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Category: Environment

No-Till and Cover Crops from a Farmer’s Point of View

Jamie Scott participated in a roundtable on climate change and agriculture with USDA Secretary Vilsack in East Lansing, Michigan on April 23rd, 2015. Mr. Scott is the Chairman of the Kosciusko County Soil and Water Conservation District and currently serves as the Vice-President of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts.

Alongside my father Jim, I operate JA Scott Farms. Together we grow approximately 2,000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat in Kosciusko County, Indiana. One-hundred percent of those acres are planted using a no-till conservation cropping system that incorporates cover crops every winter.

We use this approach to take advantage of the soil health benefits of no-till and cover crops. We have higher yields, richer soil, and improved water holding capacity. I am also encouraged that these practices can remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. We have found that these benefits outweigh the added expense of labor and cover crop seeds. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack Announces Partnerships with Farmers and Ranchers to Address Climate Change

America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners understand the threats that a changing climate can have on their operations and on their bottom line. As the world warms, that warming triggers many other changes to the Earth’s climate, including an increase in extreme events. Over the last 50 years, much of the U.S. has seen increases in excessively high temperatures, heavy downpours, and in some regions, severe floods and droughts. These events can drastically impact the agriculture and forestry sectors.  

Today, I announced USDA’s comprehensive plan to tackle these challenges by working with partners and producers on a voluntary basis to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance carbon sequestration in agriculture and forestry by over 120 million metric tons over the next 10 years. Our strategy lays the foundation for agriculture and forestry to be part of the climate change solution. The plan will encourage farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to set an example for the world by showing that climate-friendly conservation practices can benefit the environment, individual farms and forest operations, and the economy as a whole. Read more »

Oregon Agriculture is a Festival for Foodies

Oregon State Infographic

Oregon Berries ripe for the eating - out of hand, in jams and jellies and pie, oh my! Check back next week for another state spotlight drawn from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Living and traveling in Oregon offers many great opportunities – from exploring the vast outdoors, to discovering Portland’s hotspots, to treating your taste buds to a festival of locally-grown foods. With more than 230 agricultural commodities raised in our state, Oregon agriculture delivers a festival for foodies according to the latest Census of Agriculture. Whether you are visiting the state or are an Oregonian, this means you have great access to buy and enjoy Oregon Agriculture!

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, the value of Oregon’s agricultural products reached nearly $5 billion. Of that, $44.2 million was from direct sales to consumers through places such as farmers markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture programs (CSAs). Also, 1,898 farms marketed products directly to retailers, including Oregon restaurants featuring farm-to-table menus. So if you are looking to shop and eat in our state, we have an abundance of delicious, fresh and local options. Read more »

Food Waste Can Have a Large Impact on Your Nitrogen Footprint

Boy covering his mouth with his hand in front of a fountain

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture offers research grants to help respond to the world's water security issues. (iStock photo)

April 22 marks the 45th celebration of Earth Day, with its theme of “It’s our turn to lead.”  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is a leader in its support of cutting-edge sustainable and organic agricultural research.

The USDA estimated that 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten in the United States.  It’s not just people throwing away food after “super sizing;” food waste can begin at the farm, where crops are sometimes not harvested because they lack a perfect appearance.  Waste also occurs through spoilage or improper cooking.

As bad as this is in terms of not feeding the hungry, wasting food is also wasting energy, water, and everything else required to grow, process, transport, and prepare food. Improving resource efficiency would also decrease the amount of nitrogen released to the environment. Read more »

Crop Insurance and Conservation Compliance

Just-picked green zucchini squash waits to be loaded onto a processing trailer at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA.

Just-picked green zucchini squash waits to be loaded onto a processing trailer at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA. Kirby Farms is a third-generation family farm that covers 500 acres and generates produce and grains on a year-around operation. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Crop insurance has long been an important part of the farm safety net, providing a reliable and cost-effective risk management tool that ensures farmers can continue to farm even after tough years. Just as important is the planning and good stewardship of the land that farmers perform to ensure a sustainable food supply.

USDA has a long standing mission of helping people help the land. USDA provides assistance to producers with farm-level natural resource assessments and conservation planning as well as financial and technical assistance through a variety of voluntary conservation programs. USDA also provides the technical services necessary to implement conservation compliance provisions. Read more »

April is National Garden Month

Vegetables growing in raised beds at Hollygrove Market and Farm (HGMF) in New Orleans, LA

Vegetables growing in raised beds at Hollygrove Market and Farm (HGMF) in New Orleans, LA. USDA photo by Karen Lawson.

Nothing says springtime more than the sprouts and shoots of a garden. Secretary Vilsack has declared April, 2015 as National Garden Month.  The official proclamation celebrates the great American tradition of gardening at home, at school and in the community.

USDA’s commitment to gardening has deep roots. The USDA People’s Garden Initiative, was launched in 2009 and since 2,116 gardens have registered as People’s Gardens in communities across the United States and its territories and in 12 foreign countries.  The First Lady’s Let’s Move! Initiative has great information about starting a kitchen, school or community garden and the Plant Hardiness Zone Map, developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, is a go-to guide for gardeners across the nation.   Have a gardening question? Visit eXtension for in-depth and research-based gardening and landscape advice from your local land grant university. Read more »