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Cover Crops and Soil Health Awareness Gaining Popularity in South Carolina

Jason Carter is one of the five South Carolina farmers participating in a field study funded through a Conservation Innovation Grant. His tillage radishes are part of his multispecies cover crop mix. NRCS photo.

Jason Carter is one of the five South Carolina farmers participating in a field study funded through a Conservation Innovation Grant. His tillage radishes are part of his multispecies cover crop mix. NRCS photo.

Nearly 100 farmers recently gathered in Dillon County, S.C. to see why some farmers are raving about the benefits of cover crops. A few groups hosted a field day to illustrate first-year findings resulting from demonstrations made possible through a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded the three-year grant to the soil and water conservation districts in Richland, Dillon and Marlboro counties and the Earth Sciences and Resources Institute at the University of South Carolina (USC).

The project involves five farmers in three counties across South Carolina who agreed to plant multispecies cover crops each fall, vary the amount of nitrogen they apply each spring and record their cash crop yields. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Supporting Families Facing Adversity: USDA Achieves Results for Producers after Week One of Disaster Assistance Sign up

Last week, farmers and ranchers began signing up for disaster assistance programs that were restored by the 2014 Farm Bill. While it took a year to implement disaster relief programs after the last Farm Bill was passed in 2008, disaster programs were up and running in just 60 days this time around, thanks to hardworking Farm Service Agency (FSA) employees in more than 2,000 offices across the country. These disaster programs will not replace all of the losses farmers and ranchers faced, but it will provide some relief and help ensure that extreme weather won’t cause families to lose the farm.

After just one week, I am pleased to say that we’ve received more than 10,000 applications for these programs. Approximately 95 percent of the applications were for the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), which provides payments to eligible producers for grazing losses. The high number of applicants is no surprise considering the widespread, ongoing drought that has plagued livestock producers in the West Coast and Midwestern portions of the United States for nearly three consecutive years. Read more »

American Farmers Benefit from APHIS Bird Repellent Research

A captive horned lark is offered lettuce seedlings treated with a bird repellent. Photo by USDA Wildlife Services

A captive horned lark is offered lettuce seedlings treated with a bird repellent. Photo by USDA Wildlife Services

California is the “bread basket” of American agriculture. In 2012, California’s 80,500 farms and ranches produced a record $44.7 billion in produce, dairy, and meats. With more than 400 crop varieties grown in the State, California produces nearly half of all U.S. grown fruits, nuts and vegetables.

To help ensure this basket stays full, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) partners with APHIS Wildlife Services (WS) to address wildlife damage issues to agriculture. Some of the more recent work involves the development of repellents to protect crops from birds. Read more »

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Talks Importance of New Farmers at Tribal Food Sovereignty Summit in Wisconsin

Agriculture Deputy Krysta Harden speaks to a Menominee Tribal biology class in Green Bay, WI on Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014. USDA photo.

Agriculture Deputy Krysta Harden speaks to a Menominee Tribal biology class in Green Bay, WI on Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014. USDA photo.

This month’s Midwest tribal forum brought together USDA state and national officials, including Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, to promote the growth of healthy food systems for Native Americans. The annual Food Sovereignty Summit was held at the Oneida Nation in Green Bay, Wis.

Deputy Secretary Harden’s speech to attendees of the summit focused on the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill. She said that young people need to be encouraged to make a living off the land. She also told the tribal community that USDA is here to assist and that we have a common goal of feeding the next generation. Deputy Secretary Harden is particularly focused on providing resources for new farmers and Native Americans well into the future. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service Makes Learning about Invasive Species Easy for Kids

The Insects Invade magazine developed by the U.S. Forest Service in collaboration with Scholastic Inc. was distributed to 25,000 teachers nationwide this year.  (U.S. Forest Service)

The Insects Invade magazine developed by the U.S. Forest Service in collaboration with Scholastic Inc. was distributed to 25,000 teachers nationwide this year. (U.S. Forest Service)

Our forests are under attack. And the U.S. Forest Service is hoping that the Nation’s fourth and fifth graders can help fight back.

The Forest Service distributed Insects Invade, a teacher’s package to 25,000 teachers nationwide.  The teacher’s package includes 30 copies of a 12-page full color magazine called Insects Invade, a teacher’s page that has two lesson plans, as well as a comment card for feedback. The magazine was developed in conjunction with Scholastic Inc., a company that has delivered books, magazines and educational materials to schools and families for 90 years.

The Insects Invade educational product resulted as an idea to build awareness among fourth and fifth graders elementary school children about invasive insects. Read more »

Ag Census Data Tools Coming Your Way

USDA tools are available so you can put the Census Data to work right away.

USDA tools are available so you can put the Census Data to work right away.

The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years and USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) spends that time planning, preparing, and executing the Census. But that’s only a part of the Census process. Once we gather and process the data, we have to make sure the results are easily accessible and understood by the public.

Traditionally, we’ve published PDF files to the Internet, but as most of us know, it is not the optimal format for online data dissemination. If you want to analyze and mine data, you don’t want to retype them into a spreadsheet. And if you have hundreds or thousands of data points to analyze, as is the case with the Census, you need a more accessible data tool to ensure accuracy and efficiency in data sharing. Read more »