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Growth and Opportunity in the Organic Sector

Chris Roehm (left), an organic farmer from Square Peg Farms in Oregon, examining tomatoes with USDA resource conservationist Dean Moberg.

Chris Roehm (left), an organic farmer from Square Peg Farms in Oregon, examines tomatoes with USDA resource conservationist Dean Moberg. Since the USDA implemented the organic regulations, the U.S. organic sector has tripled in size to over 22,000 certified organic operations with over $43 billion in U.S. retail sales. Photo by Ron Nichols.

Since USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) implemented the organic regulations in 2002, the U.S. organic sector has tripled in size to over 22,000 certified organic operations with over $43 billion in U.S. retail sales.  Demand for organic products is expected to continue growing.  This strong consumer demand outruns supply, providing market opportunities within the organic sector.

USDA offers many resources for organic producers and businesses – including organic certification cost share assistance, organic price reporting, conservation programs, and so much more – to facilitate growth within the organic sector. We also provide assistance to producers transitioning to organic production, and work to facilitate international trade. Read more »

NIFA Programs Salute and Assist Veterans and their Families

U.S. Army Veteran Matt Smiley harvesting heirloom tomatoes at Jacobs Farm

U.S. Army Veteran Matt Smiley harvests heirloom tomatoes at Jacobs Farm in Pescadero, California. (Photo courtesy of Susanna Frohman)

Whether protecting our nation and its highest ideals with military service or ensuring a safe, abundant, and nutritious food supply as veterans, we are grateful for their willingness to serve.

For more than 35 years, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veteran Affairs have collaborated to support those who support America – the U.S. military Veterans and their families. These collaborations have helped thousands of military families gain access to the high quality educational programs in early childhood education, youth development, community capacity and related fields that land-grant university cooperative extension services provide. Read more »

From Camouflage to Crops – USDA Offers Veterans New Career Opportunities

From left, U.S. Army Veteran Jody Schnurrenberger, Hock-Newberry Farm operations owner;  U.S. Coast Guard Veteran Erica Govednik; and U.S. Army Veterans Christine and David Hale Jr. at Hock-Dewberry Farm

From left, U.S. Army Veteran Jody Schnurrenberger, Hock-Newberry Farm operations owner; U.S. Coast Guard Veteran Erica Govednik; and U.S. Army Veterans Christine and David Hale Jr. at Hock-Dewberry Farm, an organically-managed, multi-species, rotational-grazing farm on rented land in Marshall, Va. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

At USDA, we are thankful for the military men and women who are serving or have served this nation.  We are committed to providing them with opportunities for their next career to be in agriculture.

USDA employs more than 11,000 veterans and since 2009 have provided more than $505 million in direct farm loans to more than 7,400 veterans to start, maintain or grow their farming operations. USDA has service centers across the country where veterans can find out about farming and other USDA programs and services. Read more »

A Root Beer-Based Discovery that Saved Lives

Allene Jeanes

A one-time high school science teacher, ARS chemist Allene R. Jeanes was instrumental in developing a blood plasma extender that saved lives and a compound used to thicken household products ranging from steak sauces and cough syrups to skin lotions. (USDA-ARS Photo)

Science can do more than improve people’s lives; sometimes it can save them.

Consider the contributions of the late Allene Rosalind Jeanes, an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) chemist at what is now the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Illinois. Her efforts are particularly worth celebrating this Veteran’s Day.

Jeanes studied polymers (large molecules composed of many repeated subunits) found in corn, wheat and wood. She spent long hours investigating how bacteria could produce polymers in huge fermentation vats. Eventually, she found a way to mass produce dextran, a type of polymer, so that it could be used as a blood volume “expander” to sustain accident and trauma victims who have lost massive amounts of blood and need to get to a hospital for a transfusion. Read more »

Shaping Forests from the Bottom Up: It’s All About Root Disease

Root disease tree failure

Root disease tree failure resulted in the loss of this car.

The old proverb: “You can’t see the forest for the trees” should have continued with a line saying that it’s even harder to see below the trees. Because seeing under trees, their root system to be exact, is how scientists understand and appreciate the things that will determine what we all see in our future forests. A new publication just released by the US Forest Service seeks to help forest managers recognize important root diseases and provide the best management strategies.

Ordinarily, we depend on decay organisms to break down wood to recycle enormous amounts of above ground materials such as leaves, limbs, and tree trunks. Without these subterranean decomposers, we would find ourselves buried in forest debris. But what makes beneficial decay organisms go bad and attack the root systems of living trees?  In a word, disease. Read more »

Environmental Markets Help Improve Water Quality

Environmental Markets graphic

Environmental trading markets are springing up across the nation.

Environmental trading markets are springing up across the nation with goals of facilitating the buying and selling of ecosystem services and helping more private landowners get conservation on the ground.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy joined Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in December 2014 to announce the state’s first trade under its nutrient trading program for stormwater. Read more »