At the first ever "Opportunities for Diversity" event, AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (at the podium) was joined by Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (first seat) and several members of the commodity Research and promotion boards. The event discussed the changing face of agriculture and the importance of including members from all schools of thought, backgrounds and culture.
The face of agriculture is changing. The changes are reflected in the Ag Census data released last week, in the rural communities we serve, and in the way the Department is looking toward the future. With a 12 percent increase in minority farm operators and a 21 percent increase in Hispanic farm operators since 2007, it’s clear that the agricultural landscape is changing. And it is vital that industry leadership evolves, too.
My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), oversees more than 20 Federal Research and Promotion (R&P) boards, whose members are appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. These boards serve a variety of commodity industries, focusing on nutrition, research, marketing and consumer outreach. By helping develop new markets and strengthening existing ones, they create opportunities for farms and businesses across the country. Read more »
Organic inspector Elizabeth Whitlow at an organic vineyard inspection. Every organic operation involved between the farm and market is inspected to verify compliance with the USDA organic regulations. Photo courtesy ccof.org.
This is the fifteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.
USDA certified organic products are produced and sold around the world, many originating from over 17,700 organic operations right here in the United States. The USDA organic label assures consumers that products have been produced through approved methods and that prohibited substances, like synthetic pesticides, have not been used. I am often asked how the USDA verifies organic claims, and whether organic operations are inspected.
In order to sell, label, or represent products as organic in the United States, operations must be certified. The National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, accredits private, foreign, and State entities called certifying agents to certify and inspect organic operations.
So how does this all work? First, the operation would apply for certification through a certifying agent. The certifier will ask for information including a history of substances applied to land during the previous three years, and an Organic System Plan describing the practices and substances to be used. The certifier reviews applications to verify that practices comply with USDA organic regulations, and then an inspector conducts an on-site inspection. Read more »
Work at USDA’s National Science Laboratories helps researchers and beekeepers better understand the effects of pesticide residue exposure on honey bees.
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.
In agriculture, buzzing can be music to our ears—especially if that buzz means pollinators are busy helping produce our fruits, nuts, vegetables and field crops. Unfortunately, the sound of my favorite pollinator, the honey bee, has grown fainter in recent years due to higher rates of over-winter colony loss. These losses were initially attributed to a condition described as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Many factors involved with CCD are not yet fully understood. Honey bee research is focused on gathering data from multiple angles to increase the understanding of overall honey bee health. Many USDA agencies and industry partners are conducting research to better understand the complexities of honey bee health and working to develop best practices to improve the honey bee population. Read more »
Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Security Network and Manager of D-Town Farms; U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow; NRCS State Conservationist Garry Lee; Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation & Development Council Board President Morse Brown and Ashley Akinson, Executive Director of Keep Growing Detroit (l-r) were together at Detroit’s Eastern Market to announce new funding for city high-tunnels. Photo by Brian Buehler, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Michigan
On a cold winter day last week, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Garry Lee, Michigan State Conservationist from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), visited Detroit’s Eastern Market. They were joined by Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Ashley Atkinson, Co-Director of Keep Growing Detroit and Morse Brown, Board President of the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development Council. Despite the freezing temperatures that will make growing food a challenge for another few months, Garry and the Senator were there to discuss new support for the Detroit-Wayne County Seasonal High Tunnel Education Initiative (SHEI) which will bring new high tunnels – greenhouse-like structures also known as hoop houses – to Detroit’s urban farmers.
Funded by USDA and managed by local organizations, SHEI will train Detroit’s urban growers to install, operate and manage seasonal high tunnels that will conserve natural resources, improve productivity and help them be profitable year round. Easy to build and use, high tunnels were first supported by USDA as a conservation practice in 2010. Since that time, USDA has funded nearly 10,000 across the country. Along with other benefits, high tunnels are providing farmers from Alaska to Baltimore with tools to extend their growing season and provide their communities with fresh, locally-grown produce later into the year. Read more »
AMS ensures that seed shipped in interstate commerce are labeled and advertised truthfully. This allows seed buyers to make informed choices and promotes fair competition within the industry.
Believe it or not, food doesn’t come from the refrigerator or even the kitchen. It doesn’t even come from the grocery store or the farmer. All food—whether meat, grain, vegetable or fruit—owes its existence to seeds. Seeds are the backbone of human existence, providing us with the fundamental necessities needed for life: food, clothing, medicine, and shelter.
To protect the quality of these important, yet often forgotten, natural resources and to promote a robust U.S. seed market (current value of over $7.3 billion), Congress enacted a program over a century ago that would later evolve into what is now known as the Federal Seed Act. The act, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in Gastonia, NC, is a law that protects American businesses, farmers, and the general public from misrepresentation when buying seed. Read more »
Bread for the City CEO George Jones (far left) shows the organization’s rooftop garden to AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (right with black coat and grey shirt), AMS Associate Administrator Rex Barnes (far right), Food Nutrition and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon (middle), and FNS Associate Administrator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Jessica Shahin (middle left).
Sometimes one action can have a ripple effect—an impact that spreads outward, touching much more than just the immediate surroundings. We see it all the time in the process of agriculture. Weather changes crop yields, then ripples through the supply chain, impacting everything from the local economy to the national average of transportation costs. Sometimes the ripple effect is set off by something as simple as buying apples.
My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), buys food for nutrition programs like the National School Lunch Program and food assistance programs like food banks. The obvious impacts, or ripple effects, of these purchases are benefits to our nation’s children and putting food on the tables of those who are struggling to make ends meet. But the ripple effect of these purchases doesn’t stop there. Read more »