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A Banner Year for Data: 5 New Ways We’re Keeping Ag Statistics Current

USDA scientists work 365 days to provide safe and sustainable food, water, and natural resources in the face of a changing climate and uncertain energy sources. To recognize the contribution that agricultural science and research makes in our daily lives, this week’s “Banner Year” series features stories from 2015 that show the successes that USDA science and statistical agencies made for us all.

The past 12 months made for an eventful year in the world of agricultural statistics. In our efforts to remain true to our mission of providing timely, accurate, and useful statistics, we transformed several of our programs and tackled research to keep up with data needs of a changing agricultural industry. These new initiatives ensure that NASS continues to serve farmers, ranchers, and rural communities across the nation and that decisions impacting U.S. agriculture continue to be based on factual data.

Some of our most transformative work in 2015 included: Read more »

A Banner Year for Education: 5 Grants Supporting Ag Education at All Levels, from Classrooms to Farms and the Table

USDA scientists work 365 days to provide safe and sustainable food, water, and natural resources in the face of a changing climate and uncertain energy sources. To recognize the contribution that agricultural science and research makes in our daily lives, this week’s “Banner Year” series features stories from 2015 that show the successes that USDA science and statistical agencies made for us all.

Strengthening education is crucial to the future of agriculture. To ensure that citizens are aware of farming’s impact on the economy and society, school curricula must emphasize the interconnected role of farming, food, and fiber production with environmental quality.  Funding includes programs targeting minority-serving universities, including the 1890 and 1994 land-grant institutions as well as Hispanic-serving institutions.  The following blogs illustrate the portfolio of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grants that help educational institutions address shortfalls in curricula design, material development, instruction delivery systems, student experiential learning opportunities, scientific instrumentation for teaching, and student recruitment and retention.

Here are five stories from 2015 to check out: Read more »

Rural America in the Post-Recession Years

Panorama of the Glut, tan brick building with green awning, and the neighborhood they serve in Mount Rainier, Maryland. USDA Photo illustration by Lance Cheung.

Panorama of the Glut, tan brick building with green awning, and the neighborhood they serve in Mount Rainier, Maryland. USDA Photo illustration by Lance Cheung.

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.

Each year, USDA’s Economic Research Service provides a snapshot of the rural economy in a report entitled Rural America at a Glance.  The past year witnessed some encouraging trends, as rural employment grew more than 1 percent during the year ending in second-quarter 2015, following several years of stagnation. Rural unemployment also fell below 6 percent in 2015 for the first time since mid-2008.

Despite the positive trend, rural employment in mid-2015 was still 3.2 percent below its pre-recession peak in 2007.  Rural employment growth was also outpaced by an urban employment growth rate of nearly 2 percent over the recent one-year period. Read more »

A Banner Year for Research: 5 Innovative Projects Aimed at Helping Growers

USDA scientists work 365 days to provide safe and sustainable food, water, and natural resources in the face of a changing climate and uncertain energy sources. To recognize the contribution that agricultural science and research makes in our daily lives, this week’s “Banner Year” series features stories from 2015 that show the successes that USDA science and statistical agencies made for us all.

Making a success in agriculture and rural communities in today’s competitive world requires a toolbox of cutting-edge knowledge and ways to put that information in people’s hands so they can put it to work. Whether it’s designing these tools, developing the data to prove them, or breeding a new crop variety to outwit a plant disease to avoid a harvest’s devastation, the scientists of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are always coming up with something new to enhance rural opportunities.

Here are five research highlights from 2015 you should read: Read more »

Job Corps Students, Alumnae ‘Pay it Forward,’ Helping Each Other Learn Leadership Skills

Shray Jackson, an administrative support specialist in the Forest Service Washington Office, working

Shray Jackson, an administrative support specialist in the Forest Service Washington Office, is a graduate of the Potomac Job Corps Center in the District of Columbia. She recently shared her advice on how to work towards career goals with Harpers Ferry Job Corps students. (Photo credit/Forest Service photo by Dominic Cumberland)

Preparing for a career involves many steps, plus individual motivation as well as help from those who’ve gone before you.

That’s what a group of 60 Harpers Ferry Job Corps students explored recently during a recent training session related to job preparedness for the U.S. Forest Service. Their hearts and minds were focused on advancing their knowledge about Forest Service job opportunities and how to serve others but also on learning how to help themselves. They were not disappointed. Read more »

USDA Process Verified Program: Transparency from Farm to Market

An infographic highlighting example process points and the steps taken to create a Process Verified Program

An infographic highlighting example process points and the steps taken to create a Process Verified Program. Click for a larger version.

Product labeling is a contract of trust between consumers and producers.  This is especially true for the foods we eat and the companies that sell them.  The responsibility of regulating and monitoring food labels is shared between many federal agencies including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA, and we recognize that there must be transparency and accountability before there can be public trust and understanding of product labels.

While my own agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), does not approve many product labels directly, we do provide a service where AMS auditors provide an objective, third-party verification on any food product that a company’s labeling claims are backed by plain language standards.  Transparency and accountability are the cornerstones of this service, and we are continuously working to improve both for all of our auditing programs, with our most recent efforts focusing on USDA’s Process Verified Program (PVP). Read more »