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Posts tagged: agriculture

Secretary Vilsack Visits Puerto Rico to Talk Climate Change and Caribbean Agriculture

Plantains growing in Gurabo, Puerto Rico

Plantains growing in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Photo by Duamed Colón.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the Caribbean Climate Hub in Puerto Rico earlier this month to lead a roundtable discussions with local agricultural officials, farmers and ranchers, USDA agency leaders, economic investors, and scientists, and to view first-hand the Hub’s pioneering work in climate change research, education and outreach.

“Adaptation to climate change is a matter of National Security.  We need to have a functional food economy to counter food insecurity,” said Secretary Vilsack during the Climate Hub Roundtable held at the El Yunque National Forest.  Local USDA agency leaders expressed concern about the increasing incidence of pests and diseases affecting agriculture and forestry in the Caribbean, mostly related to climate change, and the need for more education and support for water and soil conservation measures. Read more »

Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub Extension and Outreach Team Develop Regional Efforts

USDA NPRCH Extension and Outreach team

USDA NPRCH Extension and Outreach team at the June 2015 retreat. Photo from Pam Freeman, USDA, Rangeland Research Resource Unit

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 USDA Northern Plains Regional Climate Hub (NPRCH) partnered with the 1914 Cooperative Extension programs in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North and South Dakota, and Nebraska to develop and deliver science-based, region specific information and technologies to agricultural and natural resource managers to enable them to make climate-informed decisions.  The team has met monthly since June 2015, and through their efforts and partnership with the NPRCH they reached out to Extension colleagues to develop relevant projects that meet stakeholder needs in the region.

Since becoming partners, the NPRCH Extension and Outreach participants have developed the following three efforts, which they will work on during the coming year. Read more »

Spring Climate Trends Changing in the Northeast

Freezing rain covering a flower

Freezing rain covers flowers, plants and trees in Falls Church, VA, like when unseasonably warm March is followed by last frost. USDA photo by Lance Cheung

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.

You might have noticed spring-like weather in the Northeast is arriving earlier than usual.  There is reliable evidence from many studies that conditions in the Northeast and upper Midwest have become warmer and wetter in recent decades, especially before the coming of winter and spring.  The spring-like warmth has snow melting faster and plant growth starting sooner.  On average, the last spring frost in the Northeast is about a week earlier now than it was 30 years ago.  The change is not as positive as one might expect since the start of growth for many plants has shifted even earlier than the last frost date leading to increased chances of frost damage.  This happens most often when unusually warm temperatures in March are followed within 2-5 weeks by a frost event.  In 2012, record high March temperatures were followed by record low temperatures (for the date) at the end of April with terrible consequences for fruit growers across Michigan, Ontario, New York, Vermont, and surrounding states.  In some places losses were almost total.  In something of a repeat, unusual warmth in the Northeast this past winter was interrupted by very cold outbreaks in mid-February and early April.  This combination was particularly bad for peaches in New Jersey, Connecticut, parts of New York, and other northeastern states where greater than 90% losses have been reported. Read more »

USDA’s Agricultural Ties Run Deep

Mary Louise Reynnells (right) and Shellie Wallace-Polin in their FFA jackets, 1977.

Mary Louise Reynnells (right) and Shellie Wallace-Polin in their FFA jackets, 1977.

Earlier this year, in preparation for the 2015 opening of a new business history exhibition, American Enterprise, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History put out a call for current and past members of the National FFA Organization to submit their FFA jackets accompanied with their own personal agricultural history. The jackets and stories, to be featured in the agricultural portion of the exhibition, will examine the significance that agricultural education continues to play to our national identity.

At a ceremony last week, five jackets and their stories were selected; among them, a jacket from President Jimmy Carter and a jacket from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service employee Mary “Louise” Reynnells. USDA employees work every day to ensure that American farmers have access to the opportunities they need, and many of their ties to agriculture extend well beyond their time at USDA. Here is Mary “Louise” Reynnells’s story, and with it, her contribution to our agricultural heritage. Read more »

Agricultural Coexistence: Fostering Collaboration and Communication

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a notice in the Federal Register asking the public to comment on how agricultural coexistence in the United States can be strengthened.  Comments are due by January 3, 2014.

U.S. farmers in the 21st Century engage in many forms of agriculture, including conventional, organic, identity-preserved, and genetically engineered (GE) crop production.  USDA is unequivocal in its supports for all these forms of agriculture.  We need all of them to meet our country’s collective needs for food security, energy production, carbon offsets and the economic sustainability of rural communities.  Our goal is to promote the coexistence of all these approaches through cooperation and science-based stewardship practices. Read more »

The Essentials of Food and Agriculture – in Charts and Maps

This is one of more than 75 charts and maps in Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials from USDA’s Economic Research Service, compiling a set of key statistics on the ag and food sectors and the rural economy. Each chart in the collection includes accompanying text.

This is one of more than 75 charts and maps in Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials from USDA’s Economic Research Service, compiling a set of key statistics on the ag and food sectors and the rural economy. Each chart in the collection includes accompanying text.

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.

With the abundance of news and information on the food and agriculture sector, sometimes it is helpful to take a step back and look at the big picture. You might be a seasoned expert on food, agriculture, or the rural economy, or you may have just a general knowledge. In any case, there are a number of key indicators that will bring you up to speed on a range of basic questions.

How much, for example, do agriculture and related industries contribute to the U.S. economy? Which commodities are our main agricultural exports? What share of their household incomes do Americans spend on food? How do job earnings in rural areas compare with metro areas? How much of our Nation’s water does agriculture consume? Read more »