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Understanding AMS’ Withdrawal of Two Voluntary Marketing Claim Standards

Cattle grazing with clouds behind them

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service strongly supports the nation’s grass-fed beef industry by serving as an independent verifier of various grass-fed beef marketing programs, and by providing timely market reports that help producers better understand the value of grass-fed cattle and beef.

Last week, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced that effective January 12, 2016, the agency withdrew two voluntary marketing claim standards – the Grass (Forage) Fed Marketing Claim Standard and the Naturally Raised Marketing Claim Standard. The Naturally Raised Marketing Claim Standard has never been used by anyone.  What does the announcement really mean to grass-fed beef producers and consumers?  The honest answer is nothing.

Consumers and beef producers alike can be assured, AMS still strongly supports the nation’s grass-fed beef industry by serving as an independent verifier of various grass-fed beef marketing programs, and by providing timely market reports that help producers better understand the value of grass-fed cattle and beef. Read more »

Under Represented Students STEP-Up to Careers in Agriculture

Students in the STEP UP program taking part in a short course in environmental soil science

Students enrolled in the STEP UP to USDA Career Success program take part in an intense short course in environmental soil science. (Photo courtesy of Tanner Machado)

The lack of women and minority representation in the professional agricultural workforce has become so pronounced that in STEM Stratplan 2013 President Obama called for an “all-hands-on-deck approach to science, technology, engineering, and math” (STEM) education.

According to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, despite accounting for 16 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics earned only 8 percent of all certificates and degrees awarded in STEM fields. Read more »

Counting All Farmers – Capturing the Many Faces of Agriculture in the 2017 Census

Female farm operators infographic

The 2012 Census of Agriculture found that 14 percent of the nation’s farms are run by a woman.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The 2017 Census of Agriculture is still two years away but, at the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), we work hard to continually improve the data we collect. The agriculture census conducted every five years is the one time we collect demographic information on today’s farmers and ranchers.

The 2012 Census found that 14 percent of the nation’s 2.1 million farms are run by a woman, and women make up 30 percent of all farmers when up to three operators per farm are included. Similarly, 25 percent of farmers were beginning farmers (ten years or less on their current farm) in 2012. But, as we get ready for the next census, we want to make sure that our data fully capture the role of women farmers and beginning farmers in agriculture today. Read more »

Shawnee National Forest’s Camel Rock Coming Soon to a Pocket near You

Shawnee National Forest’s Camel Rock on the United States Mint's new America the Beautiful Quarter

Shawnee National Forest’s Camel Rock is as depicted on the United States Mint’s new America the Beautiful Quarter.

When hiking through amazing sandstone rock formations in the U.S. Forest Service’s Shawnee National Forest, in Illinois, one particular formation inevitably catches your attention, a camel stoically perched overlooking a spectacular landscape. It is this striking image, called Camel Rock, that was selected to represent the Shawnee National Forest on the newest America the Beautiful Quarter.

Started in 2010, each year the United States Mint issues a quarter with the reverse (tails) side depicting a national site or park. The Shawnee is one of only five national forests to be recognized in the program. Read more »

Improving Forest Practices One Beehive at a Time in Ghana

Two men talking near the Coastal Sustainable Landscapes Project Apiary sign

U.S. Forest Service assistance on beehive construction and honey production can conserve tree cover while providing alternative sources of income and food for local households. (Photo credit Mr. Richard Adupong)

All over the world, deforestation and forest degradation are under the microscope because together they comprise the second greatest driver of climate change. If you focus on the country of Ghana, you’ll find one of the highest deforestation rates in Africa.

In fact, the country has lost nearly 90 percent of its original forests. The losses are due to a variety of factors including wood extraction and agricultural expansion. The remaining forests are home to forest elephants, Diana monkeys and many types of rare, endemic amphibians—and many rural communities that often struggle to support their families. Read more »

Creating a Gentler, More Profitable Way to Harvest Blueberries

Berry impact recording device (BIRD) with blueberries

The berry impact recording device (BIRD) was developed with a blueberry’s size, shape, weight, and external texture. BIRD records the rough ride berries take from harvest to the market so producers can find and eliminate sources of yield loss. (Photo courtesy of Changying Li)

Although automation in agriculture is often synonymous with efficiency, that has not been the case with harvesting and processing berries.  That is about to change.

Automated berry processing systems often damage the fruit, which results in lower profitability for growers and marketers.  To counter this, a University of Georgia (UGA)-led research team is developing an advanced sensor system to help harvest and process fresh-market highbush blueberries at high-speed and with low yield loss. Read more »