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Category: Environment

USDA Builds Communities with Lenders

Rural families become homeowners

Rural families become homeowners. Click to enlarge.

It’s been 25 years since USDA guaranteed the first home loan in Donalsonville, Georgia. The home itself was a modest spot nestled into the tiny little village in rural Georgia. To an outsider this home may look non-descript, but to the family who moved in 25 years ago, owning this home was a dream that seemed impossible before they found out USDA and their small town lender could work together to make their dream become reality.

25 years later, USDA has worked with thousands of lenders big and small to help 1.48 million families just like the first in Donalsonville buy modest homes in rural America. USDA Home Loan Guarantees are so important to hard working folks who want to settle down in rural areas. This program is the golden example of the private and public sectors coming together to make this opportunities for a better life accessible for all. Read more »

Statistical Information Critical to Efficient Markets

Lance Honig, NASS' Crops Branch Chief, presenting monthly Crop Production report overview

Lance Honig, NASS' Crops Branch Chief, presenting monthly Crop Production report overview.

Starting next week, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will reach out to tens of thousands of farmers across the United States. Our interviewers will go door to door and make phone calls to collect the most accurate information possible about farmland in each state. In addition, we’ll ask farmers to report their acres planted by crop, and total grains & oilseeds stored on their farms. We will then spend several weeks processing and analyzing the responses we receive so that we can publish some of the most anticipated reports by the end of the month. Let’s just say we keep things busy in June!

Personally, I’ve gone through all aspects of NASS surveys. Growing up on our family farm in Kansas, I saw my father fill out surveys he received from USDA’s statistical agency. Later I joined NASS myself and got a chance to work with and survey farmers in Kansas, Indiana, and North Dakota. Over time, my career brought me to NASS’ Washington, D.C. office where I lead teams of statisticians who analyze survey data and other information to publish official U.S. crop estimates. Read more »

United States Drought Monitor: Innovative Data Solutions for the Future of Water

Eric Luebehusen explaining the US Drought Monitor to White House Water Summit attendee

Eric Luebehusen, agricultural meteorologist for USDA’s Office of Chief Economist and World Agricultural Outlook Board details the creation of the United States Drought Monitor to a White House Water Summit attendee.

Communities across the United States are facing water challenges, impacting millions of lives and costing billions of dollars in damages. Recent events, including record-breaking drought in the West and severe flooding in the Southeast have elevated a national dialogue on the state of our Nation’s water resources and infrastructure.

These challenges are why on March 22, the White House hosted a Water Summit to correspond with the United Nations World Water Day.  The meeting raised awareness of water issues and highlighted potential solutions to building a sustainable and secure water future. Following a slate of presentations outlining innovative solutions to water quality and quantity challenges, attendees were invited to review interactive demonstrations of projects including technologies that help communities and businesses manage the challenges of long term drought. Read more »

Climate-Smart Practices Keep the Land Covered

Jessa Kay Cruz of the Xerces Society with participants at Lockeford Plant Materials Center

Jessa Kay Cruz of the Xerces Society (with net) examines wild bees along with participants at the Lockeford Plant Materials Center’s Open House in April 2015. Photo by Amber Kerr.

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.”

There are many ways that farmers can use plant cover to mitigate and adapt to climate change. To learn climate-smart practices, farmers can turn to resources like USDA’s Plant Materials Center in Lockeford, California (CAPMC) which is one of 25 PMCs nationwide.  Established in the 1930’s to help with plant-based tools to combat the Dust Bowl, the PMCs test, develop, and deploy plant mixtures and cultivars to solve conservation challenges.  These challenges include soil erosion, water and air pollution, riparian degradation, loss of wildlife habitat – and now, climate change. Read more »

Agriculture Saved A Veteran’s Life

Eric Grandon and his family selling their local food products at a Farmer's Market

Eric Grandon and his family sell their local food products at a Farmer's Market in Clay County, West Virginia.

Eric Grandon of West Virginia is a war hero in the truest sense. Spending nearly 20 years in the Army, he was a combat veteran in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and participated in four peace-time missions to the Middle East. Yet, when a horrific flashback overtook him in 2011, he was unable to continue his job as a Physical Therapist Assistant and was deemed unemployable and permanently disabled from PTSD. Unable to work, he found himself wandering around his farm aimlessly for nearly two years until he met James McCormick, the present Director of the Veterans and Warriors Agriculture program under the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

A veteran himself, McCormick encouraged Grandon to take up farming, which had helped him work through his own PTSD. It was during a USDA Armed to Farm conference hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) that Grandon officially decided to become a farmer.  He even took up beekeeping which he found to be the most therapeutic of them all often bringing tears of joy to his eyes. Read more »

Conversations with Organic PA Farmers on Crop Insurance

USDA Risk Management Agency Associate Administrator Tim Gannon (left) and Jason Forrester talking about planting plans

USDA Risk Management Agency Associate Administrator Tim Gannon (left) and Jason Forrester talk about planting plans on one of Forrester’s farms in Chambersburg, Pa.

I hit the road last week to get feedback from farmers in Pennsylvania on how recent Federal crop insurance enhancements are helping organic producers in the state.

Earlier this year, USDA expanded crop insurance options to allow organic producers to purchase coverage that better reflects their product’s actual value. The expanded coverage is part of our continued commitment to provide farmers with resources and tools to meet the growing demand for certified organic products. Read more »