Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

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 »

USDA Conservation Program Keeping Puerto Rico Water Sources Clean

Moises Velez-Santiago in front of trees

Through USDA Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Puerto Rico’s Moises Velez-Santiago has protected his farm’s watershed, improved water quality and enhanced wildlife habitat.

Moises Velez-Santiago understands the important role farming can play in protecting water quality for Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents.  He’s been farming on the island nearly three decades.

Through the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Velez-Santiago has strived to obtain a balance of environmental conservation and crop production. Read more »

What I Would Have Said Today to Vice President Biden about the Recovery Act

Secretary Vilsack meets with construction workers in Berlin, Maryland.  The town was able to build a new water treatment plant with funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Secretary Vilsack meets with construction workers in Berlin, Maryland. The town was able to build a new water treatment plant with funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

This blog is cross posted from Secretary Vilsack’s Medium page:

Somedays being a Cabinet member, you have to be flexible. Today is one of those days. While in New Orleans to speak to the Renewable Fuel Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, I traveled to the Port of New Orleans to attend an event with Vice President Biden. The Vice President scheduled an event at the port to highlight the 7th anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Vice President is the most logical person to celebrate the anniversary of ARRA achievements since he led the historic effort on behalf of the Administration. I was to be one of the warm-up acts for Vice President Biden, but due to a scheduling conflict, I had to leave before the program started. Out of respect for the Vice President’s effort to lead the Administration’s implementation of ARRA, I had planned to highlight for him the enormous investment made in rural America as a result of ARRA. If I had been able to stay, I would have pointed to these 6 big investments by USDA: Read more »

2,700 Miles of Fiber

A man working on broadband systems

The Recovery Act helped bring access to broadband to 6 million rural Americans. Sometimes one connection at a time.

In 2010, Scott County, Tennessee languished at a twenty-one percent unemployment rate, not unusual for rural areas. By early 2015, that rate had halved. Through fiber optic power, Highland Telephone Cooperative’s vision, and funding from USDA Rural Development, these rural counties have become robust community models of technological enfranchisement.

Five years ago in the communities dotting the Upper Cumberland Plateau, lack of broadband access was a barrier to services that residents and businesses in urban areas take for granted. Geographical challenges such as the region’s remote and rocky terrain, combined with the lack of subscribers to provide business income, are common reasons rural areas do not enjoy affordable and reliable high-speed internet service. Read more »