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Category: Environment

Deputy Under Secretary Meets California Producers to Discuss Drought Resilience Measures

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills meets with producer Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California. USDA photo.

Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills meets with producer Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California. USDA photo.

Recently I traveled to California to meet with farmers who are coping with the state’s historic drought.  This was my second trip to the Golden State in recent months to see first-hand how USDA’s disaster assistance and conservation programs are helping producers and rural communities, and to continue the conversation about how USDA and the federal government as a whole can support efforts to build long term resilience to drought.

My first visit was with Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California.  Rick practices land stewardship on the 4,000 acres he farms and through his leadership as a member of the area Resource Conservation District.  While he doesn’t face the exact same set of water shortage pressures experienced by California’s Central Valley farmers, Rick recognizes that the state’s drought may well extend into the foreseeable future and has a long-term plan to build resilience for his operation.  As he has done over the past several years, he continues to install drip irrigation in his tomato fields and is experimenting with drip irrigation for his alfalfa and corn crops.  The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides cost share assistance for some of these investments – but Rick pays for 100 percent of other investments because it makes good business sense.  He is able to reduce water use and input costs while increasing yields. Read more »

Massachusetts Agriculture Defies National Trends

Farming keeps expanding in Massachusetts. Check back next Thursday to learn more about the 2012 Census of Agriculture results as we highlight another state.

Farming keeps expanding in Massachusetts. Check back next Thursday to learn more about the 2012 Census of Agriculture results as we highlight another state.

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.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Massachusetts agriculture defies national trends in more ways than one. For example, while across the country the number of farms decreased four percent since the 2007 Census, Massachusetts was one of only 10 states that saw an increase in both the number of farms and land in farms in the same time period. In addition, while women make up 31 percent of all operators across the country, they make up 41 percent of all operators in the Bay State. Similarly, while the number of female principal operators decreased nationally since the last census, that number increased from 2,226 to 2,507 in our state. In fact, female principal operators compose 32 percent of all of our state’s principal operators, the highest percentage among the New England states and the third highest nationwide.

We also have a growing number of beginning farmers in Massachusetts. Although the proportion of all beginning farmers in our state is down slightly since 2007, it is still higher than in other parts of the country. In Massachusetts, 29 percent of all operators and 25 percent of principal operators began farming in the last decade, while nationwide, 26 percent of all operators and 22 percent of principal operators fall in that category. Read more »

Representing the Faces of Agriculture through Research and Promotion Board Diversity

At AMS, we are committed to ensuring that all research and promotion boards are as diverse as the members they serve. Photo courtesy of National Black Growers Council.

At AMS, we are committed to ensuring that all research and promotion boards are as diverse as the members they serve. Photo courtesy of National Black Growers Council.

U.S. agriculture is increasingly diverse, with farmers, ranchers, processors, distributors, vendors, and more from various backgrounds.  Just like their products, the operations and the men and women that run them are diverse – in gender, race, age, size, and production practices.  At USDA, we are committed to supporting all of American agriculture with our programs and services.

My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is in a unique position to encourage and promote diversity, particularly when it comes to industry leadership.  AMS oversees 22 industry-funded research and promotion programs that allow 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 covering a wide variety of topics from nutrition to sustainability.  These programs, which create opportunities for farms and businesses across the country, are led by industry board members appointed by the Secretary.  AMS has been working hard to ensure that research and promotion boards reflect the full diversity of American agriculture.  We know that the programs are stronger when the boards represent the diversity of the industries they represent and the consumers they serve. Read more »

The Spirit of Rural America: Farmers Show Strength in Tough Times

Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Michael Scuse (left) and Cass County Farm Service Agency (FSA) committeeman and farmer Trent Smith discuss the impact of the drought on Missouri’s soybean crop.

Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Michael Scuse (left) and Cass County Farm Service Agency (FSA) committeeman and farmer Trent Smith discuss the impact of the drought on Missouri’s soybean crop.

This is the final post of the weekly disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog.

For the past few weeks we’ve shared stories of how the farmers and ranchers across the country have been helped by disaster assistance programs restored by the 2014 Farm Bill. These USDA programs are helping thousands of producers and their families recover from natural disasters.

These amazing stories of strength and courage show the resilience of the men and women who feed and clothe more than 313 million Americans and billions of people worldwide. Despite uncontrollable setbacks caused by drought, snowstorms, tornadoes and other natural disasters, American farmers, ranchers and their children persevered beyond measure. I’m honored to be part of an agency that works for and with such amazing people. Read more »

The Sunshine State’s Agriculture Remains Bright

The Sunshine State is seeing spectacular growth in organic crops. Check back next Thursday for more facts from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Sunshine State is seeing spectacular growth in organic crops. Check back next Thursday for more facts 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.

As the new Florida State Statistician, I am excited to start digging into the agricultural data here in the Sunshine State. One of the first things anybody would notice upon glancing over our stats is the wealth of fruits, vegetables, and other unique commodities. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, almost 64% of Florida’s total market value of agricultural products sold comes from three categories: (1) fruits and nuts, (2) nursery, greenhouse, floriculture, and sod, and (3) vegetables, melons, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. We are one of the top three states nationwide in sales in all three of these categories, and Florida is also the top producer of sugarcane for sugar. Thus, the Sunshine State definitely lives up to its bright nickname by harvesting a rainbow of commodities.

If one crop defines Florida, it’s oranges. There are over 465,000 acres of orange farms in our state, accounting for almost 70% of all the orange acreage in the nation. To top it off, we are the only state to grow the delectable Temple orange. Read more »

Introducing www.usda.gov/newfarmers: A One-Stop Shop for the Farmers of Tomorrow

Growing up on a farm in Camilla, Ga., I developed a passion for agriculture early. Being a farmer’s daughter helped me understand the challenges farmers and ranchers face over time and the need for common-sense policies and programs to create and expand opportunities for the farmers of the future. Now, as the Deputy Secretary of the USDA, my highest priority is to ensure that beginning farmers and ranchers – women, young people, immigrants, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees – have access to the programs and support they need to succeed.

Today, we’re announcing a new resource: USDA.gov/newfarmers.  This new website is a one-stop shop to connect new farmers and ranchers with USDA resources, programs and support.  On www.usda.gov/newfarmers, new farmers can find information about accessing land and capital, managing risk, finding education, outreach and technical assistance, growing businesses and markets, and investing in the land and environment. Read more »