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

Category: Economic Growth

The Faces of Agriculture – A Glimpse of What the Farm Bill Means to Our Nation

Under Secretary Edward Avalos and John Lyman III, owner of Lyman Orchards, tour the orchard’s Apple Barrel Market in Middlefield, CT.  A Farm Bill is crucial to the long-term stability of family-owned farms and orchards.

Under Secretary Edward Avalos and John Lyman III, owner of Lyman Orchards, tour the orchard’s Apple Barrel Market in Middlefield, CT. A Farm Bill is crucial to the long-term stability of family-owned farms and orchards.

A life of farming—whether you grow up in it or are called to it later in life—takes a special kind of commitment and sense of responsibility. The reward is just as unique and appeals only to a handful of people who are willing to literally roll up their sleeves and work hard at a physically- and mentally-challenging job every day of the year. To me, there’s just something special about a profession where the fruits of your labor provide one of life’s most essential elements–food.

But that’s not where their contributions stop. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers strengthen our economy, with nearly one out of 12 jobs in the U.S. coming from agriculture.

Over the last year, I had the opportunity to visit and speak to farmers and ranchers across the country. During these visits, I get a chance to see first-hand how connected they are to their communities and the differences they make for the folks that live and work with them. And I also get to answer their questions directly, to hear the challenges they face and the help they could use. Inevitably, conversation turns to the Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill and what that legislation would mean to each of the farmers, ranchers, businesses and schools that depend on it. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Supporting Innovation for Stronger Rural Communities

American innovation is one of our most special traditions, fueling our nation to new heights over the course of our history. Innovation is critically important in rural America, where research is helping to grow American agriculture, create new homegrown products, generate advanced renewable energy and more.

Continued research has the capacity to lead the way to economic opportunity and new job creation in rural areas – and USDA has been hard at work to carry out these efforts.  But we need Congress to get its work done and provide a new Farm Bill that recommits our nation to innovation in the years to come. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A New White House Report Highlights the Need for a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill

This week, the White House released a new report showing the critical need for Congressional passage of a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. This comprehensive report highlights how the thriving business of agriculture is a cornerstone of America’s economy, creating jobs and boosting opportunity.

Agricultural production and its related sectors contributed $743 billion to U.S. GDP in 2011, accounting for nearly 5 percent of economic output. Today about one out of every 12 jobs in the United States are connected in some way to agriculture.

Meanwhile, driven by the productivity of our farmers and ranchers, agricultural exports reached their highest mark ever in 2013 at more than $140 billion. Due in part to trade promotion programs in the Farm Bill, the five-year period from 2009-2013 is the strongest in history for agricultural exports. Compared to the previous five-year period, the U.S. is exporting an average of four million tons more bulk commodities each year. These exports alone support more than a million jobs. Read more »

Why Rural Health Matters Today, and Every Day

Today is National Rural Health Day, and I’m giving a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to talk about what USDA Rural Development has done to strengthen access to health care in our rural communities, as well as carry a message from President Obama on the importance of this day.

Critical care infrastructure is a challenge in any community, and in our rural areas it is often compounded by distances that are unthinkable to those who live in our urban centers. Take Alaska, for example: Yesterday we announced investments to bring an ambulance and emergency medical equipment to St. Paul Island in the Bering Sea. The nearest hospital facility is almost 800 miles away in Anchorage. That’s like someone in Illinois having to come to Washington, D.C. for medical care. Read more »

New Issue Papers: Exploring Environmental Markets

All of us rely on nature’s benefits during our daily routines, but few stop to think about how we can sustain those benefits over time. Luckily, there are economists, resource managers, and policymakers working on tools to help manage resources—and environmental markets are one of those tools. Environmental markets allow people who use ecosystem services to pay those who provide environmental benefits. In some cases, the environmental stewards who can provide benefits (like clean water, air and habitats) are farmers. While there is promise in environmental markets, there are a lot of kinks to work out.

Two new issue papers by the World Resources Institute, take a deep dive into the mechanics of water quality trading and other environmental markets by exploring options for market development.  The papers were produced with support from the USDA Office of Environmental Markets, and were released earlier this month. Read more »

Hangout to Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

At USDA, we know that local and regional food systems are an important part of America’s diverse agriculture sector.   Local and regional food is a multi-billion dollar market opportunity for America’s farmers, ranchers and food businesses. From the produce vendor at one of the nation’s 8,100 farmers markets to the operating  220 food hubs across America to the robust farm to school activities in each state,  the expanding market opportunity for local and regional food continues to gain momentum

USDA stands ready to aid and assist America’s farmers and ranchers who want to participate in this growing sector. We’ve been coordinating our work via the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative. However, our ability to continue supporting the local and regional food marketplace is at stake without the passage of a Food, Farms and Job Bill. Read more »