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Category: Science

Local Food Systems: What Do We Know About National Trends?

Farms with intermediated sales of local foods are located largely in urban counties. Source: USDA Economic Research Service, data from Census of Agriculture, 2012; Agricultural Marketing Service, 2014.

Farms with intermediated sales of local foods are located largely in urban counties.

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.

American consumers are enjoying increasingly more opportunities to buy food directly from farmers and to patronize grocery stores and restaurants that offer local foods. Policymakers have taken notice, and as part of Congress’s FY14 Appropriations Bill, the House Agriculture Committee asked the Economic Research Service (ERS) to report on the scope of local and regional food systems and recent national trends. The result – Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: Report to Congress – details the latest economic information on local food producers and consumers, and reviews policies supporting local food systems.

The ERS report poses questions like how rapidly direct-to-consumer farm sales are growing, some characteristics of local-food farms, and the level of organic farm participation in local food sales. It addresses consumer issues such as willingness to pay premium prices for some local foods, and how local food prices compare with those at retail outlets. Read more »

Students Get Schooled by Schools of Fish

USDA Under Secretary Cathie Woteki reviews the hydroponic garden at Food and Finance High School in New York City, which is fed nutrients from sediment collected in Dr. Warner’s basement fish tanks and pumped up four floors to the garden.

USDA Under Secretary Cathie Woteki reviews the hydroponic garden at Food and Finance High School in New York City, which is fed nutrients from sediment collected in Dr. Warner’s basement fish tanks and pumped up four floors to the garden.

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.

Schools of fish may be common things to see, but watching some fish school high school students from a basement in Manhattan’s West Side is a different experience altogether. Cathie Woteki, USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, observed such a program recently during a visit to Food and Finance High School in New York.

There on West 50th Street, Cornell University operates laboratories that represent the latest in scientific technology to raise fresh, clean fish in addition to garden produce in a sustainable urban setting. Renowned Cornell scientist and educator Philson Warner developed a system for continuously re-circulating and reconditioning water to raise more than 10,000 tilapia and other fish at a time in the basement lab. The nutrient-rich water from the fish is then transferred to a hydroponic garden located a few floors up on campus. That garden produces nine types of lettuce, Chinese cabbage such as bok choi, and a variety of herbs that include sweet basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. The plants then clean the water, which is sent back to the fish. Read more »

Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Pays Dividends

A veterinarian in field with cattle

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program helps vets repay qualified student loans for service as food animal veterinarians in selected areas of the country. (iStock image)

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.

A solid education is crucial to those seeking careers in animal science. However, many student loans can be burdensome. But a student loan payment the size of a mortgage couldn’t stop someone who has wanted to be a veterinarian since they learned to talk. Dr. Annie Bowes is one of those people.

After acquiring the knowledge to begin her dream career, Dr. Bowes was left with overwhelming debt.  Luckily for this Idaho-based veterinarian, she wasn’t left alone to repay it. In 2011, she received assistance through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) a program funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »

USDA Seeks Variety to Help American Agriculture Flourish

Gardeners, farmers and dreamers are finding it’s a good time to think about the variety of seeds and plants for spring. AMS Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO) grants certificates of intellectual property protection to encourage the development of new varieties of plants. Photo courtesy of Stacey Shintani.

Gardeners, farmers and dreamers are finding it’s a good time to think about the variety of seeds and plants for spring. AMS Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO) grants certificates of intellectual property protection to encourage the development of new varieties of plants. Photo courtesy of Stacey Shintani.

While most of the country is braving cold and blustery winter conditions, farmers and gardeners are busy looking ahead to the spring. They are contemplating the variety of seeds or the plants that they will use. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) increases the options for our farmers, gardeners, and plant breeders by making sure there is an abundance of varieties available.

We do this through our Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO), which grants certificates of intellectual property protection to developers of new plant varieties. These certificates enable breeders to market their variety exclusively for 20 years. The protection is an incentive for the development of new and improved varieties. Read more »

Helping Ag Businesses Reflect on their Accomplishments and Look to the Future

Lamb Locator screenshot

The American Lamb Board’s Lamb Locator provides locations where lamb fans can enjoy this tasty product. Not only does the Lamb Locator list farmers markets, grocers, butchers and restaurants selling American lamb, it also includes a list of wholesale suppliers. Photo courtesy of the American Lamb Board.

Reflection, celebration, and ambition are hallmarks of entering a new year. We reflect on the challenges we faced, celebrate our accomplishments, and set goals for the future. For businesses, a common goal is finding new ways to satisfy ever-changing consumer demands. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers rely on research and promotion programs to help meet these demands, connecting consumers to their quality products. With a focus on highlighting quality products and building consumer trust, many research and promotion groups embarked on new initiatives and continued to expand on others in 2014.

Success for agricultural businesses often depends on their ability to provide consumers more information. The American Lamb Board accomplishes this by providing locations where lamb fans can enjoy this tasty product. Not only does the Lamb Locator list farmers markets, grocers, butchers and restaurants selling American lamb, it also includes a list of wholesale suppliers. Making this information available to the public helps more and more people enjoy quality lamb products that are produced by American farmers and ranchers. Read more »

Meet Your Wellness Goals in the New Year with the USDA DRI Calculator for Healthcare Professionals App

USDA Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals app screenshot

New “USDA Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals” app allows users to keep track of nutrient calculations and recommendations based on the DRI values.

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.

The USDA National Agricultural Library’s (NAL) Food and Nutrition Information Center (FNIC) today launched its mobile application, or “app,” which calculates Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs).  The “USDA Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) Calculator for Healthcare Professionals” app allows users to keep track of nutrient calculations and recommendations that are based on the DRI values in a more convenient and user-friendly format. Through this new app, healthcare professionals can save time in the nutrition care process for patients and clients, while having access to credible nutrition guidance.

The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine first developed the DRIs in the mid-1990s. DRIs are recommended amounts of each nutrient a healthy person should consume to prevent deficiency or harmful health effects. Initially presented in tables, this information allows healthcare professionals to use the DRIs to assess and plan diets for groups or individuals. For example, if you are a female between 19 and 50, your registered dietitian or doctor may recommend that you increase your dairy consumption to meet the 1,000mg/day calcium recommendation outlined in the DRIs. The DRIs are also used in policy-making such as setting calorie and sodium guidelines for healthy school lunches. Read more »