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Category: Environment

American Legacy: Remembering Cesar Chavez

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at A Celebration of the Life and Legacy Of Cesar Chavez at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaks at A Celebration of the Life and Legacy Of Cesar Chavez at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC.

America’s history is rich with struggle and sacrifice, remedied by the selflessness and fearless leadership of remarkable people. A champion for justice, Cesar Chavez advocated for and won many of the rights the agricultural workforce enjoys today. April 23 marks the anniversary of Chavez’s passing, but his legacy is immortalized in the fight for economic and social justice, and his spirit lives on in the vibrancy of rural America.

A migrant farm worker, Chavez toiled alongside men, women, and children who performed backbreaking labor for meager pay in deplorable conditions. He devoted his life to correcting these injustices, rallying through boycotts, marches and hunger strikes to secure pay raises and improve conditions for farm workers across the nation. Read more »

Transitioning to Organic Certification

Conner Voss on his farm

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. Pictured is Conner Voss.

More and more farmers are entering the organic market. Just last year, the number of certified operations in the U.S. grew by almost 12 percent – more than double the growth rate of 2014. So how do farmers, ranchers, and food processors make the transition to organic? We talked to one farming family about their experience, learning how they used USDA programs to help with the transition process.

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. “We sell our product direct – through a CSA, at a local farmers market, and direct to restaurants – and our customers kept asking about our growing practices,” said Conner. “We wholeheartedly believe in the practices and philosophy of organic production, and certification offers a quick and easy starting place for our conversations with our community. Beyond that, being certified is a way for our small farm to actively engage in the larger organic movement by helping define and shape what organic is.” Read more »

Protecting Organic Integrity through Enforcement

Organic carrots

Compliance and enforcement activities are key to maintaining organic integrity, and the NOP continues to strengthen enforcement efforts to ensure a fair market for all organic products.

The mission of the National Organic Program (NOP) – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – is to protect the integrity of the USDA organic seal.  Consumers look for and trust the organic seal because they know that USDA stands behind the standards that it represents.  In addition to setting robust, meaningful standards that organic businesses are required to follow, the NOP also defends the organic seal by taking appropriate enforcement actions if there are violations of the USDA organic standards.

The NOP reviews all complaints alleging violations of the USDA organic regulations and takes enforcement actions, as needed, to bring businesses into compliance.  Anyone can file a complaint by following the process at How to File a Complaint about Violations of the Organic Standards.  In addition to investigating alleged violations by uncertified operations, the NOP works with certifiers and international organic trade partners to investigate alleged violations by certified operations. Read more »

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 »