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Statistical Information Critical to Efficient Markets

Lance Honig, NASS' Crops Branch Chief, presenting monthly Crop Production report overview

Lance Honig, NASS' Crops Branch Chief, presenting monthly Crop Production report overview.

Starting next week, the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) will reach out to tens of thousands of farmers across the United States. Our interviewers will go door to door and make phone calls to collect the most accurate information possible about farmland in each state. In addition, we’ll ask farmers to report their acres planted by crop, and total grains & oilseeds stored on their farms. We will then spend several weeks processing and analyzing the responses we receive so that we can publish some of the most anticipated reports by the end of the month. Let’s just say we keep things busy in June!

Personally, I’ve gone through all aspects of NASS surveys. Growing up on our family farm in Kansas, I saw my father fill out surveys he received from USDA’s statistical agency. Later I joined NASS myself and got a chance to work with and survey farmers in Kansas, Indiana, and North Dakota. Over time, my career brought me to NASS’ Washington, D.C. office where I lead teams of statisticians who analyze survey data and other information to publish official U.S. crop estimates. Read more »

In A Changing Climate What Investments Make Sense?

Drought damage on the Fresno Harlen Ranch

Drought damage on the Fresno Harlen Ranch in Fresno, CA. USDA photo by Cynthia Mendoza

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

At a recent meeting in Kennewick, WA, panelists representing agricultural industries in the Pacific Northwest addressed the need for climate change adaptation and mitigation.  A wheat farmer representative said that farmers are flexible and can change how and when they plant as changes in weather occur.  An irrigation association representative indicated that after several years of long dry seasons and low snowpack, members were interested in re-thinking how water rights are administered.  The grape growers were worried about the changing climate and thinking about new strategies—mostly planting more heat-tolerant varieties.  The shellfish representative seemed astounded that anyone would question climate change.  He indicated that shellfish growers were already sending their “crops” to Hawaii where the water is less acidic, and were planning new strategies for raising shellfish.  The lesson here is what affects people directly gets their attention. Read more »

Rural Means Business: Bringing Tech Jobs to rural America

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack

A group of coders in hooded sweatshirts and big headphones stare intently at their computer screens.

In the corner, staff take a break at the foosball table, while a young woman in an oversized beanbag chair types away on her laptop.

You might be picturing the headquarters of a Silicon Valley startup, but the scene described above is over 2,000 miles away from San Francisco—in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Read more »

Schools across America Honored for Their “One in a Melon” Farm to School Programs

A girl working in the garden

Farm to school programs help kids form healthy habits, learn where their food comes from, and develop an understanding of the importance of nutrition and agriculture.

Back in March, we invited you to vote for the school district with your favorite farm to school program – one with exemplary initiatives, inspiring results; one that you think is ‘one in a melon’!

Well, the results were tabulated and one district in each state has just received the “One in a Melon” award.  These districts received the most votes from parents, teachers, community stakeholders, students, and others who recognized the incredible work they’re doing through their farm to school programs. We were so inspired by the nominations we received that we wanted to share a few quotes of them with you, but for a full list of award winners, visit https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov/find-your-school-district. Read more »

Forest Service Rookie an International Inspiration

Angelica Perez-Delgado with an international drilling crew

Angelica Perez-Delgado (far right) with an international drilling crew, worked on disaster relief in the nation of Georgia as one of her first assignments with the Forest Service. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

Six months after being hired by the U.S. Forest Service, Angelica Perez-Delgado made a major impact, including international assistance to the country of Georgia, on her way to being named Rookie of the Year for the Pacific Southwest Region late in 2015.

When a major storm event triggered a landslide in the Black Sea facing nation of Georgia in early this past year, destroying roadways, the country turned to the U.S. Forest Service for assistance. Almost immediately, Perez-Delgado started assisting the Forest Service project team for Georgia with support in mapping and computerized drawings. Read more »

Helping Agriculture Producers Adapt To Climate Change from the Ground Down

Redlands Field Day

Redlands Field Day, February 18, 2015 at Redlands Community College (RCC) in El Reno, Oklahoma. Photo by Ed Zweiacher, Royse Ranch Manager, VESTA State Coordinator, Redlands Community College

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

The Southern Great Plains has historically posed a challenge to farming and ranching.  Extended drought, late season freezes and excessive rainfall are facts of life in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas.  With continued climate change, the likelihood is growing that extreme weather conditions will have even more of an effect on the country’s ability to produce food and fiber as we move into the future.  It’s paramount the nation’s farmers and ranchers are given tools to develop strategies to help weather the storms and maintain the productivity and profitability necessary to stay on the land.

The USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub (Hub), along with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Redlands Community College, the region’s Agricultural Universities and other partners have been working to develop best management practices designed to help ag producers adapt to intense weather events through improving soil health.  This includes the establishment of demonstration farms that implement soil health practices such as no-till, cover cropping and better pasture management.  As a result of conducting field days and soil health seminars associated with these demonstration efforts, the Hub and its partners are providing real world examples of how implementing these soil health practices can help agriculture “harden” itself to extreme drought, volatile temperature swings and heavy rain events. Read more »