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Category: Environment

Agriculture Saved A Veteran’s Life

Eric Grandon and his family selling their local food products at a Farmer's Market

Eric Grandon and his family sell their local food products at a Farmer's Market in Clay County, West Virginia.

Eric Grandon of West Virginia is a war hero in the truest sense. Spending nearly 20 years in the Army, he was a combat veteran in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and participated in four peace-time missions to the Middle East. Yet, when a horrific flashback overtook him in 2011, he was unable to continue his job as a Physical Therapist Assistant and was deemed unemployable and permanently disabled from PTSD. Unable to work, he found himself wandering around his farm aimlessly for nearly two years until he met James McCormick, the present Director of the Veterans and Warriors Agriculture program under the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

A veteran himself, McCormick encouraged Grandon to take up farming, which had helped him work through his own PTSD. It was during a USDA Armed to Farm conference hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) that Grandon officially decided to become a farmer.  He even took up beekeeping which he found to be the most therapeutic of them all often bringing tears of joy to his eyes. Read more »

Conversations with Organic PA Farmers on Crop Insurance

USDA Risk Management Agency Associate Administrator Tim Gannon (left) and Jason Forrester talking about planting plans

USDA Risk Management Agency Associate Administrator Tim Gannon (left) and Jason Forrester talk about planting plans on one of Forrester’s farms in Chambersburg, Pa.

I hit the road last week to get feedback from farmers in Pennsylvania on how recent Federal crop insurance enhancements are helping organic producers in the state.

Earlier this year, USDA expanded crop insurance options to allow organic producers to purchase coverage that better reflects their product’s actual value. The expanded coverage is part of our continued commitment to provide farmers with resources and tools to meet the growing demand for certified organic products. Read more »

U.S. National Arboretum Bald Eaglets Are Named

Chavonda Jacobs-Young, ARS Administrator, unveiling results of the newly named bald eaglets

Chavonda Jacobs-Young, ARS Administrator, unveils results of the newly named bald eaglets—Freedom and Liberty—at the U.S. National Arboretum.

Say “hello” to Freedom and Liberty, the newly named bald eaglets at the U.S. National Arboretum! Those names were chosen by you through a poll hosted by the Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) that was compiled from thousands of suggestions submitted to our partners: the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) and the District of Columbia Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE). The formal announcement was made today, April 26, during a ceremony at the National Arboretum.

Last October the bonded bald eagle pair, dubbed “Mr. President” and “The First Lady,” returned to the their nest at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) U.S. National Arboretum, where they raised an eaglet last spring. They are the first mated pair of bald eagles to nest at the National Arboretum since 1947. Read more »

American Legacy: Remembering Cesar Chavez

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at A Celebration of the Life and Legacy Of Cesar Chavez at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at A Celebration of the Life and Legacy Of Cesar Chavez at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC.

America’s history is rich with struggle and sacrifice, remedied by the selflessness and fearless leadership of remarkable people. A champion for justice, Cesar Chavez advocated for and won many of the rights the agricultural workforce enjoys today. April 23 marks the anniversary of Chavez’s passing, but his legacy is immortalized in the fight for economic and social justice, and his spirit lives on in the vibrancy of rural America.

A migrant farm worker, Chavez toiled alongside men, women, and children who performed backbreaking labor for meager pay in deplorable conditions. He devoted his life to correcting these injustices, rallying through boycotts, marches and hunger strikes to secure pay raises and improve conditions for farm workers across the nation. Read more »

Transitioning to Organic Certification

Conner Voss on his farm

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. Pictured is Conner Voss.

More and more farmers are entering the organic market. Just last year, the number of certified operations in the U.S. grew by almost 12 percent – more than double the growth rate of 2014. So how do farmers, ranchers, and food processors make the transition to organic? We talked to one farming family about their experience, learning how they used USDA programs to help with the transition process.

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. “We sell our product direct – through a CSA, at a local farmers market, and direct to restaurants – and our customers kept asking about our growing practices,” said Conner. “We wholeheartedly believe in the practices and philosophy of organic production, and certification offers a quick and easy starting place for our conversations with our community. Beyond that, being certified is a way for our small farm to actively engage in the larger organic movement by helping define and shape what organic is.” Read more »

Protecting Organic Integrity through Enforcement

Organic carrots

Compliance and enforcement activities are key to maintaining organic integrity, and the NOP continues to strengthen enforcement efforts to ensure a fair market for all organic products.

The mission of the National Organic Program (NOP) – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – is to protect the integrity of the USDA organic seal.  Consumers look for and trust the organic seal because they know that USDA stands behind the standards that it represents.  In addition to setting robust, meaningful standards that organic businesses are required to follow, the NOP also defends the organic seal by taking appropriate enforcement actions if there are violations of the USDA organic standards.

The NOP reviews all complaints alleging violations of the USDA organic regulations and takes enforcement actions, as needed, to bring businesses into compliance.  Anyone can file a complaint by following the process at How to File a Complaint about Violations of the Organic Standards.  In addition to investigating alleged violations by uncertified operations, the NOP works with certifiers and international organic trade partners to investigate alleged violations by certified operations. Read more »