Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

An Amphibian Only a Mother (or Biologist) Could Love Needs your Attention

The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 24 inches.  Hellbenders need clean streams with high water quality and silt-free streambeds to find their prey and avoid predators.  (Copyright photo courtesy Freshwaters Illustrated/Dave Herasimtschuk)

The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 24 inches. Hellbenders need clean streams with high water quality and silt-free streambeds to find their prey and avoid predators. (Copyright photo courtesy Freshwaters Illustrated/Dave Herasimtschuk)

Hiding beneath a pile of rocks in a clear mountain stream flowing from the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina lurks North America’s largest salamander, the Eastern hellbender.  It is also locked in battle between its perilous decline and valiant struggle for survival.

Sediment from runoff, prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic and veterinary drugs, personal care products such as soaps, fragrances and cosmetics, other chemical pollutants, and the physical disturbance of its rocky lairs by unknowing recreationalists are all suspects contributing to the hellbender’s decline. Read more »

An Ag Outlook Audience Learns How Voluntary Conservation Can Help At-Risk Wildlife and Reduce the Need for Regulation

Meet seven at-risk species that benefit from habitat restoration and enhancement through NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife partnership. Infographic by Jocelyn Benjamin. Click to enlarge.

Meet seven at-risk species that benefit from habitat restoration and enhancement through NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife partnership. Infographic by Jocelyn Benjamin. Click to enlarge.

Regulations may be needed, but are they all we need? That was the common thread weaved through presentations by natural resource experts last week at USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Panelists included: Chris Hartley, deputy director of USDA’s Office of Environmental Markets; Jim Serfis, chief of the communications and candidate conservation branch of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (FWS); and Matthew Wohlman, assistant deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Read more »

Training Empowers Ag Boards to Recruit the Next Generation of Farmers

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center, first row) is thanked by AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (far right, first row) and members of the AMS research and promotion team for speaking at the diversity and inclusion training event on Feb. 18, 2015. USDA photo.

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center, first row) is thanked by AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (far right, first row) and members of the AMS research and promotion team for speaking at the diversity and inclusion training event on Feb. 18, 2015. USDA photo.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, and all of USDA are committed to supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers and promoting diversity and inclusion in all sectors of agriculture. As Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I had the pleasure of advancing these important priorities during our Research and Promotion Program (R&P) board diversity and inclusion training session, held in Northern Virginia prior to the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Meeting participants – including more than 50 board members and board staff from 20 of the 22 R&P boards that we oversee, AMS employees, and representatives of Certified Nominating Organizations – gathered to tackle a serious issue: how to recruit talented and diverse board members who are representative of the industries they serve. The R&P boards allow farmers and ranchers to pool their resources and set common goals to develop new markets and strengthen current markets for the commodities they grow or handle. Read more »

Waving Wheat Still Smells Sweet in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Agriculture is diverse – both in the crops raised and in the farmers that work the land. Check back next week for another state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

Oklahoma Agriculture is diverse – both in the crops raised and in the farmers that work the land. Check back next week for another state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Oklahoma consistently ranks in the top five states for beef cattle and winter wheat, but our agriculture is much more than just rolling fields of wheat and cattle. With more than 80,000 farms counted in the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Oklahoma remains in 4th position in the number of farms in the nation. The bulk of our farms are less than 500 acres in size, but contributed $2.2 billion dollars to the market value of agriculture products sold (including government payments).

The average age of farmers nationally and in Oklahoma is now 58.3 years, increasing in both since the last census. Here in Oklahoma however, this increase is happening at a significantly slower rate than the U.S. average. Read more »

Braving Frigid Alaska Elements, Federal Workers Volunteer for the ‘Toughest 300 Miles in Dog Racing’

Musher Heidi Sutter and dog sled team approach the Sourdough checkpoint for a mandatory rest period during the Copper Basin 300 dog sled race.  Federal agency land management volunteers met in Glenallen, population less than 500, to lend support for event success. (Photo courtesy of Photography on the Kenai/Robert Parsons)

Musher Heidi Sutter and dog sled team approach the Sourdough checkpoint for a mandatory rest period during the Copper Basin 300 dog sled race. Federal agency land management volunteers met in Glenallen, population less than 500, to lend support for event success. (Photo courtesy of Photography on the Kenai/Robert Parsons)

Think Alaska in the winter: a large land canvas of powdery, granular or icy snow and days of often very, very cold weather.

With those conditions, it’s off to the races for some of the heartiest Alaskan sled dogs and volunteers like U.S. Forest Service employee Carol Teitzel, who works in the U.S. Forest Service Alaska Region and who lent her support to the excitement and challenge of this year’s Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race.

The 310-mile competition counts as a qualifying race for the nearly 1,000-mile Iditarod, the most popular dog sled race, and the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest, sometimes called the world’s toughest dog sled race. Read more »

At the Agricultural Outlook Forum, Prognosticators Peer Ahead to 2060

Tom Brown, Economist, Rocky Mountain Research Station's Social and Economic Values Group, Forest Service, USDA, Fort Collins, CO. outlined climate models during his panel presentation at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Tom Brown, Economist, Rocky Mountain Research Station's Social and Economic Values Group, Forest Service, USDA, Fort Collins, CO. outlined climate models during his panel presentation at the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

No one can say with certainty what the American climate will be like 45 years from now, but looking at climate models discussed at the Agricultural Outlook Forum last week in suburban Washington, D.C., the best prediction is that the American southwest will be drier, the northwest may get more rain and less snow, and the entire nation will see more climate variability.  Weather swings, and their effect on production, will be more pronounced.  Some areas may get too much rain in the winter and spring and not enough in the summer and fall.  That’s a guess, but it’s an educated one.

A few things are fairly certain:  There will be more people, and with a highly diffused American water management system, it will be a challenge to adapt. People will take priority over crops like rice.  Every drop of water will count. It will be necessary for areas accustomed to getting much of their water from melting snowpack to store more water in reservoirs, and water now discarded as “dirty” or “grey” can no longer be flushed away. Read more »