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USDA Grants Assist Small Farmers Who are Making a Big Impact in Agriculture

Small and medium-sized farmers could see help in growing their operation thanks to programs that will be developed at 10 universities that were funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture this week.

Small and medium-sized farmers could see help in growing their operation thanks to programs that will be developed at 10 universities that were funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture this week.

Farming and ranching is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Agriculture in the United States is a mixing bowl of diversity, and it’s most evident when comparing large- and small-scale farming operations. Having grown up on a small, family farm in Iowa, I saw first-hand not only how important our small farmers and ranchers are to the nation, but also the challenges they face daily.

There is much variation among small family farms and ranches. No one definition comes close to capturing the richness and diversity of these operations. For example, while many farmers and ranchers are loyal to their traditional production systems, others constantly seek new opportunities and experiment with alternative crops, production methods and innovative marketing approaches. As a result, the United States produces a striking range of food and fiber, from soybeans to sesame, from beef to buffalo. Read more »

APHIS Geneticist Finds New Way to Track Invasive Pythons

Can you find the snake? A Burmese python peeks out from its hiding place in Florida. APHIS Wildlife Services experts are developing new tools to help track and remove this invasive species. Photo by Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service

Can you find the snake? A Burmese python peeks out from its hiding place in Florida. APHIS Wildlife Services experts are developing new tools to help track and remove this invasive species. Photo by Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service

How do you find something that doesn’t want to be found – something that has evolved to be cryptic, elusive, and stealthy?  That is the question asked of APHIS geneticist Dr. Antoinette Piaggio. She and others at the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) – the research arm of the APHIS Wildlife Services program – are investigating new ways to track and locate invasive Burmese pythons.

Burmese pythons have made a home in Florida competing with and feeding on native wildlife. Experts agree that new tools and techniques are crucial to monitoring and controlling the spread of this elusive snake.

“Burmese pythons are semi-aquatic and can be very hard to detect given their elusive nature and cryptic coloration,” states Piaggio. “We’ve developed a new detection method that uses environmental DNA, thereby eliminating the need for seeing or handling snakes.” Read more »

Pooling Resources for Scientific Breakthroughs

Over the last 50 years, research and technological advances have led to a 35% decrease in the pork industry’s carbon footprint.

Over the last 50 years, research and technological advances have led to a 35% decrease in the pork industry’s carbon footprint.

American farmers know about planting seeds—both in the ground and in groundbreaking research. While the seeds they plant as individual farmers feed and clothe the rest of us, the seeds they sow collectively through participation in research and promotion (R&P) programs are vitally important, too.

Funded entirely by industry, agricultural R&P programs are a way for producers and businesses across a commodity industry to pool their resources to help market and improve their products. With oversight provided by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), one of the most important seeds these programs sow is the foundational research that paves the way for breakthroughs that once seemed unimaginable. Read more »

FNS Uses Research to Protect Taxpayer Dollars

Integrity is an essential component of all USDA nutrition assistance programs, including the school meals programs.

Integrity is an essential component of all USDA nutrition assistance programs, including the school meals programs.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, while ensuring that our program are effective and well managed.

For Federal nutrition assistance programs to succeed over the long term, they must operate with a high degree of integrity.  The American people expect and deserve nothing less.  At FNS, we use research and analysis to take a hard look at integrity in these programs, determine strengths and challenges, and shape innovations to continuously improve.

While fraud and errors are low in FNS programs, we assert that any level of either is unacceptable.  High-quality research is an integral component in our integrity efforts because it enables us to see where fraud and errors occur and identify ways to strengthen the programs against those challenges and track progress over time: Read more »

USDA Rural Development Celebrates Protection of Sebasticook River with Hartland Community and Makes $29.7 Million Landmark Earth Day Announcement

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel (back row second from right) announced Earth Day funds in the amount of $29.7 million to assist rural wastewater systems in Maine, including the Town of Hartland. Children from the Hartland community took time away from their school vacation to sign the official USDA Earth Day Banner.

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel (back row second from right) announced Earth Day funds in the amount of $29.7 million to assist rural wastewater systems in Maine, including the Town of Hartland. Children from the Hartland community took time away from their school vacation to sign the official USDA Earth Day Banner.

This Earth Day I visited the rural Maine community of Hartland, population 1,782, for its 1st Annual Earth Day Celebration. I was greeted by Hartland’s Interim Town Manager Christopher Littlefield, and the smiling children, residents, town and wastewater officials who welcomed me to their community for a special Earth Day announcement.

I was pleased to join partners including Maine’s Congressional Staff and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to announce significant USDA Rural Development funding in the amount of $29.7 million to fund seven Maine wastewater treatment facilities. Included in the announcement is the Town of Hartland which will receive $1,600,000 through USDA Rural Development for essential upgrades to the wastewater treatment facility. Read more »

Ag Research Month at the “People’s Department”

ARS cotton technologist Paul Sawhney (left) and research leader Brian Condon examine needled-punched nonwoven products made with classical raw cotton and precleaned raw cotton, respectively.

ARS cotton technologist Paul Sawhney (left) and research leader Brian Condon examine needled-punched nonwoven products made with classical raw cotton and precleaned raw cotton, respectively.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

During the month of April we have taken a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine.

Ag research month has been an excellent opportunity to showcase all the ways in which USDA is truly the “People’s Department.”

That’s how President Lincoln described it after USDA was established in 1862. More than 150 years later, we continue to find innovative ways to improve agricultural production and create new products to benefit the American people. Read more »