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Category: Environment

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 »

The Buzz about Bees

An alfalfa leafcutting bee, Megachile rotundata, on an alfalfa flower. This bee is widely used for pollination by alfalfa seed growers.

An alfalfa leafcutting bee, Megachile rotundata, on an alfalfa flower. This bee is widely used for pollination by alfalfa seed growers.

There’s a lot of buzz right now about honey bees—their health and their future.

The good news, where honey bees are concerned, is that there is good news.  Just last month, the results of the annual winter bee loss survey were released, and losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent for the past winter—a significant drop from the 30.5 percent loss reported for the winter of 2012-13.

But the really good news is that when it comes to pollination, honey bees aren’t the only game in town. Read more »

Agriculture Remains the Backbone of West Virginia

Farming has always been a backbone of West Virginia. Check back next Thursday for another spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

Farming has always been a backbone of West Virginia. Check back next Thursday for another spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

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.

West Virginia’s climate and topography earned our state the Mountain State nickname. Our rugged mountains also ensure our agricultural community remains extremely diverse. Since West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, farms have been the backbone of the state. According to the first agricultural census, conducted in West Virginia in 1870, there were 39,778 farms with 8,528,394 acres in production, with an average farm size of 214 acres. In the 2012 Census of Agriculture there were 21,480 farms in West Virginia with 3,606,674 acres in production, with an average farm size of 209 acres.

Unlike in many other states, West Virginia’s small farms (those farms selling less than $250,000 in agricultural products) account for nearly 29 percent of total farm sales in 2012, contrasting the US average of 11.1 percent. An even more telling statistic is that nearly half of sales of agricultural products were from farms selling less than $1,000,000, compared to the U.S. average of 33.6 percent. West Virginia has one of the highest ratios of small farms to total number of farms based on the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Read more »

Honeybee Operation Gets Chance to Rebuild Following Disaster

Loveless uses smoke to calm the bees when he opens the boxes for inspection. Smoking the bees allows the beekeeper to work in the hive while the colony's defensive response is interrupted.

Loveless uses smoke to calm the bees when he opens the boxes for inspection. Smoking the bees allows the beekeeper to work in the hive while the colony's defensive response is interrupted.

This post is part of a disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Wednesday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Larry Loveless of Gillespie, Ill., works full-time at a factory by day, but spends his evenings and free time beekeeping.

The harsh winter of 2013 brought devastating losses to many livestock producers, including beekeepers. Loveless lost more than half of his colonies due to several days of sub-zero temperatures. He started with 20 colonies and was down to only seven by the end of the winter.

“I’ve lost a few colonies here and there, but I’ve never experienced this horrific of a loss,” said Loveless, whose hives were already at a disadvantage because of last year’s drought. Read more »

Cultivating Seeds of Success in a Global Marketplace

The international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.

The international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.

Did you know that corn and soybeans account for 50 percent of the harvested acres in the United States?  Together, these two commodities had $106 billion in sales in 2012—not bad for products that start off as humble seeds.  The U.S. seed industry is valued at more than $7 billion, and accounts for 34 percent of the world’s international seed trade.  Our top seed exports are corn, soybean and sunflower seeds.  And the international seed trade plays an intricate role in what we call the American way of life, providing us the products we know and love.

In today’s global market, limitations in manufacturing capabilities, shifts in climate, or simple geography all impact a country’s ability to satisfy all of its own needs.  This means economies and agriculture systems around the globe are interconnected. Through trade, countries are able to market their resources to boost their economies and ensure access to a stable supply of food and products. Read more »