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Category: Environment

Make a Difference and Vote During FSA County Committee Elections

Sample FSA County Committee election ballot

Sample FSA County Committee election ballot.

This is a great time of the year for the Farm Service Agency (FSA), not just because of another successful American harvest, but because of the opportunity for agricultural communities throughout the country to vote for officials to represent them on FSA County Committees.

In my first year as FSA Administrator, I’ve traveled to 32 states and visited with farmers and ranchers from California to Maine. I know firsthand the impact of successfully delivered farm programs in rural communities all across this great nation. Working with county committee members while serving as FSA state executive director for California and now as Administrator, I have a deep appreciation for the essential role these farmer-elected committees play in connecting FSA with the needs of local producers. Read more »

Veteran Turns Backyard Hobby into Successful Agribusiness

Ed and Sheila Spence in front of their sign

Ed Spence retired from the U.S. Marine Corps and moved back home to North Carolina with his wife Sheila to farm. The FSA microloan helped Spence purchase a plastic mulcher and seed and fertilizer for two years.

Growing up on a farm in Kipling, North Carolina, Edward Spence thought the one thing he was not going to do as an adult was farm.

“It was hard work from sunup to sundown and there was no reward for it because we didn’t own the land,” said Spence, whose parents were sharecroppers. “We had a place to live and a small plot to grow the food we ate, but there was no financial reward, nothing tangible.”

That all changed when “life happened,” said Spence. After losing two brothers in the Vietnam War, Spence volunteered — when others were drafted — to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps and fight for his country. Read more »

Crop Insurance Keeps the Rural Economy Strong and Sustainable

USDA New Farmers website screenshot

Beginning farmers may explore new web resources to help them get started. USDA photo.

Agriculture is an inherently risky business. Some risks are everyday business risks; some risks are brought on by natural disasters. Producers need to regularly manage for financial, marketing, production, human resource and legal risks.

Helping farmers and ranchers overcome such unexpected events, not only benefits individual producers, but also rural communities that depend on agriculture. Over time, resilient rural producers help form robust rural economies, which build a strong economic foundation and provide improved access to credit for the next generation of beginning farmers and ranchers. Read more »

A Commitment We Must Keep

Leon Kauzlarich (left) and his son, David, with their dog in front of their handicapped-accessible ramp

Leon Kauzlarich (left) and his son, David, are both U.S. Army veterans with critical home repairs in place, including a handicap-accessible ramp.

When Ivory Smith of Poplarville, Mississippi separated from the Army after ten years of service – including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan – he attended a USDA-sponsored workshop held through our partner, the National Center for Appropriate Technology. At this ‘Armed to Farm’ workshop for returning Veterans, he learned about small-scale sustainable agricultural practices, and from there developed his microgreens company, SmithPonics, that now supplies fresh salad microgreens to restaurants in his area.

Many of our Veterans, old and young alike, are dealing with the physical and mental scars of combat. USDA Rural Development has been able to provide real support to those Veterans who need care when they return from service – Veterans like Leon Kauzlarich from rural Appanoose County, Iowa. Leon got help to repair his home, and make it accessible to help with his mobility issues. Read more »

USDA Programs Help Ease Transition to Farming, One Vet at a Time

A corn field

Kyle Cox redeployed his energies to grow corn and other crops on the family farm after 12 years in the Army. Cox, a graduate of Farm Beginnings, is one of many veteran training programs supported by USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

Located three miles east of Vale, South Dakota, on Cox Farms, Cox Sweet Corn is produced by veteran Kyle Cox, who left the Army after 12 years to return to the family farm.

In 2013, Cox separated from the Army to begin his family’s future in agriculture. With 700 acres, the farm produces alfalfa, corn, and more than 2,000 head of cattle.  To help make the most of his agricultural opportunities, Cox took advantage of veteran-focused training funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  The training is part of USDA-wide effort to support veteran farmers. Read more »

USDA California Regional Climate Hub – Champions of Change

Jesse Sanchez evaluating soil

Jesse Sanchez evaluating soil.

The White House recently recognized 12 Champions of Change for their leadership in sustainable and climate-smart agriculture. This week we will meet them through their USDA Regional Climate Hub, today featuring California’s Jesus “Jesse” Sanchez.

California is the nation’s number one agricultural production state with revenues of over $46 billion in 2013. State farmers and ranchers produce a diverse array of specialty crops, field crops, and livestock products. The top five by value in 2013 were milk, almonds, grapes, cattle and calves, and strawberries.

California is also home to more than 30 million acres of forested land, including many ecologically unique and economically important forest types as well as more than 40 million acres of rangeland. The state’s forests and grasslands, like those of other Western states, have long been shaped by fire and drought. California’s precipitation is highly variable from year to year and ranges from 60” on the North Coast to just a few inches in the southern deserts. Read more »