Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Harvesting Clean Energy in Montana

NOTE: This week on the USDA Blog, we’ve been featuring 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. This blog focuses on two heroes of a different kind of harvest – clean, renewable energy that is #RuralMade.

I spent some time in Montana earlier this month to attend the Harvesting Clean Energy conference in Billings. We talked about options for continuing to support clean energy development, whether it’s bio-based, geothermal, solar, or wind – and how rural America fits in to the picture of clean energy development. Read more »

Speaking of Pumpkins

U.S. production of pumpkins rose by over 30 percent from 2000 to 2014, reflecting rising demand for pumpkins destined for both ornamental and food use.  The Economic Research Service has created a special web page on pumpkin background information and statistics.

U.S. production of pumpkins rose by over 30 percent from 2000 to 2014, reflecting rising demand for pumpkins destined for both ornamental and food use. The Economic Research Service has created a special web page on pumpkin background information and statistics.

In the fall a person’s fancy often turns to thoughts of…pumpkins. The season is underway, from the ornamental pumpkins of Halloween to the pies that grace many tables at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Where do pumpkins come from? Though six States account for nearly half of U.S. production, pumpkins are grown in virtually every State of the union. This is important to consider in light of recent media reports of a looming pumpkin shortage. Read more »

Co-ops Help Make Home Affordable and Bridge Digital Divide for Rural Americans

A young resident of the Ponderosa Homeowners Cooperative was among those celebrating the conversion of their community to a resident-owned co-op. Photo by Mike Bullard, courtesy ROC USA

A young resident of the Ponderosa Homeowners Cooperative was among those celebrating the conversion of their community to a resident-owned co-op. Photo by Mike Bullard, courtesy ROC USA

 

October is National Cooperative Month, and we’re happy to spotlight several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services. John McNamara is a Cooperative Development Specialist with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center in Olympia, Washington, and his story below helps illustrate how resident-owned communities benefit when their members are proficient with new technology: 

Manufactured home communities play an important role in meeting the need for affordable housing in the Northwest and across the nation. Through cooperative action, many people now have the opportunity to create resident-owned communities (ROCs), securing the land beneath their homes for perpetuity.  Read more »

USDA Assists in Bringing Commercial Dehairing Operations Back to United States

 

Mark Schalk explains the process for sorting Alpaca hair that will be used to make blanket yarn. Schalk is the owner of Two Branch Ranch, an Alpaca farm in Saline, Mich. He brought the fiber to Springfield, Ky., for sorting and cleaning.

Mark Schalk explains the process for sorting Alpaca hair that will be used to make blanket yarn. Schalk is the owner of Two Branch Ranch, an Alpaca farm in Saline, Mich. He brought the fiber to Springfield, Ky., for sorting and cleaning.

 

October is National Cooperative Month, and we’re happy to spotlight several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services.

It took nearly two years to travel from Italy to America via transportation across water, through the air, and along roadways and railways – and now a large, brightly colored piece of equipment is making history in the tiny rural community of Springfield, Ky. Read more »

Closing the Gap on Food Safety

USDA Under Secretary Ed Avalos led the panel discussion that talked about the success of the GroupGAP Pilot Program and looked ahead to the full program’s official launch later this spring.

USDA Under Secretary Ed Avalos led the panel discussion that talked about the success of the GroupGAP Pilot Program and looked ahead to the full program’s official launch later this spring.

From small, family farms to large food production companies, food safety is a top priority for the folks who feed our nation and put food on tables around the globe. Participating in programs like USDA’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), is one way that farmers and producers of all sizes can demonstrate to buyers that they are adhering to industry food safety standards.  By making this program more accessible to businesses of all sizes, USDA is creating opportunities for our nation’s small and mid-sized farmers

Last week I traveled to Atlanta, Ga., for the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Summit to discuss the expansion of our GroupGAP Program this coming spring. The program is an expansion of our Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Audit Program, which provides third-party certification services to verify that operations are following industry-recognized food safety practices as well as recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).The pilot was supported by funding and technical expertise from the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and the Wallace Center at Winrock International. Read more »

Guide Enhances Understanding of Farm Bill Conservation Programs

 

Jim Stone, Montana Rancher, and Bridget Collins, former Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Agriculture Policy Coordinator, discuss conservation programs near Jones Lake on the Rolling Stone Ranch. Photo by Dave Smith.

Jim Stone, Montana Rancher, and Bridget Collins, former Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Agriculture Policy Coordinator, discuss conservation programs near Jones Lake on the Rolling Stone Ranch. Photo by Dave Smith.

The following guest blog by Hannah Ryan of Intermountain West Joint Venture and Matt Cimitile of Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture highlights key partnerships that work with farmers and ranchers to conserve habitat for the benefit of birds, other wildlife and people. 

The 2014 Farm Bill Field Guide to Fish and Wildlife Conservation is a collaborative effort by conservation partners that provides a new tool for those who work with private landowners and agricultural producers in adopting conservation practices included in the 2014 Farm Bill. It provides biologists, range conservationists, foresters, and others with a road map to help navigate Farm Bill programs and encourages landowners to engage in habitat conservation. Read more »