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Category: Environment

Ohio Farmer Continues Life-Long Drive to Improve Environment

Gail Dunlap's restored wetland

Gail Dunlap used the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to implement many conservation practices on her land, including restoring nearly seven acres of wetlands on one of her Ohio farms.

Since she was a teenager some 60 years ago, Gail Dunlap has played an active role in her family’s seventh generation Ohio farming operation by focusing on ways to continually improve conservation practices and establish a natural and sustainable way of life.

“Back then, we were not that many years past the Dust Bowl times and farmers in the area were doing a wonderful job of resting the soil with long rotations,” said Dunlap. “I remember even the weeds seemed to be as beautiful as wildflowers.” Read more »

Conservation and Biological Diversity in Organic Production

Rows of crops

Organic practices foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.

The National Organic Program (NOP) – part of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – protects the integrity of certified organic products by developing clear standards, overseeing the certification of organic farms and businesses, and ensuring compliance with the USDA organic regulations.

Organic is a labeling term that means the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices. These practices foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Certified organic crop and livestock producers manage their farms according to the USDA organic regulations. This means using materials that are approved for use in organic production, and maintaining or improving the natural resources of their operation, including soil and water quality. Read more »

USDA’s Commitment to Develop Food and Agricultural Workforce of the Future

Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area, speaking at a Workshop at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary for the USDA Research, Education, and Economics (REE) Mission Area, speaking at a Workshop at the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on February 10, 2016. The Workshop brought together stakeholders from universities, government, non-government organizations, and the private sector to discuss growing needs in the agricultural workforce.

Nearly 99% of farms in the United States are family operated, and they account for roughly 90% of agricultural production. With statistics like these, it’s not surprising that many people associate jobs in agriculture with small-town America, farmers and tractors, and corn fields and cattle.

While the importance of farmers cannot be overstated, the diversity of careers available in the agricultural sector is staggering and often underappreciated. According to a 2013 study funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an average of 57,900 jobs will open every year from 2015 to 2020 and require a bachelor’s degree or higher in food, agriculture, natural resources, or environmental studies. These jobs will include a range of sectors, including management and business; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM); food and biomaterials production; and education, communication, and government services.  Strikingly, it is also expected that 39% of positions will go unfilled. Read more »

Woodland Buffers Protect Amphibians, Ecosystems

Red-backed salamander

Red-backed salamanders and other amphibians are key players in ecosystem health. (iStock photo)

Forested areas that border wetlands help protect wildlife, but until recently their efficacy has been untested for most amphibian species.  Now, recently published results of a six-year study explore how the loss or reduction of amphibians could affect the ecosystem.

At the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Kimberly Babbitt and a team of graduate students conducted landscape-scale experiments that tested the impacts of forest buffer width vernal pools on population size and structure, body size and condition and population genetics of two amphibian species in the northeastern United States. A grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supported the project. Read more »

Outdoor Laboratories Provide Unique Opportunity for Environmentally-Responsible Food Production

Grassland-shrub savanna characteristic of the northern Chihuahuan Desert on the 193,000-acre Jornada Experimental Range

Grassland-shrub savanna characteristic of the northern Chihuahuan Desert on the 193,000-acre Jornada Experimental Range. Photo by Peggy Greb, USDA-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.

Some of the world’s most unique cacti, reptiles and plants reside right here in the United States among our nation’s lush watersheds and rangelands. Their ability to survive and thrive provide clues to preserving a diverse, sustainable habitat well into the future. USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are the stewards of some of the agricultural lands that these fascinating creatures live on.

One such place, ARS’s Jornada Rangeland Research Facility in Las Cruces, NM, is a treasure trove for observing and gathering long-term information about how these species, environmental factors and agricultural practices intertwine and impact one another. Read more »

Public-Private Partnerships: A Forum Focus

Matt McCue and Lily Schneider of Shooting Star CSA, an organic farm in California

Matt McCue and Lily Schneider of Shooting Star CSA, an organic farm in California. Their operation is chemical and pesticide free and they rely on practices that reduce impact on the environment.

Teamwork can improve virtually any endeavor, from partnering with a neighbor by exchanging butchered meat for hay to feed the rest of the herd or simply sharing a ride to save on gas.  The result is usually savings and efficiency.

At USDA, that notion is taken to another level with public-private partnerships that improve economic stability for producers, the financial sector, and a nation that leans heavily on the shoulders of its farmers and ranchers. Read more »