Dr. Seth Murray, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research corn breeder from College Station, talks about his work during a field day. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo by Li Zhang)
NOTE: This week on the USDA Blog, we’ll feature the stories of America’s Harvest Heroes who, like farmers across the nation, are working this harvest season to secure the bounty of healthy food American agriculture is renowned for. From laying the foundation for the next generation of farmers putting down roots in rural America, supporting the fruit and vegetable growers who are helping to build healthier communities, bolstering new markets for the products of agricultural innovation, to harvesting renewable energy that is made in Rural America, with USDA’s support our farmers are yielding strong results for every American Today, we look at a Hero of a different type. Dr. Murray is not necessarily on a tractor, but his import research is helping Southern corn growers realize higher yields when they bring in their harvest.
Dr. Seth Murray grew up in suburban Michigan and, after spending time on his grandfather’s farm, knew from a young age he wanted to work with plants. Today, he conducts corn breeding research at Texas A&M University and recently published findings that could mean big things for the corn producers of Texas and the American Southwest region – a greater harvest of disease-free corn and more food on the tables of consumers. Read more »
School districts have until Friday, November 20, to update or submit new Farm to School Census data!
What can $598 million buy you these days? A lot of local food!
This week, USDA announced early results from USDA’s second Farm to School Census indicating that school districts across the country invested more than half a billion dollars in local foods in the 2013-2014 school year. That represents an increase of $212 million (or 55 percent) over final results from the last census, conducted two years ago. Read more »
“The GroupGAP framework enabled very small farms to access wholesale markets by providing an umbrella of expert and peer-to-peer technical support,” said Jeff Farbman, Sr. Program Associate at Wallace Center. This distributed the administrative burden of recordkeeping, and making the most effective use of resources on and off the farm.” Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange.
In the spring of 2016, USDA will add the GroupGAP Audit Program to the list of third-party auditing services provided by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Audit Program, performed by the agency’s Specialty Crops Inspection Division, verifies that operations are following industry-recognized food safety practices as well as recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
By rolling this program out to groups, rather than individual farms, this new program will increase market opportunities for farmers and buyers alike. The expansion of the GroupGAP certification follows the completion of a multi-year pilot, the fruits of a cross-cutting collaboration between USDA, small and mid-scale producers, nonprofit organizations, and diverse food system stakeholders across the nation. Read more »
A $39.6 million grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is helping turn forest byproducts into biofuel. (Courtesy of NARA)
U.S. airline carriers collectively used more than 16 billion gallons of jet fuel in 2014. Given growing concerns over energy independence and the environment, commercial airlines are looking for secure and reliable alternative jet fuels that reduce global emissions.
To address this problem, researchers at Washington State University formed the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) with biofuels company Gevo, Alaska Airlines, and several other partners across academia, industry, and government. As a result of NARA’s efforts, made possible by a $39.6 million grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Alaska Airlines is planning to use 1,000 gallons of NARA-produced biofuel in a demonstration flight scheduled for 2016. Read more »
NRCS District Conservationist Larette Kolbe helps Storm Lake student volunteers plant rows of vegetables.
Tucked away behind a hardware store and in between several Storm Lake, Iowa, housing developments, sits a freshly planted 4.5-acre garden project organized by “The Bridge of Storm Lake,” a non-profit organization that serves growing immigrant communities.
Supported in part through a $2,500 outreach grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), The Bridge Garden Training Project brings together many community businesses, organizations and individuals. The land is on loan to the project from a local church and the hardware store. Read more »
A hoop house on Tamarack Farm in Spring Mills, PA.
Perhaps there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Many farmers in central Pennsylvania would aptly agree to this notion after experiencing above average amounts of rainfall this summer. In fact, rainfall during June and July in central Pennsylvania was more than four inches above average. The high summer temperatures coupled with these increased wet conditions quickly produced ideal habitats for many plant borne diseases. One disease in particular that inflicted dramatic damage upon many local farmers this past summer was late blight. One may recall that this was the plant disease responsible for the Irish Potato Famine back in the mid-nineteenth century. In memory of this historical event, late blight is nothing to take lightly. Read more »