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Category: Environment

Prepare to Expect the Unexpected

It’s hurricane season again.  It’s hard to believe that it was just 10 years ago when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and a large portion of the Gulf Coast with floods, power outages, food and water shortages, as well as many other after effects.

September is National Preparedness Month, which is a great opportunity for you, organizations, and communities to prepare for specific hazards through drills, group discussions, and exercises.  The focus this year is making sure that you and your community are prepared for six specific hazards: earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire and winter storm. Read more »

Helping our Returning Heroes Find Opportunities in Agriculture: Join us for a Google+ Hangout!

A man holding plant seedlings with the USA flag behind him

Helping our Returning Heroes find Opportunities in Agriculture: Join us for a Google+ Hangout with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. Tune in live on Thursday, September 17, 11AM ET at

On Thursday, September 17, at 11 a.m. Eastern, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will sit down with a panel of veteran farmers and veteran training organizations for a live Google+ Hangout to discuss opportunities available through USDA for returning service members who are looking for long-term careers in farming, ranching and agriculture. Use the USDA Google+ page or to join us.

If you are a military veteran living in rural America, you are not alone. Today, more than five million veterans live in rural areas, a higher concentration than in any other part of the country. Many veterans show interest in agriculture because they feel that working on the land helps them successfully transition to civilian life and provides them with a way to continue serving their community. As part of the beginning farmer community, many veterans are eligible for a wide variety of USDA programs and resources that include access to capital through our beginning farmer loan program, farm ownership loans or microloans. Read more »

New Guide Helps Citizens Customize Their Gardens for Native Bees

A native Andrena bee species gathering nectar and pollen from a pear flower

A native Andrena bee species gathers nectar and pollen from a pear flower (Jim Cane, ARS).

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Dogged by pests, pathogens, poor nutrition, and other problems, the European honey bee is having a rough time these days. The bee pollinates over 90 different kinds of fruit, vegetable and nut crops. These same crops are also pollinated by native bees, particularly on smaller or diversified farms and especially in home gardens. Together, their pollination services are an $18 billion annual asset to U.S. agriculture, and concern over their welfare prompted the White House in May to issue a directive aimed at bolstering their numbers and health through a series of initiatives including improving and expanding pollinator habitat.

Citizen involvement is another component. Among the actions citizens can take is growing nectar- and pollen-rich flowering plants; another is “customizing” garden or landscaping areas to make them more hospitable to these pollinators—especially native bees, says entomologist Jim Cane, with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS)  Pollinating Insect–Biology, Management, Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah. Read more »

New Land Ownership Data Add Value to Many Policy and Research Questions

Percent of U.S. Farmland Expected to Transfer in Next Five Years, by Region, 2015 chart

Percent of U.S. Farmland Expected to Transfer in Next Five Years, by Region, 2015 chart (Click to enlarge)

Whether they farm the land themselves or rent it out to others to farm, those who own agricultural land are taking measures to keep the land in their families. This is good news for those who worry about the United States losing agricultural land to competing pressures.

At USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, we just released the findings from a survey of agricultural landowners conducted earlier this year. It confirmed some things we know already and generated lots of new information that farmers, policymakers, businesses and others will use to understand more about who owns farmland, who has and will have access to farmland in the future, what kinds of conservation and production decision landowners are making, and lots more. Read more »

Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems: Changing the Landscape of Organic Farming in the Palouse Region

Dorper ewes grazing in selected areas in a mixed crop-livestock research project

Dorper ewes graze in selected areas in a mixed crop-livestock research project. (Image courtesy of Jonathan Wachter)

Grazing livestock may soon be a common sight in the Palouse region of southeastern Washington, usually known for its rolling hills and grain production. 

Jonathan Wachter, a soil science doctoral student at Washington State University, has been working with a local farm to improve the competitiveness of organic mixed crop-livestock systems and their potential adoption by growers in a conventional grain-producing region. Read more »

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Carissa Koopmann Rivers

Carissa Koopmann Rivers with grazing cattle on Mount Diablo

Carissa Koopmann Rivers, a fifth generation cow/calf rancher, with grazing cattle on Mount Diablo.

As part of our ongoing #womeninag series, we are highlighting a different leading woman in agriculture each month.  This month, we profile Carissa Koopmann Rivers, a fifth generation cow/calf rancher from Sunol, Calif., where her family established the Koopmann Ranch in 1918.

The Koopmann family has continued to be at the forefront of conservation and partnership development including playing a key role in the establishment of the California Rangeland Conservation Coalition.  Carissa discusses how there is not a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to living on the family farm or ranch. She believes that it’s not about fitting the mold, but what sets us apart that defines how we will build a future for the agriculture industry. Read more »