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Partners in Agroforestry

The Black Brook Watershed’s landscape

Potato production is an important part of the Black Brook Watershed’s landscape. Photo credit: J. Owen /Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

When thinking about how to reduce run-off from potato fields in New Brunswick, Canada, researcher Josée Owen of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada turned to a tool created by Mike Dosskey, a U.S. Forest Service researcher at the USDA National Agroforestry Center.

With others at the University of Kentucky and the Forest Service, Dosskey created AgBufferBuilder, a GIS-based computer program used for designing vegetation buffers around agricultural fields. Soil can erode, and fertilizer and pesticides off of fields while suspended in water. Buffers with trees, shrubs and other plants help to filter this water by trapping sediment and nutrients. Read more »

Gigabit Comes to Rural Western North Carolina

New routing switches installed to support Country Cablevision's expanded broadband service

New routing switches are installed to support Country Cablevision's expanded broadband service in rural North Carolina.

At the foot of Mount Mitchell, highest peak east of the Mississippi River, sits the quiet town of Burnsville, North Carolina. People come and go from the textile factory, hikers visit to climb the mountain, and a colorful art scene adds flavor to the community. But in 2009 in the wake of the stock market crash, unemployment in the county rose to 11.9 percent. Burnsville’s problems were compounded by the lack of broadband Internet outside of the town-center, which limited its potential growth.

When USDA announced broadband funding as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Burnsville-based Country Cablevision saw an opportunity to expand and upgrade their existing Internet service in Mitchell and Yancey Counties. Read more »

Public-Private Partnerships: A Forum Focus

Matt McCue and Lily Schneider of Shooting Star CSA, an organic farm in California

Matt McCue and Lily Schneider of Shooting Star CSA, an organic farm in California. Their operation is chemical and pesticide free and they rely on practices that reduce impact on the environment.

Teamwork can improve virtually any endeavor, from partnering with a neighbor by exchanging butchered meat for hay to feed the rest of the herd or simply sharing a ride to save on gas.  The result is usually savings and efficiency.

At USDA, that notion is taken to another level with public-private partnerships that improve economic stability for producers, the financial sector, and a nation that leans heavily on the shoulders of its farmers and ranchers. Read more »

New Statistics Help Guide New Farmer Programs

Farmland infographic

National Agricultural Statistics Service data released today (Feb. 18) shows there are now 2.07 million farms in the United States and the average farm size is up 3 acres from the previous year, to 441 acres.

Farmland is one of the most precious resources we have in this country. After all, it’s what we rely on for our food, fuel, and fiber. Unfortunately farmland is also a finite resource, and getting access to it is one of the major challenges new and beginning farmers and ranchers face. This is also why USDA analyzes many aspects of farms and farmland distribution.

Since 2007 we have seen the American agricultural industry reshape itself. Each year, the number of farms has declined while the average farm size keeps getting larger. According to the new numbers we released earlier today the trend is continuing. There are now 2.07 million farms in the United States, down 1 percent from a year before, with the average farm size of 441 acres, up 3 acres from the previous year. Read more »

Missouri Dairyman Benefits From Happy, Healthy Cows

Dairy farmer Nelson Hostetler

Dairy farmer Nelson Hostetler says each cow is producing more milk, and he was able to increase his herd size by 25 percent, up to about 125 cows per day, without increasing his labor. Photo credit: Charlie Rahm.

Polk County dairy farmer Nelson Hostetler can think of a ton of reasons to like his new dairy shed and animal waste system. The most obvious reasons are documented in Hostetler’s daily production log. It shows that the 100 cows that formerly resided in a couple of pastures are producing about 2,000 more pounds of milk each day since they were brought in the shed less than a year ago.

“NRCS’ interest is in protecting the quality and healthfulness of the natural resources that everyone needs,” said State Conservationist J.R. Flores. “Situations like Mr. Hostetler’s in which actions taken to protect the environment also improve his operation are great, because everyone benefits.” Read more »

Broadband Access in South Texas

Multi-colored wires in a network

Valley Telephone Cooperative of Raymondville, Texas uses a high-speed fiberoptic distribution network to provide up to 50mbps service to its customers in south Texas thanks to support through the Recovery Act Broadband Initiatives Program.

For over 15 years, Valley Telephone Cooperative, Inc. provided its customers in the southernmost part of Texas with broadband service. Neighboring communities, however, lacked access to high-speed Internet. That changed seven years ago this week when Congress passed and President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Thanks to Recovery Act funding, Valley Telephone Cooperative received a $40 million loan and a $38.5 million grant from USDA to build broadband in unserved and underserved rural areas. Now, 11 communities—many with residents who live below the poverty line—can take advantage of services that until now were unavailable. Read more »