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Category: Environment

Technology Helping us Follow the Food Path

Cattle at a farm

A 2011 FSMIP grant awarded Michigan State University matching funds to develop a pilot project to explore ways to improve local and regional beef production and marketing systems. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University.

It is amazing to see such an array of meats available in today’s grocery stores. Traveling across the country in my role at USDA, I hear from so many folks that want to know where their beef comes from, what the animal was fed or how was it raised.  I also know farmers have a real commitment to their crops and animals and are happy to share their stories with customers.

Farmers markets are one way for small producers to tell consumers directly where their products were grown or raised.  However, mid-sized farms face unique challenges as they are too large to dedicate the time and resources to participate in farmers markets, but too small to compete effectively in large commercial markets.  New technology could make connecting consumers to mid-sized farmers easier no matter where meat is purchased. Read more »

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Cory Carman

Cory Carman, a fourth generation family rancher in eastern Oregon

Cory Carman is a fourth generation family rancher in eastern Oregon. She is the owner and operator of Carman Ranch, serves on the Oregon Farm Service Agency State Committee, and encourages women in agriculture to “change what farmers look like”.

As part of our ongoing #womeninag series, we are highlighting a different leading woman in agriculture each month.  This month, we profile Cory Carman. Cory’s family has been ranching in Wallowa, Oregon since 1913. After graduating from Stanford with an environmental policy degree and working in Washington, DC and in Los Angeles, Cory returned to rural Oregon in 2003.  She now runs Carman Ranch with her husband, Dave Flynn and business partner Jill McLaran. 

Today, Carman Ranch specializes in grass fed beef and is engaged in multiple cooperative habitat and ecosystem restoration projects.  Cory works with local ranchers to explore collective marketing options for locally raised beef to restaurants, wholesalers and other buyers in Oregon. Read more »

Protecting Clean Water While Respecting Agriculture

Today the Environmental Protection Agency released its new Clean Water Rule to help provide greater clarity on certain aspects of the Clean Water Act.

The Clean Water Act has successfully reversed the effects of harmful pollution in America’s waters for over 40 years. However, recent Supreme Court cases caused tremendous confusion over which waters the Act would continue to cover. There was broad agreement among Members of Congress, farmers and ranchers and other business owners that more clarity was needed to define precisely where the Clean Water Act applies.

USDA urged the EPA to listen to input from farmers and agri-business owners who need clear expectations and long-term certainty so they can effectively run their operations. EPA is seeking to provide that certainty with the development of this Clean Water Rule, and we appreciate that Administrator McCarthy and her staff have made a very concerted effort to incorporate the agricultural community’s views.

The following is a blog from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy on the Clean Water Rule and agriculture. Read more »

Buzzing into Action to Support Pollinator Health through Research

As an ecosystem ecologist working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, pollinators are near and dear to me.  Not only are they vital to agricultural production, providing billions of dollars in pollination services for the fruits, nuts and vegetables that contribute to a healthy diet, they are also important members of natural ecosystems, pollinating the plants that many other organisms rely on for food and habitat. Yet pollinators have been having a rocky time, lately. Beekeepers have struggled to maintain their honey bee colonies, the primary pollinators for our crops in the United States. They are managing a suite of simultaneous and interacting stressors to bee health, including severe weather episodes, inadequate nutrition, exposure to pesticides, and numerous damaging pests and diseases. Native pollinators also seem to be struggling with some of these same stressors, as well as land use change and habitat loss. Because of the incredible diversity of native pollinators, we know much less about their individual populations and the factors affecting their health. Read more »

Organic and Local Food Opportunities in New York

USDA Certified Organic farmer Cathy Stroll of Fresh Meadow

USDA Certified Organic farmer Cathy Stroll of Fresh Meadow Farm will participate in a learning workshop for organic producers in New York’s Hudson Valley on June 2.

On June 2, 2015, USDA will join producers and local stakeholders to discuss opportunities in the Hudson Valley’s organic market.  Nationwide, organic sales reached more than $39 billion last year, and the number of certified operations grew by 5 percent to a total of 19,474 certified operations in the United States.

Many organic wholesalers and retailers report difficulties keeping up with the market demand. This creates an opportunity for local and regional producers, and USDA has numerous programs and services to help them access the organic market. Read more »

Industry Research and Promotion Programs Prepare Next Generation of Ag Leaders

Brittany Lowery, a student at North Carolina State University, receiving her certificate of completion of Swine Science Online, from Dr. Todd See, Dr. Ken Esbenshade and Dr. Billy Flowers

Brittany Lowery, a student at North Carolina State University, receives her certificate of completion of Swine Science Online, from Dr. Todd See, Dr. Ken Esbenshade and Dr. Billy Flowers. The SSO courses teach students scientific principles and management skills to prepare them for careers in the swine industry. Photo courtesy of the National Pork Board.

As recent studies indicate agriculture is one of the best fields for college graduates, it is imperative for the industry to groom the next generation of leaders. All of us here at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) would like to highlight the efforts of a couple industry Research and Promotion Programs for encouraging young students to choose agricultural careers.

The Pork Checkoff and the US Pork Center of Excellence worked together to develop Swine Science Online (SSO) courses that teach students scientific principles and management skills to best prepare them for careers in the swine industry. Read more »