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The Organic Industry Continues Double-Digit Growth with INTEGRITY

2015 United States Certified Organic Operations map

As in past years, the most organic businesses can be found in California and the upper Northwest, the upper Midwest and Northeast, Pennsylvania, New York, and Texas.

Earlier this month, my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – released data showing that there are now more than 21,000 certified organic operations in the United States, and more than 31,000 around the world.  These numbers represent an increase of almost 12 percent between 2014 and 2015, continuing the trend of rapid growth in the organic sector as consumer demand grows.

It’s not just the numbers themselves that are exciting, though.  The announcement also marks the first time we released the data through the recently launched Organic Integrity Database, a modernized system for tracking certified organic operations.  In the past, AMS’s National Organic Program (NOP) published the number of certified organic operations once a year, using data submitted annually by accredited organic certifying agencies. Read more »

USDA Engages Public through Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science

CitizenScience.gov homepage screenshot

Check out CitizenScience.gov to learn about crowdsourcing and citizen science projects in your area, and get involved.

Recently, USDA participated in the White House launch of the Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (CCS) Toolkit. By providing federal employees with information about developing CCS activities, the Toolkit will eventually allow the Federal government to design more programs that ask citizens to help us in solving both simple and complex problems.

Now, USDA is excited to announce our role in helping to harness “the power of the crowd” with the official release of CitizenScience.gov. Read more »

More than a Pretty View for rural America

Buildings nestled into a forest

America’s national forests and grasslands are part of the strategy to tackle some of our lagging rural economies. Photo credit: Doug Berry, istockphotos.com

This may sound like a cliché, but our job at the U.S. Forest Service is to do something every day to make your life better. And we mean it.

Our work safeguards clean air, clean water, and beautiful, resilient and productive forests and grasslands. These effects of healthy national forests and grasslands are nowhere more felt than in rural communities where wildlands play a huge role in generating economic activity. Read more »

Ready to have Market Data as Close as your Smartphone? Here We Go!

MARS logo

MARS allows for more data availability, better analysis, and improved information availability sooner for more agricultural markets in one easy-to-use tool.

Earlier this week, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) hosted a webinar on an exciting new initiative to provide unbiased market data to users digitally. Called the Market Analysis & Reporting Services (MARS), this dynamic, innovative technology will assist USDA Market News in collecting and distributing information electronically from remote locations, by combining reporting from all commodity areas (Livestock, Cotton, Specialty Crops, and Dairy) into a single platform.

This modernization effort will improve the transparency, speed, accuracy, and flexibility of this vital service and allow Market News to continue to expand its services to agricultural market participants.  To ensure that our changes meet your needs, we are conducting focus groups and welcome you to participate.  Your input will enable Market News to speed data flow from the agricultural markets, to agency analysts, and to the public, allowing users to create unique content. Read more »

New Quarter Showcases the Shawnee National Forest

Children displaying the new quarters

Children displaying the new quarters. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

The Shawnee National Forest is one of few places in Illinois where you will find large open spaces to explore and be immersed in nature. One of its special places is the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area. Each year several hundred thousand visitors are drawn to the strange and beautiful rock formations found at Garden of the Gods. One of the most famous formations is Camel Rock.

This special place was recently celebrated through the launch of the latest America the Beautiful Quarter, featuring the Shawnee’s unique Camel Rock formation. More than 1,300 people came out to celebrate; forever placing the beauty of the Shawnee into pocket change. Read more »

Celebrating the New Face of Agriculture

(Left to right) Dr. Craig Morris, Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Angie Snyder, Associate Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Administrator Starmer; and Jamie Mitchell from Fair Oaks Farms

(Left to right) Dr. Craig Morris, Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Angie Snyder, Associate Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Administrator Starmer; and Jamie Mitchell from Fair Oaks Farms.

At the Agricultural Marketing Service and across USDA, we often talk about the fact that the face of American agriculture is changing. The ranks of our farmers, especially young and beginning farmers, include a growing number of women, people of color, veterans or folks in their second careers. So-called “traditional” agriculture defies the term as it pursues new strategies, new products, and new markets. Across the country, agriculture is diversifying and evolving to meet changing consumer demands.

I saw the new face of agriculture last week during travels to Illinois and Indiana. My first stop was a roundtable on Women in Agriculture held at FarmedHere in Bedford Park, Illinois, about 15 miles from Chicago. Twenty or so women gathered to talk about their farming goals and to hear about how USDA could support them. This topic is close to my heart – I’m a New Hampshire native, a state with the second highest percentage of women farmers in the country. The women around the table with me represented the new face of ag, but so too did the setting – an indoor, vertical farm that produces basil and microgreens in a facility designed to reduce energy costs and shrink the carbon footprint of growing food.  FarmedHere is managed by Megan Klein, an attorney by training who found her calling in urban agriculture and became part of this “new face.” Read more »