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Farming Going Strong in Kansas According to #AgCensus

Agriculture is blooming in the Sunflower State! Be sure to check back next week for more highlights from another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Agriculture is blooming in the Sunflower State! Be sure to check back next week for more highlights from another state and 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.

The Kansas state seal and state flag both feature a farmer, and looking at the results of the most recent Census of Agriculture, it is not hard to see why. In 2012, the year for which the Census was conducted, there were almost 62,000 farms covering more than 46 million acres of land in Kansas. That year Kansas producers sold close to $18.5 billion worth of agricultural products.

Crops have long been a symbol of Kansas farming. According to the Census, in 2012 Kansans produced almost 360 million bushels of winter wheat from more than 9 million harvested acres. More than 20 percent of all winter wheat in the U.S. that year came from Kansas – more than double both the acreage and production of Oklahoma which was the second-largest winter wheat producer in the nation. Read more »

U.S. Beef Jerky is Back in Japan!

In January, the United States and Japan concluded nearly two years of negotiations to re-open the Japanese market to U.S. processed beef products. These efforts ensured that, for the first time since 2003, all products from U.S. cattle less than 30 months of age would be eligible for export to Japan. Japan is the United States’ largest beef export market, valued at nearly $1.6 billion in 2014.

In February, the FAS Office of Agricultural Affairs in Tokyo was understandably excited to learn that Perky Jerky, a Colorado-based company, was interested in bringing its beef jerky to FOODEX 2015, the largest food tradeshow in Asia drawing almost 3,000 exhibitors from 79 countries. The value of exhibiting at FOODEX is considerable, as over 75,000 trade professionals from Japan, North Asia, Southeast Asia, and around the world would attend the show. The only problem was that FOODEX was scheduled to begin in less than two weeks, and the beef jerky hadn’t even been produced yet. Bringing a new-to-market product to Japan in less than two weeks would be a daunting task under normal conditions, but late February was anything but normal as Japanese customs and quarantine officials were busy clearing an enormous volume of products for the nearly 2,300 other international exhibitors from 79 countries participating at FOODEX. Read more »

A Tool Helps Farmers, Conservationists Measure Cover Crop Economics

The cover crop tool is an Excel spreadsheet developed for easy use. Click to enlarge.

The cover crop tool is an Excel spreadsheet developed for easy use. Click to enlarge.

What happens when you get two energized agriculture economists together? Possibly one of the best economic tools out there for farmers using or considering cover crops. The Cover Crop Economics Decision Support Tool, an Excel spreadsheet, was created by two economists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service – Bryon Kirwan in Illinois and Lauren Cartwright in Missouri. The tool has taken off with great success, and the second version was released last fall.

“Where this tool has landed is not what we initially envisioned,” said Kirwan. “We wanted to build a tool valuable for producers and planners locally, and we have received many positive comments. Then it took off.” Read more »

USDA Marketing Orders and Agreements Foster Industry Innovation

Vidalia Onions are only grown in Georgia. In the past 5 years, the Vidalia Onion Committee increased its focus on research. After seeing consumers demand the traditional Vidalia onion, the committee decided to ensure that the onion that they marketed was of the best eating quality. (Photo courtesy of the Vidalia Onion Committee)

Vidalia Onions are only grown in Georgia. In the past 5 years, the Vidalia Onion Committee increased its focus on research. After seeing consumers demand the traditional Vidalia onion, the committee decided to ensure that the onion that they marketed was of the best eating quality. (Photo courtesy of the Vidalia Onion Committee)

Success is often achieved when you have access to a number of tools and know how and when to use them. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is equipping produce businesses with the proper tools for success through our Marketing Order and Agreement Division (MOAD). As discussed before, this division administers fruit and vegetable marketing orders and agreements designed to support the industry’s financial and commercial success with the help of tools such as funding production and market research.

As self-help programs requested for and completely funded by the industry, marketing orders and agreements can address issues ranging from combating invasive species to identifying key product attributes based on consumer preferences. Our MOAD employees oversee industry boards and committees as they partner with local universities and organizations to overcome these types of challenges. Read more »

Longleaf Pine Savanna Helps Educate Farmers, Others on Value of Forest

Longleaf pine is resistant to pests and disease, withstands drought and provides habitat for a host of wildlife. NRCS photo by Renee Bodine.

Longleaf pine is resistant to pests and disease, withstands drought and provides habitat for a host of wildlife. NRCS photo by Renee Bodine.

The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, an hour west of Tallahassee, Florida, protects nearly 6,300 acres of restored sandhill habitat. Young longleaf pines stand in thick waves of golden wiregrass. Wild turkey, bobwhite quail, gopher tortoise and Florida pine snake once again populate what 25 years ago were rows of industrial timber and bare sand.

About 50 people recently toured the preserve to see for themselves the beauty and benefits of the longleaf pine, many of them landowners interested in restoring stands on their properties.  They learned how The Nature Conservancy hand planted millions of longleaf pine seedlings and wiregrass plugs.

Foresters from Florida Forest Service explained how regular prescribed burns promoted the growth of native groundcover and kept hardwood and invasive species in check. Biologists from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discussed how wildlife is managed in longleaf pine forests. Read more »

NIFA Research is Working to Make Every Day World Health Day

USDA is observing World Health Day today.

USDA is observing World Health Day today.

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.

April 7 is World Health Day and food safety is the primary focus—and with good reason.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that, in the United States alone, every year there are 48 million foodborne illnesses and 3,000 deaths from unsafe food.

Most of these illnesses are the result of bacteria, such as Salmonella, that finds its way into various types of food.  About half of all microbial foodborne illnesses are associated with animal foods, and about half from produce.  CDC reports that most illnesses come from leafy greens, which could be contaminated on the farm, during processing, at retail or in the home. Chemicals, such as mercury in fish or mycotoxins from molds are also a concern. Read more »