A new Handbook supports NRCS conservation planners and other agricultural professionals as they work with organic producers.
Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow. The Organic Trade Association that represents more than 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states reports that demand for organic products exceeded $39 billion in 2014. To meet that demand, more farmers and ranchers are pursuing organic certification and seeking assistance through USDA programs.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making sure that its people in the field are prepared to work with organic producers and those who want to get into organics. The agency has just released to staff its new Organic Farming Handbook describing things they need to know when working with organic producers. Read more »
Diminishing snowpack will cause reductions in summer stream flows in the Pacific Northwest. (U.S. Forest Service)
We cannot care for public forests and grasslands alone—the land benefits the most when communities join us and provide input to help shape forest plans. The U.S. Forest Service takes pride in being part of the communities we serve, whether by managing the land to be resilient to disturbance or as members of the public participating as citizens in the towns where we live and work.
Spurred by Secretary Tom Vilsack’s vision that emphasizes collaboration with stakeholders and restoration of the Nation’s forests, the Forest Service published the report Increasing the Pace of Restoration and Job Creation on Our National Forests in 2012. Since then, the agency has worked feverishly to build shared landscape ownership, anchored in understanding and appreciating of the diverse perspectives our community members bring to the table. Read more »
A variable-rate center-pivot irrigation system in a field in Bushland, Texas, equipped with infrared thermometers that collect temperature data and a neutron gauge to measure soil water content. High-resolution data such as these are used by scientists to optimize crop performance in specific environmental conditions.
For nearly 400 years, Thanksgiving has been a time in North America when families come together to celebrate food and agriculture. As we reflect on yet another year, agricultural scientists at USDA continue to keep a wary eye on the future. At the end of what may be the hottest year on record, a period of drought has threatened the heart of one of the most important agricultural production zones in the United States. Water demands are increasing, and disease and pest pressures are continually evolving. This challenges our farmers’ ability to raise livestock and crops. How are science and technology going to address the problems facing our food supply?
To find answers, agricultural scientists turn to data—big data. Genomics, the field of science responsible for cataloging billions of DNA base pairs that encode thousands of genes in an organism, is fundamentally changing our understanding of plants and animals. USDA has already helped to fund and collect genomes for 25 crop plant species, important livestock and fish species, and numerous bacteria, fungi, and insect species related to agricultural production. Other USDA-supported research projects expanding these efforts are currently underway, including genome sequencing of 1,000 bulls and 5,000 insect species in the i5K initiative. But classifying and understanding DNA is only part of the story. Read more »
Under Secretary Ed Avalos (right) with AMS Associate Administrator Rex Barnes (middle) visit with producers during their visit to the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction.
Finding new ways to market the safety and quality of your food is the key to success in the agricultural industry. This is especially true for our small and mid-sized growers who are looking to expand to various outlets. These growers are now turning to produce auctions as a way to sell their food to a wider range of customers such as retail wholesale buyers and farmers markets outside their local communities.
In a recent trip to the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction in Dayton, Va., I saw approximately 400 growers use this auction to share their bountiful harvest. Taking place several times a year, the largest wholesale auction in Virginia is an excellent alternative market for small growers. Prospective buyers bid intensely to procure large lots of fruits, vegetables, flowers, bedding plants, trees and shrubs, fall decor (pumpkins, mums, gourds), and compost, to name a few. Read more »
Cameron Green stands among the tomatoes in the high tunnel she operates with Eric Wittenbach.
Some people leave a legacy for their children. Cameron Green and Eric Wittenbach plan to leave theirs to Mother Nature.
A philosophy of sustainability guides them on their eight-and-a-half-acre farm in Okanogan, Washington. Green and Wittenbach both come from a background of working the land; picking fruit in commercial cherry orchards, pruning and thinning threes, and growing vegetables in the Methow Valley for a local CSA. This has given them a close connection to nature, and when they bought their land eight years ago, their intentions were to make it as sustainable as possible. Read more »
ARS scientists identifying bacterial pathogens in the lab. Photo by Peggy Greb.
Antibiotics are lifesavers. We depend on them to treat bacterial infections and diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis and strep throat, as well as ear infections and infected wounds. In response to U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidance, veterinarians and producers are moving toward more judicious antibiotic use in food animals, while keeping them healthy and ensuring that our food supply remains safe.
This is especially important because certain bacterial strains have become resistant to some of the current antibiotics used to treat infections in humans and animals, escalating the need worldwide to find and develop alternatives to antibiotics. Read more »