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Category: Environment

Industry Research and Promotion Programs Prepare Next Generation of Ag Leaders

Brittany Lowery, a student at North Carolina State University, receiving her certificate of completion of Swine Science Online, from Dr. Todd See, Dr. Ken Esbenshade and Dr. Billy Flowers

Brittany Lowery, a student at North Carolina State University, receives her certificate of completion of Swine Science Online, from Dr. Todd See, Dr. Ken Esbenshade and Dr. Billy Flowers. The SSO courses teach students scientific principles and management skills to prepare them for careers in the swine industry. Photo courtesy of the National Pork Board.

As recent studies indicate agriculture is one of the best fields for college graduates, it is imperative for the industry to groom the next generation of leaders. All of us here at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) would like to highlight the efforts of a couple industry Research and Promotion Programs for encouraging young students to choose agricultural careers.

The Pork Checkoff and the US Pork Center of Excellence worked together to develop Swine Science Online (SSO) courses that teach students scientific principles and management skills to best prepare them for careers in the swine industry. Read more »

Planting Seeds for New Careers for our Veterans

Veterans Farm founder Adam Burke taking AMS Veteran Program Manager Yowei Peralta on a tour of the organization’s blueberry farm

Veterans Farm founder Adam Burke (dark jeans and blue shirt) takes AMS Veteran Program Manager Yowei Peralta (khakis and white shirt) on a tour of the organization’s blueberry farm. Each plant bears a military Identification tag of a veteran that participated in the fellowship program. Photo Courtesy of Veterans Farm.

Tucked away in the countryside of Jacksonville, Fla., is a place that offers hope and opportunity for returning veterans. Veterans Farm, a 19-acre handicap-accessible farm that helps veterans learn how to make a living from farming and find healing in the land, opened its doors in 2009. Its founder, Adam Burke, an Iraq combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is utilizing his skills to create a unique environment where veterans can develop agriculture skills that can help them become effective farmers or ranchers.  USDA is partnering with Veterans Farm to conduct quarterly workshops to connect these veterans to key departmental resources that can plant the seeds for their new agricultural careers.

I recently attended one of these workshops to introduce our veterans to my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). In particular, I talked about opportunities to strengthen the local food sector via AMS’ Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (which includes the Local Food Promotion Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program) as well as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. I also talked about our recent partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to begin a series of grant-writing workshops to help potential grant applicants write successful grant applications. Read more »

Mobile Farms Move into Urban Settings

Thomas Lashmit and Megan Pierce

Urban farmers like Lashmit and Pierce avoid high land prices by storing their unit in a portion of a parking lot they rent in Marlborough County.

In the traditional sense, farming has always involved purchasing or leasing land to plow, plant, fertilize and harvest. As world population and land prices grow however, urban boundaries continue to expand, pushing farms and ranches farther away from the center of growing cities.

At the same time, many consumers are more aware of where their food is produced, preferring to purchase food grown locally in their communities. This trend pulls agriculture back into the heart of the city, with many agriculture enthusiasts stepping up to support the demand. Read more »

Assisting the Organic Community through Cost Share Programs

Man showing vegetables

Organic certification cost share programs puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes. It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.

Consumers are increasingly looking for organic products when they visit the supermarket.  Last year, organic products reached a record number of sales, accounting for over $39 billion in U.S. retail sales.  To meet consumer demand, the industry needs more organic operations to produce everything from organic milk to organic granola bars. 

Thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA has two cost share programs that assist organic farms and businesses with about $11 million per year in certification assistance– making it possible for producers and handlers of all sizes to consider organic certification.  Cost share programs support certified operations across the organic supply chain by making certification more affordable. Read more »

Mighty Agriculture in Little State Grows

Rhode Island State Infographic

“Buying Local” has helped Rhode Island agriculture grow. We hope you have enjoyed these weekly spotlights of the states taken from the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Planning is already underway for the 2017 Census – stay tuned!

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.

Rhode Island may be one of the smallest States in terms of agriculture but the 2012 Census of Agriculture shows Rhode Island has something most states don’t have – more farmers. The number of farmers in Rhode Island tallied 1,243, up slightly from 1,219 in 2007. As of 2012, almost 70,000 acres of our land are now dedicated to farming. That’s quite a bit, if you consider the fact that we are the smallest state in the Union.

Our agricultural growth is boosted by the “buy local” movement. According to the Census, Rhode Island growers sold almost $6.3 million worth, or 10.5 percent, of our agricultural products directly to consumers in 2012. This is the second highest percentage in the nation. Read more »

Boosting Farm Profits and the Ag Industry in the U.S. Virgin Islands

A person holding a plant on a shovel

NIFA supports the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) in all U.S. states and territories.

The U.S. Virgin Islands hardly ever experience temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows vegetation to flourish year-round. Even so, 90-95 percent of the food consumed on the islands is imported, and less than 1 percent of the territory’s gross domestic product comes from agriculture.  That may soon change.

A three-year Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) project at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) – supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) – works with crop and small livestock farmers who have less than 10 years of experience. Program graduates report an 81 percent increase in productivity and an 80 percent increase in profitability. Read more »