strong dairy sector not only provides us with delicious food for the holiday table, it also has a great impact on rural America and local economies.

My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has a long history of working with the dairy industry, state governments and stakeholders to help farmers and producers.  I’ve actually been able to see first-hand how AMS programs services benefit dairy operations.  In August, I toured two Wisconsin dairy farms – Rosendale Dairy, a large farm with over 8,500 cows, and R&G Miller & Sons, an organic dairy farm with about 260 milking cows. Read more »

Rural Battery Manufacturer Gets Boost from USDA Business Program

Superior Battery used USDA support to improve efficiency and hire new workers for its battery manufacturing plant in Russell Springs, Kentucky.

Superior Battery used USDA support to improve efficiency and hire new workers for its battery manufacturing plant in Russell Springs, Kentucky.

Small business owners face countless challenges when it comes to finding success in the global marketplace – and for those in rural areas, the challenges are often more pronounced.

For more than 30 years, Superior Battery has been manufacturing a wide range of batteries from its plant in Russell Springs, Ky. The business is locally owned and operated, and was started by Randy Hart – an Air Force veteran and tool-and-die enthusiast – his wife and four nephews. Read more »

Organic 101: Organic Seeds Are Fundamental Right from the Start

Like other organic products, seeds used in organic agriculture cannot be genetically engineered or be treated with prohibited substances.

Like other organic products, seeds used in organic agriculture cannot be genetically engineered or be treated with prohibited substances.

This is the twenty-second installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

The fall harvest is in, and organic farmers are already looking forward to planting their spring seedlings.  Organic farmers rely on organic seeds to meet the growing demand for certified organic products. These seeds are essential to the integrity of the supply chain for quality organic food, feed and other products.  All organic producers must use organic seeds, annual seedlings and planting stock unless organic varieties are not commercially available.

To meet the increased demand for organic seeds, the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is collaborating and sharing information with the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and its partner, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), to better understand the organic seed market and to help farmers locate seed producers and supplies. Read more »

The Poinsettia, in the Shadow of the Christmas Tree

The beautiful poinsettia stands as a decoration on its own. NRCS photo by Analia Bertucci.

The beautiful poinsettia stands as a decoration on its own. NRCS photo by Analia Bertucci.

The poinsettia – academic types may call it by its binomial name, and biologists might refer to its species. But how many of us are guilty of calling it that red flower with the pointy leaves used to decorate during the holidays?

In the world of holiday shrubbery, the poinsettia has always taken a backseat to the Christmas tree. With its lights and ornaments, the tree has become the icon of the holiday in contrast to the poinsettia, which is usually placed in a nearby corner. Read more »

Looking Under the Hood of Michigan’s Agriculture

That’s a lot of cherry pies! Check back on January 8 when we resume the Census of Agriculture Spotlight!

That’s a lot of cherry pies! Check back on January 8 when we resume the Census of Agriculture Spotlight!

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.

When you think of Michigan, you may think of Detroit and the car industry, however our agriculture industry is also critical to our state’s economy. Agriculture’s economic impact on the Michigan economy recently surpassed the $100 billion mark. Traveling through Michigan, you can easily see just how diverse agriculture in our state truly is. In the latest Census of Agriculture, Michigan farmers reported growing many various types of fruits, vegetable and livestock commodities. In fact Michigan produces more than 300 different commodities.

While the Great Lakes provide our crop growers with an abundance of fertile lands and water, it is our dairy farmers that produce our most valuable commodity. According to the Census, in 2012, Michigan dairy farmers sold more than $1.5 billion worth of milk from their cows. And despite the decrease in the number of such farms, the number of dairy cows in Michigan keeps growing. As of 2012, there were more than 376,000 milk cows on 2,409 of our dairy farms. Read more »