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Category: Environment

The Organic Industry Continues Double-Digit Growth with INTEGRITY

2015 United States Certified Organic Operations map

As in past years, the most organic businesses can be found in California and the upper Northwest, the upper Midwest and Northeast, Pennsylvania, New York, and Texas.

Earlier this month, my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – released data showing that there are now more than 21,000 certified organic operations in the United States, and more than 31,000 around the world.  These numbers represent an increase of almost 12 percent between 2014 and 2015, continuing the trend of rapid growth in the organic sector as consumer demand grows.

It’s not just the numbers themselves that are exciting, though.  The announcement also marks the first time we released the data through the recently launched Organic Integrity Database, a modernized system for tracking certified organic operations.  In the past, AMS’s National Organic Program (NOP) published the number of certified organic operations once a year, using data submitted annually by accredited organic certifying agencies. Read more »

Ready to have Market Data as Close as your Smartphone? Here We Go!

MARS logo

MARS allows for more data availability, better analysis, and improved information availability sooner for more agricultural markets in one easy-to-use tool.

Earlier this week, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) hosted a webinar on an exciting new initiative to provide unbiased market data to users digitally. Called the Market Analysis & Reporting Services (MARS), this dynamic, innovative technology will assist USDA Market News in collecting and distributing information electronically from remote locations, by combining reporting from all commodity areas (Livestock, Cotton, Specialty Crops, and Dairy) into a single platform.

This modernization effort will improve the transparency, speed, accuracy, and flexibility of this vital service and allow Market News to continue to expand its services to agricultural market participants.  To ensure that our changes meet your needs, we are conducting focus groups and welcome you to participate.  Your input will enable Market News to speed data flow from the agricultural markets, to agency analysts, and to the public, allowing users to create unique content. Read more »

Celebrating the New Face of Agriculture

(Left to right) Dr. Craig Morris, Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Angie Snyder, Associate Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Administrator Starmer; and Jamie Mitchell from Fair Oaks Farms

(Left to right) Dr. Craig Morris, Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Angie Snyder, Associate Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Administrator Starmer; and Jamie Mitchell from Fair Oaks Farms.

At the Agricultural Marketing Service and across USDA, we often talk about the fact that the face of American agriculture is changing. The ranks of our farmers, especially young and beginning farmers, include a growing number of women, people of color, veterans or folks in their second careers. So-called “traditional” agriculture defies the term as it pursues new strategies, new products, and new markets. Across the country, agriculture is diversifying and evolving to meet changing consumer demands.

I saw the new face of agriculture last week during travels to Illinois and Indiana. My first stop was a roundtable on Women in Agriculture held at FarmedHere in Bedford Park, Illinois, about 15 miles from Chicago. Twenty or so women gathered to talk about their farming goals and to hear about how USDA could support them. This topic is close to my heart – I’m a New Hampshire native, a state with the second highest percentage of women farmers in the country. The women around the table with me represented the new face of ag, but so too did the setting – an indoor, vertical farm that produces basil and microgreens in a facility designed to reduce energy costs and shrink the carbon footprint of growing food.  FarmedHere is managed by Megan Klein, an attorney by training who found her calling in urban agriculture and became part of this “new face.” Read more »

Helping Organics Grow with Clear Livestock and Poultry Standards

Proposed Rule Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices infographic

USDA has proposed changes to ensure consumer confidence in the growing organic market by promoting consistency across the organic industry, supporting the continued growth of the organic livestock and poultry sector. Click to enlarge.

The mission of the National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is to protect the integrity of USDA organic products in our country and throughout the world. This means clearly defining what it means to be organic and enforcing those rules.  Consumers look for and trust the organic seal because they know that USDA stands behind the standards that it represents.

Today, USDA is taking action by announcing that we will soon publish and invite public comment on a proposed rule regarding organic livestock and poultry practices.  It’s an important step that will strengthen consumer confidence in the label and ensure that organic agriculture continues to provide economic opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and businesses around the country. Read more »

High Five: NIFA Programs Help You to Know Your Farmer/Know Your Food

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invests in agricultural research, education, and extension programs that take groundbreaking discoveries from laboratories to farms, communities, and classrooms. These programs enhance the competitiveness of American agriculture, ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply, improve the nutrition and health of communities, sustain the environment and natural resources, and bolster the economy. The following blogs are examples of the thousands of NIFA projects that help Americans get to know their farmers and their food. Read more »

USDA Helps Military Veterans Explore Agriculture as a Career

A veteran and participant of the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training program handling living basil at an organic hydroponic farm

A veteran and participant of the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training program handles living basil at an organic hydroponic farm, which grows plants in water as opposed to soil. USDA is committed to introducing agriculture as a career possibility to the 1,300 new veterans and their families who return to civilian life each day.

Before serving in my current role at USDA, I served eight years in the U.S. Army and the Iowa National Guard, including a 15-month mobilization and deployment as a combat engineer in Kandahar, Afghanistan. During my tour, I saw firsthand the tremendous scope of unique skills, experiences and perspectives held by those who serve in our armed forces.

Those exact same skills can be an excellent fit for farming and ranching, which is why USDA is increasing its efforts to introduce agriculture as a career possibility to the 1,300 new veterans and their families who return to civilian life each day. Read more »