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New Frontiers of Food Safety

Over the last few decades, food safety has been marked by profound social, economic and political evolutions and technological breakthroughs such as 3D printing of food and the adoption of laboratory testing for pathogens. Laboratory testing for pathogens continues to evolve with the advancement of genome sequencing. However, there is always more to do.  There is a potential for advancing existing and promoting greater gains in the future.

What if there were more apps that could allow farmers, producers, consumers and stakeholders access to USDA data? The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) posts a variety of reports using data collected while inspecting and testing meat and poultry products, but more and more, people want direct access to the information.  For instance, what if a consumer could walk into a grocery store, scan a product, and instantly know where it was produced or where it was farmed? What if a farmer had an app that directly informed them about crop forecasting or crop variations? What if people and organizations who would never have had the opportunity before could individually and collectively mash up data in unique and exciting ways, leading to new opportunities to solve complex problems? The potential is endless as more tools are becoming available. Read more »

White House Champions of Change for the Future of American Agriculture

From the White House Champions of Change blog:

In the field of agriculture, we have a very important question to ask ourselves: who will the next generation of farmers and ranchers be?

For more than three decades, the share of farms operated by beginning farmers has been in decline.  Beginning farms and ranches accounted for 22 percent of the nation’s 2 million family farms and ranches in 2012down from about 35 percent in 1982. Consistent with this trend, the average age of principal farm operators in the United States has risen in that period, from 51 to 58.

Since day one, the Obama Administration has supported opportunities for people who want to work the land and produce food, fuel, and fiber for our country. The Administration continues to make these critical investments because of the great innovation and promise that agriculture holds. Read more »

Fieldprint Calculator Uses a USDA Tool to Help Farmers Track Water Quality Improvement

A stalk-puller attachment is drawn through this cotton test field near Weslaco, Texas, by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) field technician Victor Valladares. USDA photo by Jack Dykinga.

A stalk-puller attachment is drawn through this cotton test field near Weslaco, Texas, by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) field technician Victor Valladares. USDA photo by Jack Dykinga.

A nonprofit for sustainable agriculture recently launched a new metric in its calculator that relies on a popular tool from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Field to Market, the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, recently updated its Fieldprint Calculator that measures outcomes in the field to include a metric to measure water quality. This metric relies on NRCS’ Water Quality Index for Agricultural Runoff, or WQIag, which enables farmers to input variables about their field, such as slope, soil characteristics, nutrient and pest management, tillage practices and conservation practices to calculate impact on water quality. Read more »

Celebrate Extension’s Centennial by Sharing Your Extension Story!

If you are a 4-H’er, a farmer or backyard gardener who works with your local Extension agent, or a part of a Land Grant University – tell us how Extension has helped, improved or even changed your life using #Ext100Years!

If you are a 4-H’er, a farmer or backyard gardener who works with your local Extension agent, or a part of a Land Grant University – tell us how Extension has helped, improved or even changed your life using #Ext100Years!

One hundred years ago, Congress passed the Smith-Lever Act, expanding on the federal government’s partnership with the Land-Grant University System to create the Cooperative Extension System. This is 100 years of Extension making a positive impact in the lives of Americans.

Today, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) partners with more than 100 land-grant universities in pursuit of openness, accessibility and service through Cooperative Extension. NIFA’s support of Extension allows these universities to take their science and knowledge to the local level – to the farmers, ranchers, families and consumers who need it most. Read more »

USDA Export Development Program Helps Boost U.S. Blueberry Exports

U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council member Deborah Payne at the Gulfood 2014 trade show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) federation.

U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council member Deborah Payne at the Gulfood 2014 trade show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) federation.

Spring is here and brings with it many fresh healthy foods, including blueberries. Known for their antioxidants, vitamins and fiber, blueberries are a healthy option that is becoming more popular around the world and the U.S. blueberry industry is taking advantage of this demand with the help of the USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Market Access Program (MAP).

Through MAP, FAS partners with U.S. agricultural trade associations, cooperatives, state regional trade groups and small businesses to share the costs of overseas marketing and promotional activities that help build commercial export markets for U.S. agricultural products and commodities. Read more »

Local Combines with American Grown

Quickly assembling tortilla wraps for hungry students is a hard job. I learned this first hand recently at Stone Spring Elementary in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Mary Lou, Ott and Jean, the cafeteria staff responsible for preparing and serving school meals every day, took control of the kitchen, quickly assembling 300 turkey wraps while I clumsily tried to keep up.

But while I found the prep work to be challenging, I learned that products from USDA, such as the lean turkey in the wraps, make it easier for schools to buy local foods. USDA purchases over $1 billion of food from American farmers for school meal programs every year. Known as USDA Foods, these American grown products include fruits, vegetables, dairy, whole grains, lean meats and poultry. Read more »