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Protecting Agriculture, One Hive at a Time

When startled by a swarm of flying and buzzing insects, complete with stingers, the common response may be to grab an aerosol can of insecticide; but appreciating the vital importance of honey bees to agriculture and knowing something of various difficulties currently faced by bees, alternative actions are warranted.

Recently my staff noticed a huddled mass of what turned out to be bees in the lot by our office and shop.  We looked for a queen but left the swarm alone.  It later became apparent the bees had created a home under flashing at the building’s roof line, which seemed an inopportune location both for the bees and my staff.

We encouraged our landlord to consider relocation of the hive and were amazed to watch the process when Charlie Reffitt showed up one May morning.  In shorts and T-shirt, he climbed 20 feet up a ladder, with bees swirling around.  He inserted a funnel-like device into the hive under the flashing, caulking all other entrances.   He secured a cardboard box on the roof, populated with a queen and initial colony. Read more »

Independence Day Festival Helps U.S. Food Products Sparkle in India

Chef Sachin Subbaiah of India prepares a grilled chicken salad during a live cooking demonstration  at SPAR Hypermarket in Bangalore, India, as part of the U.S. Food and Beverage Independence Festival. The festival was the first multi-retailer U.S. food and beverage promotional campaign held throughout cities in India from June 29 to July 22.

Chef Sachin Subbaiah of India prepares a salad during a live cooking demonstration at SPAR Hypermarket in Bangalore, India, as part of the U.S. Food and Beverage Independence Festival. The festival was the first multi-retailer U.S. food and beverage promotional campaign held throughout cities in India from June 29 to July 22.

While many Americans enjoyed time with family and friends grilling and preparing their favorite foods this past Independence Day, Indian consumers were learning about some of those same U.S. foods during a month-long promotional campaign. Read more »

Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 8/14/12

U.S. Soybean Coinditions, August 12, 2012. Data obtailed from preliminary National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) weekly crop progress and condition tables.

U.S. Soybean Conditions, August 12, 2012. Data obtained from preliminary National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) weekly crop progress and condition tables.

Cooler weather and recent rain showers have largely stabilized crop conditions in the Midwest.  Rainfall has been heaviest in the eastern Corn Belt, including Michigan and Ohio, although nearly all of the Midwest has received some precipitation.  Still, U.S. corn and soybean conditions remain at levels unseen since the Drought of 1988, according to USDA/NASS.  During the week ending August 12, corn rated very poor to poor rose slightly to 51%, just two percentage points shy of the August 1988 peak.  Soybeans rated very poor to poor reached a record-high 39% last week, but improved one percentage point during the week ending August 12.

This year’s U.S. corn crop is developing so rapidly that August rainfall will provide only limited drought relief.  By August 12, nearly half (42%) of the corn had dented, while 10% was fully mature.  Five-year averages for those two categories are 16 and 3%, respectively.  In contrast, soybeans seem to be benefiting from the turn toward cooler, wetter weather.  In Ohio, for example, the portion of the soybean crop rated very poor to poor fell from 42 to 34% during the week ending August 12.

Typically, rangeland and pastures are slow to recover from a devastating drought.  Complete recovery often requires not only the change of seasons, but also many soaking rainfall events.  Currently, the amount of U.S. rangeland and pastures rated in very poor to poor condition remains steady at 59%.  Nearly all of the rangeland and pastures are rated very poor to poor in Missouri (98%), Illinois (94%), Nebraska (92%), and Kansas (90%).  At least half of the rangeland and pastures are rated very poor to poor in 22 of the 48 contiguous United States.

Weather Update and Outlook:  Currently, a cold front is traversing the eastern Corn Belt.  A second cold front will arrive in the upper Midwest on August 15 and reach the South and East by August 17.  Both fronts combined will produce as much as 1 to 2 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts, mainly across the South, East, and lower Midwest.  Somewhat lighter amounts of rain can be expected across the northern and central Plains and the upper Midwest.  In the wake of the second cold front, unusually cool air will blanket the Plains and the Midwest.  In fact, an extended period of near- to below-normal temperatures can be expected east of the Rockies starting later this week and extending at least into next week.

Grazing Lands Conference Relies on Cowboy Experts

On J.A. Ranch pastures, cattle are rotated to maintain a stubble height of six inches or greater in a three- to four-pasture rotation system.

On J.A. Ranch pastures, cattle are rotated to maintain a stubble height of six inches or greater in a three- to four-pasture rotation system.

James K. “Rooter” Brite, Jr. is a born-to-the-land Texas rancher and participant in USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation programs.

Brite was born and raised on the ranch his grandfather, J.A. Brite, purchased in 1929, near Bowie, Texas.  These days he runs more than 850 cows and yearlings on 3,400 acres of shallow, rocky soils, tall grass prairie and post oak cross timber in an area that receives less than 30 inches of rainfall annually. Read more »

Successful Community Development Brings Economic Opportunity, Fresh Food, to a South Dakota Tribe

Crow Creek Fresh Food Initiative employee Wyatt Fleury at the Farmer’s Market with Kevin Yellow Bird Steele.  With USDA support, a Farmers market is thriving in Ft. Thompson.

Crow Creek Fresh Food Initiative employee Wyatt Fleury at the Farmer’s Market with Kevin Yellow Bird Steele. With USDA support, a Farmers market is thriving in Ft. Thompson.

Hunkpati Investments, Inc., serving the Crow Creek Reservation in Fort Thompson, South Dakota offered the visiting South Dakota USDA Rural Development State Director, Elsie M. Meeks and others, a tour of their new facility and an opportunity to buy fresh local produce at their farmer’s market. Read more »

School Food Data Reflects Progress and Room for Growth in Local Buying

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) recently released its 2009-10 School Food Purchase Study, which provides national estimates of the quantity, value and unit price of food acquisitions by school districts participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs. This year, the Survey for the first time asked specifically if school districts were purchasing local food and included questions about the total value of purchases and the major items purchased.

School district responses provide an important baseline for tracking the national progress of local food purchases by school food service programs. The responses showed that about 2 out of every 10 school districts surveyed purchased local produce for school meals during the 2009-10 school year, based on responses from a nationally representative sample of 416 school district food service directors about practices for purchasing food for school meal programs. An additional 12 percent indicated that they are in the process of developing a program for buying locally grown produce. Read more »