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A Moment in Time Look at Organic Retail Prices

Organic "dinosaur" kale grown at Ground Stew Farms in San Martin, Monterey County, CA

AMS plays an integral role by providing organic data, standards, and other resources to small producers and consumers across the country.

Consumers can find certified organic products at most grocery stores and demand for organic products continues to increase, with U.S. retail sales valued at more than $43 billion in 2015.  Organic products are grown, raised and produced by over 31,000 certified operations, and many of those operations receive higher prices, or premiums, for their products.

Recently, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) issued a report entitled Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010.  The report highlights the retail price premium charged for organic foods compared to conventional products.  For the report, ERS used a virtual shopping basket of 17 products and data collected from Nielsen scanners to calculate the organic prices and how they changed from 2004-2010. Read more »

Following Water in the Rocky Mountains

Tom Brown hiking Chasm Lake

Tom Brown hiking Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo credit: Tom Brown

In cycling the Continental Divide in Colorado, you get a vivid picture of where much of our water comes from. During my long bike rides up there, I commonly find snow still melting in June. This snowmelt adds to streamflow that becomes our renewable water supply and my drinking water supply.

The part of rain and snowfall that does not naturally go back into the atmosphere becomes our water supply and it varies greatly across the United States. In the wettest regions, such as New England, precipitation is plentiful and about half of it ends up in streams or replenishes ground water supplies. Read more »

Cleaner Air through Cleaner Burning

Cindy Collins in Oregon's Hood River Valley

Cindy Collins (pictured) and about 20 other growers in Oregon’s Hood River Valley use an environmentally-friendly ‘burn box’ to eliminate pruned and diseased wood from their orchards.

“The burn box lets us burn during the summer months, when normally there’s a ban. It’s a useful tool. It burns really clean.” — Cindy Collins

See more photos from the Hood River Air Quality Project on Flickr.

When Cindy Collins wakes up in Oregon and looks out at her 46-acre orchard—with Mt. Adams towering in the background—she feels like she’s at summer camp. Read more »

Reflecting on the American Dream

Rural Development Virginia State Director Basil Gooden (left) and RHS Administrator Tony Hernandez (right) with Alias and Ansam Khader

Rural Development Virginia State Director Basil Gooden (left) and RHS Administrator Tony Hernandez (right) present Alias and Ansam Khader (and their adorable daughter) the symbolic key to their new home.

Last month, I had the privilege of witnessing the American dream come to life for a Rockingham, Virginia family who has just purchased and built their first home with the help of a USDA Rural Development (RD) direct low-interest loan. It was an honor to help Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez, Virginia Rural Development employees and local officials welcome Alias and Ansam Khader and their three children to their newly constructed home, which we did via a key presentation ceremony on the family’s new front porch.

Prior to the ceremony, I had the opportunity to spend time with the Khaders as they graciously took me and others on a tour of the house. They shared with us stories of their journey to this special day and visions of their bright future. I quickly learned that the Khaders were a remarkable family, having overcome extraordinary circumstances. Read more »

Cacao for Peace: How the Fruit of a Tree Could Help Sustain Peace and Revive Rural Communities in Colombia

Cacao Hunters

By partnering with Cacao Hunters, a specialty chocolate producer, Colombia’s indigenous Arhauco farmers have been able to sell their cacao at a premium price. USDA’s Cacao for Peace initiative will help replicate this success on a larger scale by creating new opportunities for Colombia’s 35,000 small-scale cacao farmers.

I’ve learned a lot about cacao lately. I learned that it’s pronounced ka-COW. I learned that it’s grown on trees in tropical climates and is the essential ingredient in chocolate, cocoa powder and cocoa butter. I learned that it’s not to be confused with coca, which is an illicit crop and the primary ingredient in cocaine.

I also learned that Colombia, despite having near-perfect growing conditions for the cacao tree, produces a small fraction of the world’s supply. So how might cacao help solidify peace in Colombia after a 52-year armed conflict and, at the same time, enhance the U.S.-Colombia relationship? I discovered how when I visited last month and learned more about USDA’s Cacao for Peace project. Read more »

Three Ways USDA Helps Consumers Keep Foods Safe

A plate of hamburgers beside vegetables on skewers, ketchup, mustard and a pepper shaker

It’s important for consumers to be concerned about food safety. From shopping to storing leftovers, USDA provides easily accessible information to help keep food safe every step of the way.

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.

July is the height of summer grilling season, and throughout the month USDA is highlighting changes made to the U.S. food safety system over the course of this Administration. For an interactive look at USDA’s work to ensure your food is safe, visit the USDA Results project on Medium.com and read Chapter Seven: Safer Food and Greater Consumer Confidence

Have you ever wondered how to safely grill your burgers? How about determining the latest food safety recalls?  USDA provides a number of resources to ensure that you have access to the most up to date information on food safety.

Keeping the food on America’s tables safe to eat is a serious challenge and USDA is serious about helping families avoid dangerous bacteria and other contaminants that can lead to foodborne illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans are likely to become ill from foodborne illness each year, but most of these illnesses are thought to be preventable. That’s why USDA provides a number of tools consumers can use in order to prevent or reduce the risk of foodborne illness that would spoil the meal. Read more »