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Breaking Down Barriers to Address Food Insecurity

A woman checking food

USDA engages in extensive partner engagement and collaboration with both traditional and non-traditional partners, including tribal organizations.

No American should have to go hungry.  USDA’s 15 nutrition assistance programs make great strides in reaching those in need, but challenges and barriers persist to eradicating food insecurity in our nation.  That’s where leadership and partnerships come into play.

Earlier this month, FNS had the opportunity to participate in an interactive discussion on the obstacles faced on effectively communicating to specific populations at the 2016 Feeding America Annual Conference in Chicago.  The dialogue focused on reaching the most vulnerable Americans: those in Tribal communities, teens and our nation’s proud military veterans.  The hurdles to reach all three are unique, and strategies require nuance, understanding and a bold commitment to better connect individuals with nutrition assistance information. Read more »

A Conversation with USDA Leader Elanor Starmer

Elanor Starmer, Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service

Elanor Starmer, Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service, is proud that her agency creates opportunities and provides tools for American organic producers to sell their products at home and abroad.

Elanor Starmer is the Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which facilitates the strategic marketing of agricultural products in the U.S. and internationally. Prior to becoming AMS Administrator, Starmer was a Senior Advisor to Secretary Tom Vilsack and has been with the department since 2011. This interview focused on AMS’s National Organic Program.

“The USDA isn’t one or the other, it’s all of the above. We serve organic producers, non-organic producers and everyone else as well as we possibly can.” – Elanor Starmer Read more »

Crop Insurance Continues to Strengthen Rural Communities

The sweet potatoes harvest at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA

The sweet potatoes harvest at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA.

America’s farmers and ranchers work hard to provide food for the world, contributing to the nation’s economy, as well as to the strength of our rural communities. To support our nation’s hardworking producers, we’ve developed programs designed to help them stay at the forefront of global production, to adapt to market changes and protect their operations even after bad years.

Although many farm programs have come and gone, one program has continued to grow and become even more critical to the farm safety net. Federal crop insurance has become the preeminent risk management tool for our nation’s agricultural producers, and has adapted to meet the diverse needs now more than ever. In fact, even Congress recognized the importance of the federal crop insurance program in the 2014 Farm Bill. As other programs were eliminated or reduced, new requirements and expansions were mandated for the program as a cost-efficient and proven way to keep agriculture strong. Read more »

These “GAPs” in the Produce Industry Make for Safer Food Choices

Just-picked green zucchini squash waits to be loaded onto a processing trailer at Kirby Farms in Mechanicsville, VA

GAP certification can make it easier for commercial buyers to find farmers and producers that meet food-safety requirements and offer consumers greater access to fresh produce.

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.

Although farmers and food businesses have anywhere from several months to three years or more before they will need to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) new food safety rules, many producers are asking how they can bring their operation into compliance – and many buyers are beginning to ask how they’ll know if suppliers are following the rules.

USDA and the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) are working with industry and other government agencies to help ensure that stakeholders in the produce industry know the answers to these questions. Read more »

Tracking Songbird Progress in Pennsylvania’s Forests

A golden-winged warbler

The golden-winged warbler has suffered a 66 percent population decline since the 1960s.

“Hear that?” Dr. Jeff Larkin bent his ears to a nearby cluster of trees amid a sea of briars.

“There’s one in there,” Larkin said excitedly. We were on the trail of a golden-winged warbler, a black-bibbed songbird, which winters in South and Central America and spends its springs and summers here in Appalachia where it breeds, nests and raises its young. Read more »

Digital Plant Diagnosis: Turning a Mobile App into an Agricultural Game-Changer

High quality images of plants

High quality images of plants are the foundation of PlantVillage’s plant disease diagnosis algorithm. (iStock image)

Ireland lost about 20 percent of its population to starvation and emigration during the great famine of 1845-1849 because disease destroyed that nation’s major food source – potato.  Today, an Irish-born professor at Penn State University believes that a similar situation in other regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, could be a thousand times worse.

But there’s hope, he said, because modern food producers have a tool the 19th century Irish did not – smartphones and mobile apps, like PlantVillage. Read more »