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Category: Food and Nutrition

Helping the American Dairy Industry Thrive

USDA Dairy Program’s Roger Cryan, Director of the Economics Division (left), and Butch Speth, National Supervisor of Dairy Market News, answered questions and spoke with stakeholders at the 2014 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

USDA Dairy Program’s Roger Cryan, Director of the Economics Division (left), and Butch Speth, National Supervisor of Dairy Market News, answered questions and spoke with stakeholders at the 2014 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin.

Last week, the 2014 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin drew more than 70,000 dairy farmers, processors and other stakeholders from across the country and around the globe. Attendees explored exhibits featuring elite dairy cattle, the latest in dairy research, the newest farm equipment and innovations from the dairy industry service sector. High school and college students—the next generation of American agriculture—explored career and internship opportunities. And people visiting the exhibit booth of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) learned about the many services we offer, and the work we do to improve and expand domestic and international markets for U.S. fluid milk and dairy products.

Our Dairy Program helps America’s dairy farmers and producers efficiently market high-quality milk and a wide range of dairy products. A prime example is our Dairy Market News and mandatory dairy commodity prices reporting. These services provide timely and accurate market information on milk and dairy products, assisting the dairy industry in making buying and selling decisions and in planning for the future. Read more »

Growing Your Farm to School Program Has Never Been Easier

The USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit provides school districts helpful questions to consider and resources to reference when building their programs.

The USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit provides school districts helpful questions to consider and resources to reference when building their programs.

Healthy habits are taking root in our nation’s schools.  Thanks to an important commitment made possible by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, more of our nation’s kids are being exposed to lessons about healthy eating and learning where their food comes from.  Established as part of that legislation, USDA’s Farm to School Program plays a vital role in improving health outcomes for our schoolchildren.

This October, during National Farm to School Month, it’s important to acknowledge farm to school programs’ contributions to fostering a healthier next generation.  These programs support the work of parents, teachers, school nutrition professionals, and communities to make sure the healthy choice is the easy choice for America’s children. Read more »

USDA Backs Healthy Incentives

USDA’s Healthy Incentives Pilot found that SNAP participants who received incentives to purchase healthy foods consumed about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives. Click to enlarge.

USDA’s Healthy Incentives Pilot found that SNAP participants who received incentives to purchase healthy foods consumed about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives. Click to enlarge.

USDA is firmly committed to ensuring that all Americans have access to a safe, healthy, adequate and affordable diet. Unfortunately, our nation is facing an unprecedented nutrition crisis, with far too many Americans facing both food insecurity and obesity.  Although it seems paradoxical, the two actually go hand in hand far too often.  To reverse the course of this two-sided crisis, we must create a cultural change that facilitates and encourages healthy food choices among all Americans.

One example of how USDA has been working to implement this cultural shift is the Healthy Incentives Pilot (HIP) project that was recently conducted in Massachusetts. The goal of this project was to provide SNAP participants greater access to healthy foods and better nutrition through financial incentives at the point of purchase.  Specifically, we tested the impact of providing families with 30 extra cents in SNAP benefits per benefit dollar that they spent on fruits and vegetables.  We were very encouraged by the results.  On average, people who received the incentives ate about 26 percent more fruits and vegetables per day than people who did not receive the incentives—a substantial increase! Read more »

Successful Meeting Helps Take Produce Marketing Efforts to Next Level

A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.

A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.

The fruit and vegetable industry is an integral part of our country. Besides helping increase access to healthy foods, the industry generates $40 billion in sales and empowers communities by creating jobs and stimulating economies. While it’s great to notice the strength of the produce industry, it is important to remember that it is the result of careful research and planning. I had the chance to watch the industry rekindle this energy as I visited with leaders from each of our marketing order boards and committees during a management conference last week.

There were some great takeaways from the meeting. We heard an update about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor. He ensured us that FDA is looking to collaborate with partners like USDA to help the industry comply with the FSMA regulations when they become final. We also heard from our Commodity Procurement Program Director Dave Tuckwiller, who encouraged everyone to take advantage of new opportunities to sell food to USDA. Thanks to new National School Lunch standards, my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchased 20 percent more fruits and veggies in 2013 than in the previous year. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Farm to School Programs Create New Opportunities for Farmers

This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.

An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »

Continued Support for Local Food

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

Strong local food systems are one of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies.  On Monday, he announced the award of over $52 million to support local and regional food systems and the organic industry through five USDA grant programs. Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.

As part of that announcement, my agency—the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program, as well as over $1 million in matching grants through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). For years, AMS has led USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems by awarding grants that give farmers and ranchers around the country tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food. Read more »