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Category: Environment

USDA Marketing Orders and Agreements Foster Industry Innovation

Vidalia Onions are only grown in Georgia. In the past 5 years, the Vidalia Onion Committee increased its focus on research. After seeing consumers demand the traditional Vidalia onion, the committee decided to ensure that the onion that they marketed was of the best eating quality. (Photo courtesy of the Vidalia Onion Committee)

Vidalia Onions are only grown in Georgia. In the past 5 years, the Vidalia Onion Committee increased its focus on research. After seeing consumers demand the traditional Vidalia onion, the committee decided to ensure that the onion that they marketed was of the best eating quality. (Photo courtesy of the Vidalia Onion Committee)

Success is often achieved when you have access to a number of tools and know how and when to use them. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is equipping produce businesses with the proper tools for success through our Marketing Order and Agreement Division (MOAD). As discussed before, this division administers fruit and vegetable marketing orders and agreements designed to support the industry’s financial and commercial success with the help of tools such as funding production and market research.

As self-help programs requested for and completely funded by the industry, marketing orders and agreements can address issues ranging from combating invasive species to identifying key product attributes based on consumer preferences. Our MOAD employees oversee industry boards and committees as they partner with local universities and organizations to overcome these types of challenges. Read more »

Beginning Farmer Kick Starts Operation to Provide Local Produce Year-Round

Two years after starting Fresh Water Greens, Owner Regina Villari (left) along with her brother and Production Manager Joseph Villari, have fresh lettuces and herbs in 37 supermarkets throughout New Jersey.

Two years after starting Fresh Water Greens, Owner Regina Villari (left) along with her brother and Production Manager Joseph Villari, have fresh lettuces and herbs in 37 supermarkets throughout New Jersey.

It’s been two years since Regina Villari, of Sewell, N.J., stepped into unchartered territory. Her idea was so different that no one else in her New Jersey town was doing it.

“I was intrigued by the operation,” said Villari. “I always wanted to have my own business and I wanted to do something in the local community that could provide fresh, local produce all year round.”

That something turned out to be a hydroponic greenhouse. Hydroponics uses nutrient-rich water instead of soil to grow lettuce, herbs, tomatoes and other vegetables.  The greenhouse allows Villari to grow the crops year round, feeding thousands of people throughout the state. Read more »

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Naomi Starkman

Former farmer Naomi Starkman is now the editor of Civil Eats, an award winning blog covering food and agriculture. Photo credit: Naomi Fiss.

Former farmer Naomi Starkman is now the editor of Civil Eats, an award winning blog covering food and agriculture. Photo credit: Naomi Fiss.

In agriculture we know that the work of women in our field reaches far beyond one month out of the year and should be celebrated every day. We got such a great response to our Women’s History Month weekly profiles in March that we will now be expanding to a monthly series. We will continue to feature women leaders across agriculture who are opening doors for their peers and contributing to the larger conversation about #womeninag.

To help us get started, this month, we profile Naomi Starkman, the founder and editor-in-chief of Civil Eats. Naomi is also a founding board member and advisor to the Food & Environment Reporting Network. A recovering lawyer, Naomi has worked as a media consultant at The New Yorker and Newsweek magazines and on several farms. Read more »

#AgCensus Gives Nebraska Plenty to Brag About

Nebraskan farmers and ranchers sold more than $23 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012.  Check back next Thursday for another state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Nebraskan farmers and ranchers sold more than $23 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012. Check back next Thursday 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.

Nebraska is an extremely important part of U.S. agriculture. As the 2012 Census of Agriculture showed, Nebraskan farmers and ranchers sold more than $23 billion worth of agricultural products. Our unique geography lets us combine the advantages of the Midwestern crop-friendly soil with the plains perfect for cattle grazing.

Beef cattle is the largest component of our agriculture. The 2012 Census counted nearly 6.4 million head of cattle and calves in Nebraska, second only to Texas with sales of almost $10.1 billion. And if that wasn’t enough, Nebraska pork producers had the sixth largest inventory of hogs and pigs in the United States with almost 3 million head in 2012. Read more »

Cover Crops: Agriculture’s Hero

Testing can provide the vital information needed when deciding what cover crop seed to purchase. Pictured here is AMS Botanist Elizabeth Tatum identifying a weed seed. (AMS photo)

Testing can provide the vital information needed when deciding what cover crop seed to purchase. Pictured here is AMS Botanist Elizabeth Tatum identifying a weed seed. (AMS photo)

Cover crops are the real heroes in the world of agriculture. Their job starts after a field is harvested and ends just before the next season’s crop is planted. Expectations for cover crops are high because if they don’t produce, the next crop may suffer.

After crops are harvested each year, planting fields are left bare. Runoff from rainwater, wind, and other forms of erosion devastate planting fields by stripping essential nutrients from the soil – nutrients needed for the next growing season. In addition to the loss of vital nutrients, the exposed fields are prime real estate for noxious-weed seeds intent on stealing what is left of the field’s nutrients. Replacing the lost nutrients and removing the weedy invaders costs millions of dollars each year for farmers. Read more »

#WomeninAg in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska

Participants network at the fourth annual Women in Agriculture – Women, Farms & Food Conference. This year’s theme was “Put Your Best Foot Forward.”

Participants network at the fourth annual Women in Agriculture – Women, Farms & Food Conference. This year’s theme was “Put Your Best Foot Forward.”

Throughout March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been highlighting inspiring women in agriculture as part of National Women’s History Month.

Recently, I participated in the fourth annual Women in Agriculture – Women, Farms & Food Conference. This year’s theme was “Put Your Best Foot Forward.” During the one-day virtual gathering,  more than 650 women across Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington State were linked via satellite in 28 locations.   This enabled women from all walks of life and every sector of the agriculture supply chain to empower one another. Read more »