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Category: Environment

Looking Under the Hood of Michigan’s Agriculture

That’s a lot of cherry pies! Check back on January 8 when we resume the Census of Agriculture Spotlight!

That’s a lot of cherry pies! Check back on January 8 when we resume the Census of Agriculture Spotlight!

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.

When you think of Michigan, you may think of Detroit and the car industry, however our agriculture industry is also critical to our state’s economy. Agriculture’s economic impact on the Michigan economy recently surpassed the $100 billion mark. Traveling through Michigan, you can easily see just how diverse agriculture in our state truly is. In the latest Census of Agriculture, Michigan farmers reported growing many various types of fruits, vegetable and livestock commodities. In fact Michigan produces more than 300 different commodities.

While the Great Lakes provide our crop growers with an abundance of fertile lands and water, it is our dairy farmers that produce our most valuable commodity. According to the Census, in 2012, Michigan dairy farmers sold more than $1.5 billion worth of milk from their cows. And despite the decrease in the number of such farms, the number of dairy cows in Michigan keeps growing. As of 2012, there were more than 376,000 milk cows on 2,409 of our dairy farms. Read more »

Principles, Requirements and Guidelines – An Important Update that will benefit USDA Clients

When you take a drink of water in this country, chances are pretty good that it came from a reservoir or river that is managed, or that has been treated in a plant funded with support from the Federal government, or whose headwaters are on public land managed by the United States Forest Service or Department of Interior.  Every dollar the federal government spends supporting water quality and quantity impacts millions of Americans.  Interagency guidelines governing how investments, programs, and policies that affect water resources are evaluated at the Federal level have been updated for the first time since 1983, and published by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ).

Given the importance of water to USDA programs and our customers, we understand that it makes sense to have the most complete and forward-thinking information available to inform our investment and implementation decisions.  That enhances our ability to develop programs and projects that conserve water resources while ensuring taxpayer dollars are well spent.  USDA is confident that these new guidelines can enhance our decision-making without adversely affecting how we implement our many conservation programs. Read more »

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Do We Count Thee?

According to the 2012 #AgCensus there were 12,079 farms in the U.S. that harvested a total of 17.3 million cut Christmas Trees. What will the 2014 Census of Horticulture reveal?

According to the 2012 #AgCensus there were 12,079 farms in the U.S. that harvested a total of 17.3 million cut Christmas Trees. What will the 2014 Census of Horticulture reveal?

Just as millions of Americans venture out this time of year to purchase a fresh cut Christmas tree, I too am busy visiting and talking with Christmas tree growers. However for me, the visits are important outreach opportunities with producers to prepare for the 2014 Census of Horticulture, which we at USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) just mailed this week.

This special study will help us do more than just count Christmas trees. It will look at the entire horticulture sector in the United States and gather a full count of this $14.5 billion industry. The Census of Horticulture will paint a detailed picture of U.S. producers nationwide – those who grow all those cherished holiday trimmings, from fresh cut Christmas trees, to poinsettias, holly and more. Read more »

A New Revenue Source for Virginia Farmers Reduces Erosion and Improves Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at a press conference in Fairfax, VA. USDA photo by David Kosling.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at a press conference in Fairfax, VA. USDA photo by David Kosling.

USDA has a long history of helping farmers, ranchers and forest landowners maintain their bottom line while improving soil health and reducing runoff into streams and rivers.  For nearly 80 years, USDA has offered funding and technical assistance for farmers to implement conservation practices through the conservation title of the Farm Bill. In recent years, however, USDA has also supported new, innovative approaches to voluntary, private lands conservation.

An announcement today by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and Administrator Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in northern Virginia highlights an innovative approach called water quality trading. Farmers like John Harrison of Appomattox County are taking advantage of private investments to implement conservation practices on their land. These practices help reduce erosion and nutrient runoff into local bodies of water, generating nutrient credits that can then be sold to regulated entities looking to offset nutrient losses for compliance purposes. Read more »

Hearing First-Hand How Diversity Matters

USDA is committed to bringing everyone to the table—people and organizations of different background, perspectives and opinions. Hear first-hand how important diversity is to rural America. (Click to play video)

USDA is committed to bringing everyone to the table—people and organizations of different background, perspectives and opinions. Hear first-hand how important diversity is to rural America. (Click to play video)

The men and women who own and operate our country’s farms and ranches are increasingly diverse. In fact, according to USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, all categories of minority-operated farms increased between 2007 and 2012.  The number of farms operated by Hispanics has increased by 21 percent in just five years.

My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), oversees all 22 industry-funded commodity research and promotion (R&P) programs.  Led by industry board members appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, these programs provide a framework for farmers and businesses to pool resources, set common goals and make collective decisions about how to best develop new markets, strengthen current markets and conduct important research and promotion activities. Read more »

USDA Delivers on Ways to Prevent Food Waste

Researchers at USDA Agricultural Research Service help reduce food waste by developing new ways to extend food shelf life and by creating new food products, biobased plastics, and animal feed from food waste.  USDA photo by Stephen Ausmus.

Researchers at USDA Agricultural Research Service help reduce food waste by developing new ways to extend food shelf life and by creating new food products, biobased plastics, and animal feed from food waste. USDA photo by Stephen Ausmus.

Less than 2 years ago, the USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, with the goal of reducing food waste in the United States.  We set an ambitious goal of having at least 400 businesses, schools, and/or organizations join the challenge by letting us know what they are doing to reduce food waste in their operations.  USDA also committed to finding ways in which its 33 agencies and offices could help reduce food waste through policy, partnerships, and research.

As of today, we have surpassed our membership goal by signing up 1,313 participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.

The number and diversity of participants joining the challenge are indicative of a growing movement to reduce food waste that is spreading across the country. Read more »