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How the Farm Business Has Changed

Two tractors plant in field. Research shows that two major farm inputs – land and labor – decreased over time, while output rose. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Two tractors plant in field. Research shows that two major farm inputs – land and labor – decreased over time, while output rose. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

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.

Over a relatively short time period, innovations in farms’ production practices, risk management, and business arrangements have allowed U.S. farmers to greatly increase their output without raising total input use.  These changes accompanied a shift in production to larger farms.  Drawing on a variety of data sources, the Economic Research Service recently examined the changes in farming during a 25-year period that ended with the most recent census of agriculture. Read more »

Native American Youths Improve Sage-Grouse Habitat

An important meadow is fenced to protect critical habitat for sage-grouse.

An important meadow is fenced to protect critical habitat for sage-grouse.

In the middle of Nevada, miles from anywhere, eight Native American young adults spent their summer working to improve sagebrush habitat for the greater sage-grouse. Habitat for this ground-dwelling bird, native to much of the American West, has been dwindling in recent years, due to fencing, wildfires and invasive species. Read more »

USDA’s Unwavering Commitment to Food Safety

Ensuring that Americans have access to safe, nutritious food is USDA’s top priority. Yesterday afternoon, USDA introduced plans to modernize and accelerate service delivery in all areas of the Department by introducing our Blueprint for Stronger Service. The plan will help USDA and rural America preserve and strengthen the significant investments we have all made to American agriculture over the past three years. It takes a realistic view of the needs of American agriculture in a challenging budget climate, and lays out USDA’s plans to strengthen service in all areas, particularly in ensuring the safety of America’s food supply.

The work of USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, or FSIS, is critical to the safety of our food supply. As the public health regulatory agency within USDA, FSIS has nearly 10,000 employees scattered throughout the country, working in slaughterhouses, processing facilities, laboratories, or conducting surveillance. Each job is critical to public health. Through their inspection, testing or surveillance duties, FSIS staff make sure America’s meat, poultry and processed egg products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled. Read more »

A Blueprint for Stronger Service

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presents USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service, a plan to Increase Efficiency in USDA Operations, on Monday, January 9, 2012 in Honolulu, Hawaii. USDA Photo by Rebecca Moat.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presents USDA's Blueprint for Stronger Service, a plan to Increase Efficiency in USDA Operations, on Monday, January 9, 2012 in Honolulu, Hawaii. USDA Photo by Rebecca Moat.

Today at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 93rd Annual Meeting, I thanked about 10,000 farmers for helping to make U.S. agriculture a bright spot in our nation’s economy.

In the past few decades, U.S. agriculture has become the second most productive sector of the American economy, thanks to farmers adopting technology, reducing debt, and effectively managing risk. In 2011, America’s farmers, ranchers and producers achieved record farm income, record exports, and have helped to contribute to an unemployment figure in rural America that has fallen faster than in other parts of the country. Over the last three years, as USDA has made significant investments in rural America, we have also looked closely at the way we do business so that we are sustaining and enhancing the farm economy for generations to come. That is why today I introduced USDA’s Blueprint for Stronger Service—a plan that will help to preserve this success in the long term.

Read more »

Earth Team Volunteers Cleaning Mississippi Lake

A special Earth Team volunteer group was recently formed to benefit Ross Barnett Reservoir, in central Mississippi. Keep the Rez Beautiful was created by an NRCS employee in late 2010 to promote conservation and water quality in the reservoir.

Earth Team is the volunteer workforce for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Earth Team volunteers help get conservation on the ground on private lands across the nation, and the Ross Barnett Reservoir group will help further NRCS’ work in this critical waterway. Read more »

In Oregon, Beaver Dams are Being Used to Restore Habitat

Beaver dams like this one help to create wetlands. FWS photo.

Beaver dams like this one help to create wetlands. FWS photo.

The Forest Service is known for developing partnerships to get the greatest good out of scarce fiscal resources. On the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest one of the partners is four-legged. Read more »