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Allegheny Helps Protect a Special Rattler’s Home

A timber rattlesnake captured in a tube will be fitted with a transmitter in order to discover and protect new dens. (U.S. Forest Service)

A timber rattlesnake captured in a tube will be fitted with a transmitter in order to discover and protect new dens. (U.S. Forest Service)

Throughout history, literature and movies, snakes have taken a hit in the public relations department. Think of Cleopatra and the legend of the deadly asp, or the various snakes so feared by a seemingly fearless Indiana Jones in a series of movies by the same name. Then, there is “Snakes on a Plane,” a horrifying look at being stuck on an airplane thousands of feet over the Pacific Ocean as hundreds of deadly and poisonous snakes crawl about.

Not surprisingly, ophidiophobia is rather common. But the fear of snakes in many cases is unwarranted and based on misinformation. Read more »

USDA Unites with Partners to Improve Water Quality in Lake Champlain

The Vergennes-Panton Water District along Lake Champlain in Vermont was able to upgrade the city's water treatment plant with support from USDA. The Department is working through several agencies to help improve water quality in the lake. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

The Vergennes-Panton Water District along Lake Champlain in Vermont was able to upgrade the city's water treatment plant with support from USDA. The Department is working through several agencies to help improve water quality in the lake. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

In recent years, blue-green algae blooms have frequented Lake Champlain, impairing the lake’s water quality. Through a new partnership with USDA, nearly 20 organizations in the area will work together with farmers and ranchers to help improve water quality of the lake and reduce algae blooms.

The Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food & Markets and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources are uniting partners to engage and support farmers and forest landowners who use voluntary conservation practices that lead to cleaner water. Called the “Accelerated Implementation of Agricultural and Forestry Conservation Practices in the Lake Champlain Watershed of Vermont and New York,” this project will provide outreach to farmers throughout the watershed and help connect them with innovative conservation solutions for their land. Read more »

Farming at the Crossroads of America

Indiana State Infographic

Indiana is “The Crossroads of America” and the state’s farms, dairies, and agricultural operations are as varied as America itself. Check back next Thursday for another spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

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.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture results are out and, just as many predicted, Indiana agriculture continues to grow. True to our state’s motto, “The Crossroads of America,” the state of Indiana has a very diverse agriculture. The Hoosier State is a large contributor of corn, soybeans, tomatoes, ducks, milk, hogs, chickens and turkeys. And these are just a few of many commodities produced in Indiana.

According to the census results, there are 58,695 farms (ranking 7th nationally) on 14,720,396 acres of farm land in Indiana. Even though 2012 was a drought year, Indiana ranked 10th nationally in total sales by topping $11 billion, a 36 percent increase from just five years ago, which was the last time my agency conducted the Census of Agriculture. We also ranked 7th nationally in crop sales with just over $7.5 billion and 18th nationally in livestock sales with just over $3.6 billion. Read more »

Cover Crops Provide Multiple Benefits, Higher Yields

USDA employees, Paul Youngstrum and Eric McTaggart, examine a cover crop radish. NRCS photo by Jody Christiansen.

USDA employees, Paul Youngstrum and Eric McTaggart, examine a cover crop radish. NRCS photo by Jody Christiansen.

Corn and soybean farmers across the nation saw an increase in yields last year thanks in part to soil health-building cover crops.

More than 1,900 farmers responded last winter to a survey about cover crops conducted by the USDA’s North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program and the Conservation Technology Information Center. The results to the survey were released in late fall.

Farmers who planted corn in a field following a cover crop had a 3.1 percent increase in yield compared to side-by-side fields with no cover crops. Likewise, soybean yields increased 4.3 percent following cover crops, according to the survey. Read more »

USDA Proposes Tougher Food Safety Standards for Chicken and Turkey

The graphic above illustrates how proposed new federal standards could help reduce poultry-related Salmonella illnesses by an estimated 50,000 each year. Click to enlarge.

The graphic above illustrates how proposed new federal standards could help reduce poultry-related Salmonella illnesses by an estimated 50,000 each year. Click to enlarge.

It’s no secret that Americans eat a lot of chicken and turkey. In fact, USDA estimates that a single American will eat 102 pounds of poultry in 2015. It is USDA’s job to ensure the meat and poultry products we enjoy are also safe to eat, and that means adapting federal food safety regulations to meet changes in production technology, scientific understanding of foodborne illness, and consumer demand.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 1 million Americans contract foodborne Salmonella poisoning each year, and 200,000 of those illnesses can be attributed to poultry. Today, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service proposed new food safety standards that would reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter, another common cause of foodborne illness, on ground chicken and turkey, as well as chicken legs, breasts and wings, which represent the majority of poultry items that Americans purchase and feed their families. Read more »

2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum – Panel Discussion on Innovation, Biotechnology and Big Data

Innovation, biotechnology and big data are changing the way we produce, distribute and even consume food. From using innovative approaches to improve food safety to sharing market data to assist producers in reaching larger markets, big data and new technologies continue to change the face of agriculture.  USDA strives to meet these evolving challenges and will be discussing these issues through the lens of agriculture at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum on Feb. 19-20 in Arlington, Virginia.

Big data isn’t just massive amounts of numbers and codes for scientists, researchers and marketers.  That information, when interpreted and applied, can help people understand – and change – the world around them.  We are discussing how data helps producers of agricultural commodities in adapting their strategies to meet changing consumer demands, marketing practices and technologies. Read more »