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Category: Environment

USDA and Pheasants Forever Renew Partnership to Conservation

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini speaks at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini speaks at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.

I recently attended the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, where I met with sportsmen, farmers, young people, wildlife biologists and others who are committed to strengthening wildlife habitat throughout America. It was exciting to see firsthand the passion for the native and restored grasslands and woodlands that typify the rural American landscape.

I had the honor of speaking to the group, where I highlighted the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  CRP, one of the largest private lands conservation programs in the nation, is designed to reduce soil erosion, improve water and air quality, and provide habitat for wildlife. Interested landowners can establish long-term USDA-approved grasses or trees in exchange for USDA helping with the cost of establishing the plants and providing annual payments for 10 to 15 years. The covers along fields, streams and rivers prevent soil and nutrients from washing into waterways, reduce soil erosion that may otherwise contribute to poor air and water quality, and provide valuable habitat for wildlife. Read more »

Training Empowers Ag Boards to Recruit the Next Generation of Farmers

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center, first row) is thanked by AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (far right, first row) and members of the AMS research and promotion team for speaking at the diversity and inclusion training event on Feb. 18, 2015. USDA photo.

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center, first row) is thanked by AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (far right, first row) and members of the AMS research and promotion team for speaking at the diversity and inclusion training event on Feb. 18, 2015. USDA photo.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, and all of USDA are committed to supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers and promoting diversity and inclusion in all sectors of agriculture. As Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I had the pleasure of advancing these important priorities during our Research and Promotion Program (R&P) board diversity and inclusion training session, held in Northern Virginia prior to the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Meeting participants – including more than 50 board members and board staff from 20 of the 22 R&P boards that we oversee, AMS employees, and representatives of Certified Nominating Organizations – gathered to tackle a serious issue: how to recruit talented and diverse board members who are representative of the industries they serve. The R&P boards allow farmers and ranchers to pool their resources and set common goals to develop new markets and strengthen current markets for the commodities they grow or handle. Read more »

Waving Wheat Still Smells Sweet in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Agriculture is diverse – both in the crops raised and in the farmers that work the land. Check back next week for another state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

Oklahoma Agriculture is diverse – both in the crops raised and in the farmers that work the land. Check back next week for another state spotlight 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.

Oklahoma consistently ranks in the top five states for beef cattle and winter wheat, but our agriculture is much more than just rolling fields of wheat and cattle. With more than 80,000 farms counted in the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Oklahoma remains in 4th position in the number of farms in the nation. The bulk of our farms are less than 500 acres in size, but contributed $2.2 billion dollars to the market value of agriculture products sold (including government payments).

The average age of farmers nationally and in Oklahoma is now 58.3 years, increasing in both since the last census. Here in Oklahoma however, this increase is happening at a significantly slower rate than the U.S. average. Read more »

At the Agricultural Outlook Forum, Prognosticators Peer Ahead to 2060

Tom Brown, Economist, Rocky Mountain Research Station's Social and Economic Values Group, Forest Service, USDA, Fort Collins, CO. outlined climate models during his panel presentation at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Tom Brown, Economist, Rocky Mountain Research Station's Social and Economic Values Group, Forest Service, USDA, Fort Collins, CO. outlined climate models during his panel presentation at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

No one can say with certainty what the American climate will be like 45 years from now, but looking at climate models discussed at the Agricultural Outlook Forum last week in suburban Washington, D.C., the best prediction is that the American southwest will be drier, the northwest may get more rain and less snow, and the entire nation will see more climate variability.  Weather swings, and their effect on production, will be more pronounced.  Some areas may get too much rain in the winter and spring and not enough in the summer and fall.  That’s a guess, but it’s an educated one.

A few things are fairly certain:  There will be more people, and with a highly diffused American water management system, it will be a challenge to adapt. People will take priority over crops like rice.  Every drop of water will count. It will be necessary for areas accustomed to getting much of their water from melting snowpack to store more water in reservoirs, and water now discarded as “dirty” or “grey” can no longer be flushed away. Read more »

Let’s Get Every Kid in a Park

Cross-posted from the White House Blog

From sea to shining sea, our country is home to gorgeous landscapes, vibrant waterways, and historic treasures that all Americans can enjoy. But right now, young people are spending more time in front of screens than outside, and that means they are missing out on valuable opportunities to explore, learn, and play in the spectacular outdoor places that belong to all of them.

President Obama is committed to giving every kid the chance to explore America’s great outdoors and unique history. That’s why today he launched the Every Kid in a Park initiative, which calls on each of our agencies to help get all children to visit and enjoy the outdoors and inspire a new generation of Americans to experience their country’s unrivaled public lands and waters. Starting in September, every fourth-grader in the nation will receive an “Every Kid in a Park” pass that’s good for free admission to all of America’s federal lands and waters — for them and their families — for a full year. Read more »

A New Network for Women in Agriculture

To be a woman in agriculture is to face a unique set of challenges. And because I know all too well the trials that women can face as they look to take on leadership roles, I made it a goal as USDA’s Deputy Secretary to start a community for women leaders in agriculture.

This past fall, I held a White House discussion with farmers, agribusiness, academics and youth leaders about the opportunities that exist to help advance women in agriculture to leadership positions. Since that meeting, the response has been overwhelming. Women from all walks of life and every sector of the agriculture supply chain are empowering one another, and they’re sharing beautiful photographs and touching stories about how they’ve done it. Read more »