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Study Finds Increasing Wood Pellet Demand Boosts Forest Growth, Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Creates Jobs

A truck is filled with wood chips.

A truck is filled with wood chips as part of the process of turning wood into energy.

An industry that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase forest growth, and create jobs sounds too good to be true.  But that is the reality of the emerging wood pellets market in the Southern U.S.  That conclusion is supported by independent economic assessments of wood bioenergy, including a recent study that specifically focused on European pellet demand conducted by researchers at Duke and North Carolina State Universities.  Those researchers found that increasing demand for wood pellets resulted in more forest area, more forest investment, large greenhouse gas reductions, and little change in forest carbon inventories.

So, why is there concern?

Some critics have recently argued that land used to produce biomass for energy should instead be permanently protected as forests. They say that harvesting biomass from forests reduces forest carbon stocks. Instead, they claim that the best way to increase carbon storage is to reduce demand for renewable products that come from the land. Read more »

USDA Visit to the Philippines Supports Bilateral Ag Trade

Bananas from the field collected and washed before exporting

Bananas from the field are collected and washed after harvest and prior to export.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture continuously seeks opportunities for U.S. agricultural products and producers to expand access to overseas markets and contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, in turn creating jobs and supporting economic growth. The past six years have represented the strongest period for American agricultural exports in the history of our country. In fiscal year 2014 American farmers and ranchers exported a record $152.5 billion of food and agricultural products to consumers worldwide.

To that end, I recently had the opportunity to visit the Philippines with APHIS employees and meet with U.S. Embassy personnel, Philippine government officials, and Philippine industry representatives.  On my trip, I met with our Philippine counterparts at all levels and learned first-hand the value of outreach and relationship-building between APHIS colleagues stationed in Manila, Embassy colleagues, and locally employed staff.  Philip Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, who was very gracious with his time, acknowledged the close working relationship between APHIS personnel in Manila and their local plant and animal health counterparts and highlighted how resolutions of technical issues contribute to the overall strong bilateral partnership between the United States and the Philippines. Read more »

Veteran Farmers, In Their Own Voice


“Agriculture is not often the first thing people think of for returning veterans. That’s why we are elevating the discussion about veterans and agriculture.”  ~Secretary Vilsack

 This week, USDA hosted a meeting with veterans to discuss their experiences in agriculture, their food businesses and what the most pressing needs are for veterans participating in agriculture with  Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison Karis Gutter.

This week, USDA hosted a meeting with veterans to discuss their experiences in agriculture, their food businesses and what the most pressing needs are for veterans participating in agriculture with Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and Military Veterans Agriculture Liaison Karis Gutter.

This week, Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Harden and I met with 35 military veterans who are now farmers and ranchers. Hosted by the Farmer Veteran Coalition and the Farm Credit Council, these men and women came to USDA to discuss the opportunities and resources available to veterans interested in agriculture. Many of them participate in the Homegrown by Heroes campaign which celebrates local products grown, raised and produced by farmer veterans across the country.

As the Department’s Military Veteran Agricultural Liaison and a veteran of the Marine Corps myself, I know there are many reasons military veterans turn to agriculture. For some, running a farm business gives them an opportunity to put their logistical training to work. For others, farming lets them continue serving their community. Many veterans talk about how working on the land helps them successfully transition to civilian life. And still others discuss how agriculture gives them purpose.

No one can explain the deep connection between veterans and agriculture better than veteran farmers themselves. Here are a few of their voices. Read more »

Farmers Markets: Important Sales Outlets for Organic Farmers

Organic Vegetables sign above vegetables and flowers

If a farmer or vendor at a farmers market uses the word “organic” to describe their products or practices, they must comply with the USDA organic standards and regulations. The organic label indicates that the product has been produced through approved methods that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.

Across the nation, farmers markets continue to be great places for communities to gather, shop for fresh, healthy food, and get to know local farmers and ranchers.  Farmers markets are also important outlets for the sale of organic agricultural products. 

In fact, more than 40 percent of organic operations report direct sales to consumers.  As consumer demand for organic and local food increases, farmers markets offer important opportunities for organic producers to enter new markets and grow their businesses. Read more »

From Tomatoes to Yarn: Value Added Producer Grants Help Agriculture Entrepreneurs Get Ahead

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admiring an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon.

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admires an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon. The Ranch used a USDA Value Added Producer Grant to develop the yarn.

“When you are a small farm, you don’t have a lot of capital.” says Julie Donnelly of Deepwoods Farm, a small tomato farm she runs with her husband in Bradley County, Arkansas. Despite being in an area known for its tomatoes, Deepwoods Farms was having a hard time getting ahead.  “We couldn’t get past the commercial tomatoes.” Julie remembers.  “We were almost bankrupt. I thought ‘I’ve got to do something!’ ”

What Julie decided to do was diversify her tomato crop to produce more varietals, including heirlooms and different colored tomatoes. She believed this would give her farm a competitive edge and open up new market opportunities. The tomatoes were growing well and tasted good.  However, no one knew the Donnelleys were doing something different than before. Deepwoods Farms needed marketing and branding support to tell customers why their tomatoes were different.   “When I heard about the Value Added Producer Grant, I thought this might be the answer,” said Julie. Read more »

Putting Antibiotic Stewardship into Action

The White House on June 2 convened a national forum to seek action on the problem of anti-microbial resistance. The development of antibiotics was one of the most significant medical achievements of the last century, and has helped to save millions of lives. But their overuse or misuse has resulted in the rise of bacteria strains that are resistant to antibiotics.

The White House has unveiled a National Action Plan designed to advance the appropriate use of antibiotics in food animals as well as promote collaborations among partners in medicine, veterinary medicine, and public health. This is consistent with a “One Health” approach that embraces the idea that a disease problem impacting the health of humans, animals, and the environment can only be solved through improved communication, cooperation, and collaboration across disciplines and institutions. USDA, which helped develop the National Action Plan, was pleased to join our many Federal partners and continue our work with the agriculture industry at the forum. Read more »