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Posts tagged: #AgInnovates

Conservation and Innovation Preserve Water Resources for Generations to Come

An infographic exploring water conservation efforts across American commodity production. AMS product. (Click to enlarge).

An infographic exploring water conservation efforts across American commodity production. AMS product. (Click to enlarge).

Farmers have always been particularly attuned to the forces of nature – it’s in the job description, after all. When the regularity of growing seasons collides with the irregularity of extreme conditions like droughts, floods, windstorms, the American farming community is motivated to innovate and conserve.

For years, farmers have been leveraging the collective power of research and promotion programs to invest in research that improves on-farm practices through both innovation and conservation. Their efforts, with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has resulted in significant water and soil conservation, safeguarding our land for future generations.

Critical among these practices is smart irrigation.  Almond growers in California have funded 71 irrigation projects over a 32-year period.  Through these projects, growers have learned that micro-drip irrigation not only uses much less water than older methods, but also generates more vigorous plant growth.  With the targeted distribution and uniformity, this increases crop production. Read more »

USDA’s Innovative Technology Streamlines Federal Food Purchasing Logistics

WBSCM enabled the ordering, procurement, and delivery of 8.5 billion pounds of domestically-produced foods by successfully awarding nearly $3 billion in contracts during the last fiscal year. USDA photo courtesy of Lance Cheung.

WBSCM enabled the ordering, procurement, and delivery of 8.5 billion pounds of domestically-produced foods by successfully awarding nearly $3 billion in contracts during the last fiscal year. USDA photo courtesy of Lance Cheung.

Logistics is not just a fancy buzz word; it is the oil that keeps the engine of an interconnected global market running smoothly. For U.S. food purchasing agencies, logistics means ordering, procuring, and delivering nearly 8.5 billion pounds of domestically-produced foods by successfully awarding nearly $3 billion in contracts during the last fiscal year. It means using the Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) – a tool developed by USDA that helped hundreds of companies deliver quality foods to recipients in the National School Lunch Program, other federal food assistance programs and even victims of disasters.

Before it could facilitate the ordering and delivery of all these foods, WBSCM had to integrate the business processes and needs of recipient agencies, external vendors/contractors and employees from five agencies with unique missions. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) are all USDA agencies, while the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an entirely different department. Creating a system that successfully tracks data covering the entire process – from gathering orders and soliciting bids to making sure that vendors are paid – was not an easy task. It requires a reliable, flexible system and an efficient staff to make it all come together. Read more »

Strategic Planning, Thoughtful Leadership Bring Leveraged Investments, Community Vitality to Small-Town West Virginia

After our terrific meeting with city officials in Ranson and Charles Town, I had the opportunity to visit with local FFA students at Hampshire High School in Romney, WV. Rural America truly is a place where cutting edge innovation meets old-fashioned fun on the farm!

After our terrific meeting with city officials in Ranson and Charles Town, I had the opportunity to visit with local FFA students at Hampshire High School in Romney, WV. Rural America truly is a place where cutting edge innovation meets old-fashioned fun on the farm!

I’d been told the neighboring towns of Ranson and Charles Town, West Virginia, are vibrant communities where people want to live, work and raise a family. During a recent visit with local leaders and USDA’s community economic development partners in the area, I saw first-hand how regional approaches and partnerships are attracting public and private investment to the region that make this quality of life possible.

Along with WV Rural Development State Director Bobby Lewis, I recently convened a discussion with the mayors and city planners of the two towns to learn more about their successes and strategies. I learned that Charles Town and Ranson are thinking big, re-imagining their future, and developing a blueprint for their long-term economic viability. You see, by working together to develop comprehensive objectives and plans, the communities have been able to leverage grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop new businesses, transportation links, and affordable housing. And in 2011, USDA contributed an important piece, providing funding through a Community Facilities Direct Loan for a much needed ambulance shelter. Read more »

Getting Geeky at the 3rd Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival

Sonny Ramaswamy, director of NIFA, has fun with Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

Sonny Ramaswamy, director of NIFA, has fun with Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

When you think of agriculture do you think of science and engineering? You should! Farmers are some of our original scientists, tinkering with plant varieties and farming techniques to find ways to reliably grow food. At USDA, we still do that kind of research in a never-ending effort to find better ways to produce food, fuel, and fiber. We also do a lot of research you might not think of when you think about agriculture: from forensic genetic analysis to track down unwanted pests to figuring out how to turn spent grain from distilleries into biodegradable kitty litter.

On April 26-27, the 3rd Annual USA Science and Engineering Festival took over the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. Over 325,000 people came out to celebrate discovery and innovation through over 3,000 hands-on activities and 150 performances and lectures.  USDA pulled all of the stops to show our geeky side and hopefully convince a few young booth visitors to consider agriculture when they think about careers in science. Read more »

Our Changing Climate – Third National Climate Assessment Released

Mississippi River flooding in 2011. The Third National Assessment of climate, released today found that climate disruptions to agricultural production have increased in the past forty years and are projected to increase over the next twenty five years. Photo Credit: Lance Cheung, USDA OC

Mississippi River flooding in 2011. The Third National Climate Assessment, released today found that climate disruptions to agricultural production have increased in the past forty years and are projected to increase over the next twenty five years. Photo Credit: Lance Cheung, USDA OC

The Third National Climate Assessment Release (NCA) report was released today.  The report was written by 240 authors who worked in author teams reflecting their expertise, who also selected additional contributing authors, including several scientists and experts from USDA.

The report is similar in many respects to previous climate assessments.  The authors conclude that climate change is already happening across the United States. The report documents ways climate change is altering agriculture and forestry systems across the country and evaluates how these systems are likely to be affected in the future.

The authors found that climate disruptions to agricultural production have increased in the past forty years and are projected to increase over the next twenty five years. By mid-century and beyond, these impacts will be increasingly negative on most crops and livestock. Read more »

USDA Grants Assist Small Farmers Who are Making a Big Impact in Agriculture

Small and medium-sized farmers could see help in growing their operation thanks to programs that will be developed at 10 universities that were funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture this week.

Small and medium-sized farmers could see help in growing their operation thanks to programs that will be developed at 10 universities that were funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture this week.

Farming and ranching is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Agriculture in the United States is a mixing bowl of diversity, and it’s most evident when comparing large- and small-scale farming operations. Having grown up on a small, family farm in Iowa, I saw first-hand not only how important our small farmers and ranchers are to the nation, but also the challenges they face daily.

There is much variation among small family farms and ranches. No one definition comes close to capturing the richness and diversity of these operations. For example, while many farmers and ranchers are loyal to their traditional production systems, others constantly seek new opportunities and experiment with alternative crops, production methods and innovative marketing approaches. As a result, the United States produces a striking range of food and fiber, from soybeans to sesame, from beef to buffalo. Read more »