Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Investing in a Healthy Rural America

Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Vernita Dore at Richland Mall near Avita Health System sign

Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Vernita Dore reveals the largest Community Facilities loan ever obligated in the history of Ohio Rural Development - $91.4 million – to community members attending a groundbreaking ceremony at Richland Mall. Dore was on hand to inaugurate new construction in Avita Health System's ongoing effort to convert the former Lazarus Department Store into a full-service hospital. (USDA photo)

Imagine for a moment what it must be like to get injured in an accident, or have a heart attack or stroke, and have the nearest medical facility be an hour’s ambulance ride away – and that’s after the ambulance from thirty miles away gets to you.

That’s an unfortunate reality faced by many rural Americans, where the miles between critical care centers can reach into the triple digits. USDA Rural Development is working to change that reality. Read more »

New Handbook Highlights Resources for Conservation on Organic Farms

National Organic Farming Handbook cover

A new Handbook supports NRCS conservation planners and other agricultural professionals as they work with organic producers.

Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow. The Organic Trade Association that represents more than 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states reports that demand for organic products exceeded $39 billion in 2014. To meet that demand, more farmers and ranchers are pursuing organic certification and seeking assistance through USDA programs.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making sure that its people in the field are prepared to work with organic producers and those who want to get into organics. The agency has just released to staff its new Organic Farming Handbook describing things they need to know when working with organic producers. Read more »

Partnerships Help Accelerate Forest Restoration, Increasing Benefits, Decreasing Threats

A waterfall in a forest

Diminishing snowpack will cause reductions in summer stream flows in the Pacific Northwest. (U.S. Forest Service)

We cannot care for public forests and grasslands alone—the land benefits the most when communities join us and provide input to help shape forest plans. The U.S. Forest Service takes pride in being part of the communities we serve, whether by managing the land to be resilient to disturbance or as members of the public participating as citizens in the towns where we live and work.

Spurred by Secretary Tom Vilsack’s vision that emphasizes collaboration with stakeholders and restoration of the Nation’s forests, the Forest Service published the report Increasing the Pace of Restoration and Job Creation on Our National Forests in 2012. Since then, the agency has worked feverishly to build shared landscape ownership, anchored in understanding and appreciating of the diverse perspectives our community members bring to the table. Read more »

Genomics and Precision Agriculture: The Future of Farming

A variable-rate center-pivot irrigation system in a field in Bushland, Texas

A variable-rate center-pivot irrigation system in a field in Bushland, Texas, equipped with infrared thermometers that collect temperature data and a neutron gauge to measure soil water content. High-resolution data such as these are used by scientists to optimize crop performance in specific environmental conditions.

For nearly 400 years, Thanksgiving has been a time in North America when families come together to celebrate food and agriculture. As we reflect on yet another year, agricultural scientists at USDA continue to keep a wary eye on the future. At the end of what may be the hottest year on record, a period of drought has threatened the heart of one of the most important agricultural production zones in the United States. Water demands are increasing, and disease and pest pressures are continually evolving. This challenges our farmers’ ability to raise livestock and crops.  How are science and technology going to address the problems facing our food supply? 

To find answers, agricultural scientists turn to data—big data.  Genomics, the field of science responsible for cataloging billions of DNA base pairs that encode thousands of genes in an organism, is fundamentally changing our understanding of plants and animals.  USDA has already helped to fund and collect genomes for 25 crop plant species, important livestock and fish species, and numerous bacteria, fungi, and insect species related to agricultural production. Other USDA-supported research projects expanding these efforts are currently underway, including genome sequencing of 1,000 breeds of bulls and 5,000 insect species in the i5K initiative. But classifying and understanding DNA is only part of the story. Read more »

Food Safety Marketing Helps Pave Path to Success at Produce Auction

Under Secretary Ed Avalos (right) with AMS Associate Administrator Rex Barnes (middle) visiting with producers

Under Secretary Ed Avalos (right) with AMS Associate Administrator Rex Barnes (middle) visit with producers during their visit to the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction.

Finding new ways to market the safety and quality of your food is the key to success in the agricultural industry. This is especially true for our small and mid-sized growers who are looking to expand to various outlets. These growers are now turning to produce auctions as a way to sell their food to a wider range of customers such as retail wholesale buyers and farmers markets outside their local communities. 

In a recent trip to the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction in Dayton, Va., I saw approximately 400 growers use this auction to share their bountiful harvest. Taking place several times a year, the largest wholesale auction in Virginia is an excellent alternative market for small growers. Prospective buyers bid intensely to procure large lots of fruits, vegetables, flowers, bedding plants, trees and shrubs, fall decor (pumpkins, mums, gourds), and compost, to name a few. Read more »

New Farmers’ Legacy for the Land

Cameron Green standing among the tomatoes in the high tunnel

Cameron Green stands among the tomatoes in the high tunnel she operates with Eric Wittenbach.

Some people leave a legacy for their children. Cameron Green and Eric Wittenbach plan to leave theirs to Mother Nature. 

A philosophy of sustainability guides them on their eight-and-a-half-acre farm in Okanogan, Washington. Green and Wittenbach both come from a background of working the land; picking fruit in commercial cherry orchards, pruning and thinning threes, and growing vegetables in the Methow Valley for a local CSA. This has given them a close connection to nature, and when they bought their land eight years ago, their intentions were to make it as sustainable as possible. Read more »