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USDA’s Commitment to Develop Food and Agricultural Workforce of the Future

Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area, speaking at a Workshop at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area, speaking at a Workshop at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on February 10, 2016. The Workshop brought together stakeholders from universities, government, non-government organizations, and the private sector to discuss growing needs in the agricultural workforce.

Nearly 99% of farms in the United States are family operated, and they account for roughly 90% of agricultural production. With statistics like these, it’s not surprising that many people associate jobs in agriculture with small-town America, farmers and tractors, and corn fields and cattle.

While the importance of farmers cannot be overstated, the diversity of careers available in the agricultural sector is staggering and often underappreciated. According to a 2013 study funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an average of 57,900 jobs will open every year from 2015 to 2020 and require a bachelor’s degree or higher in food, agriculture, natural resources, or environmental studies. These jobs will include a range of sectors, including management and business; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); food and biomaterials production; and education, communication, and government services.  Strikingly, it is also expected that 39% of positions will go unfilled. Read more »

Oregon Conservation Groups Partner with USDA for Results

Ralph Duyck on the Tualatin River Watershed

Ralph Duyck is one of 42 landowners who used the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to protect the Tualatin River Watershed. With the initial goal of restoring fish habitat and cooling the stream, Duyck also noticed an increase in wildlife on his property.

A small group of conservation enthusiasts gathered at Ralph Duyck’s farm near Forest Grove, Oregon with a shared goal. They wanted to protect water quality and fish and wildlife habitat in and around the Tualatin River, an 83-mile tributary of the Willamette River that runs through Portland.

The group didn’t know how much interest they could attract or how much they could achieve—but that was 2005. Today, the Tualatin Basin Partners for Clean Water’s membership includes more than a dozen cities, counties, conservation districts, and environmental groups. Read more »

Silvopasture: Adding a Little Forest to the Farm

Hezekiah Gibson

Hezekiah and Francis Gibson’s non-profit organization, United Farmers USA works with NRCS staff to help other small farmers succeed through a wide range of outreach and technical assistance, educational programs and resources.

Lifelong farmer Hezekiah Gibson, and his wife Frances, farm 1,200 acres in Manning, South Carolina. They have been working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for years to improve conservation on their farm.

In 2013, the couple’s non-profit organization, United Farmers USA―dedicated to helping small farmers succeed through a wide range of outreach and technical assistance, educational programs and resources―received an NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG). These grants help NRCS support public and private entities to accelerate technology transfer and adoption of promising technologies and approaches to address some of the Nation’s most pressing natural resource concerns. Read more »

Hog Wild Over Broadband

A group of hogs

A group of hogs. Photo courtesy: USDA, Lance Cheung, Photographer

Bringing broadband to rural areas is helping transform business operations, including family-owned hog farms.

Ralls County Electric Cooperative in Missouri received Recovery Act funding to provide fiber-to-the-premises in a very rural area of Missouri. One of the locations in the Ralls County Electric service territory is a local hog farm, Spring Lake Pork, just 20 miles west of the Mississippi River. This family-owned business was well experienced in hog management, but to stay in business, they needed to upgrade to a smarter and much more efficient operation with state-of-the-art equipment. They also needed robust broadband service to manage a wealth of data. Read more »

USDA Builds Conservation Partnerships to Restore Forests, Clean Water and Reduce Wildfire Risk

Green Bank Middle School students

The constructed wetlands on restored coal mine benches on the Greenbrier Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest, not only provide habitat, but also serve as outdoor classrooms for groups that want to learn more about wetland ecology. These students are from the Green Bank Middle School (Pocahontas County, West Virginia). Photo credit: C. Barton (Green Forests Work).

Protecting our National Forests and surrounding lands against a myriad of threats is not an easy feat. That’s why joining forces with the right ally is a powerful strategy.

In 2014, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller formed a strategic alliance to establish the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership.

“We face a multitude of challenges in combating forest threats and the Forest Service can’t prevail alone,” said Tidwell. “The Joint Chiefs’ partnership provides a better way for us to work with local communities to reduce the risk of wildfires, ensure dependable local drinking water and improve wildlife habitat across the country.” Read more »

Innovative Irrigation Saves Water, Boosts Yields in Ogallala Aquifer Region

Project Manager Leon New discussing the progress of the 3, 4, 5 demonstration project

Project Manager Leon New discusses the progress of the 3, 4, 5 demonstration project at a 2015 district producer field day.

In the Ogallala Aquifer region, each drop of water counts. A group of forward-thinking farmers in Texas are finding innovative ways to irrigate their crops to use water more efficiently.

These farmers are working with the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in the panhandle to study use of water from the aquifer. The Ogallala is the nation’s largest aquifer and is being depreciated by water withdrawals at an unsustainable rate. Read more »