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Category: Uncategorized

USDA Announces Speakers for 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum – Feb. 21-22

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced speakers for the 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum, “Managing Risk in the 21st Century,” Feb. 21-22 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel, Arlington, Va. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will present the keynote address, followed by guest speaker former Senator Thomas A. Daschle, currently a senior policy advisor with DLA Piper. USDA Chief Economist Joseph Glauber will present the 2013 U.S. Economic Outlook for Agriculture. In addition, a distinguished panel of speakers for the Feb. 21 plenary session includes: Bryan T. Durkin, Chief Operating Officer, CME Group; David Baudler, President of Cargill AgHorizons; and Scott H. Irwin, Laurence J. Norton Chair of Agricultural Marketing, University of Illinois. Mike Adams, AgriTalk Radio host, will moderate the panel.

The Forum’s dinner speaker on Feb. 21 will be Adam Sieminski, Administrator of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), addressing the “U.S. Energy Market Outlook.” Read more »

USDA Plans to ‘Turbo-Charge’ Telework Week 2013!

Last year USDA had 7,516 employees, Department-wide,  who pledged to Telework during Telework Week 2012, which resulted in more than $1 million saved in commuting costs alone.   Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration,  Oscar Gonzales, acknowledges  “USDA has high goals for widespread Telework adoption and this initiative gave many employees from smaller agencies and sub-organizations the opportunity to Telework, even if they do not regularly do so.  We pledge to once again support Telework Week and hope to increase our participation this year.”

As we count down to participate in Telework Week 2013, scheduled to take place March 4-8, 2013, now is the time to begin talking to your leadership and co-workers about your level of participation.  Eligible employees are encouraged to participate up to the entire week, and the goal is to increase the amount of Telework time you normally are accustomed to.  What better way to use this opportunity as an effective Continuity of Operations (COOP) Telework Drill for your workgroup!  Both employees and USDA alike will share in the benefits and savings of participating in a successful Telework Week at USDA. Read more »

New Vision Means Better Inspection Services for Fruits and Vegetables

U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) inspectors Geno DeSanto and Bob Schofield examine bananas at the Philadelphia Food Distribution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 21, 2008.USDA photo.

U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) inspectors Geno DeSanto and Bob Schofield examine bananas at the Philadelphia Food Distribution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 21, 2008.USDA photo.

Exceptional grading, standardization and auditing services are the benchmarks that were set by USDA’s Fresh and Processed Products Divisions.  The two organizations within USDA supported the produce industry for nearly a century, providing quality grading and auditing services that businesses and consumers could trust.

Now, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has merged the two divisions into one unit that provides the same excellent service.  The new Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division offers voluntary, audit-based inspection programs – utilizing Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices (GAP/GHP).  We will also perform uniform, quality grading services based on the U.S. standards for fresh, frozen and processed products. Read more »

Organic 101: Organic Wine

This is the ninth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

According to a 2011 survey by the Organic Trade Association, organic beverages made up about 12% of total organic food sales growth. Organic wine contributed to that growth, matching pace with conventional wine purchases. So what is organic wine?

As with other USDA organic products, organic wine is made without using prohibited substances or genetic engineering (see Allowed and Prohibited Substances). It undergoes the same rigorous requirements of USDA organic certification as other products throughout its lifecycle (see Five Steps to Organic Certification). And, in addition to being overseen by the USDA National Organic Program, it has to meet the requirements of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, especially for sulfite labeling requirements. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Looking Ahead to 2013

In recent days, Congressional leaders came together with an agreement to provide middle class tax relief and extend protection for two million unemployed Americans.

This agreement provides some relief for all of us who are frustrated with the gridlock that often dominates Washington. It is also good news for the 98 percent of American families and 97 percent of small businesses who were protected from a tax increase.

At the same time, I am disappointed that Congress was unable to pass a multi-year Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. Congress did extend some 2008 Farm Bill programs that will prevent a spike in the price of dairy and other commodities. However, the extension fails to provide any of the long-term certainty that we know is vital for rural America. Read more »

USDA Announces Effort to Enhance Department Efficiency, Improve Access to Programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is asking the public for comment as it continues to review existing program rules to determine whether any should be modified, streamlined, clarified, or repealed.  The Department is particularly interested in hearing from the public concerning areas where USDA can simplify and reduce the reporting burden for entry and access to USDA programs, while reducing its administrative and operating costs by sharing data across participating agencies.

In response to Executive Order 13610 (Identifying and Reducing Regulatory Burdens), USDA has incorporated various initiatives into its review to reduce burden on the public, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS), Conservation Delivery Streamlining Initiative, which has the potential to reduce administrative time for clients participating in NRCS’ conservation programs, and FSA’s streamlined version of a current form for use by repeat customers whose information has not changed. Read more »