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Posts tagged: AMS

Taking the Mystery Out of USDA Tools for Organic Agriculture

NRCS Resource Conservationist Joe Heller in residue-covered vegetable field in New York. Leaving the plant residue in place reduces soil erosion, increases soil organic matter and overall soil health.

NRCS Resource Conservationist Joe Heller in residue-covered vegetable field in New York. Leaving the plant residue in place reduces soil erosion, increases soil organic matter and overall soil health.

Getting people together to talk can result in great ideas. 

In June, USDA hosted 100 farmers, ranchers, retailers and producers in Chester, New York, in the Hudson Valley, to discuss opportunities and challenges in organic production, and to share information on USDA programs and services available to organic producers and processors.  

Wholesalers and retailers at the meeting all had a common challenge – keeping up with increasing market demands for organic food. Organic retail sales continue to grow at double-digit rates each year. In 2014, the market reached $39 billion in U.S. sales alone. That level of demand means a lot of opportunities for organic producers, as well as those in the process of transitioning to organic production. Read more »

‘Tis the Season to Talk Turkey

A turkey with vegetables

Thanksgiving is all about whole turkeys, which were produced and processed earlier in the year, outside of the HPAI outbreak. This means whole turkeys will be readily available and prices will largely be unchanged from last year. Photo courtesy Dan Tentler.

The Thanksgiving season is upon us, time for family homecomings, parades, and football games. More importantly, time for the annual turkey feast. As the marketing season hits full stride, the question on everyone’s lips this year is…will there be a shortage of turkeys? The simple answer is: no.

To fully answer the question though, we have to go back to late March when commercial turkey flocks in the Upper Midwestern production region were overtaken by rapid outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). HPAI, while harmless to humans, is devastating to turkeys and within a few short weeks over 7.5 million commercial turkeys succumbed to the disease.  While the total loss represented just over three percent of the total number of birds raised in the U.S. in 2014, the short time period during which losses occurred left the industry scrambling to cover their business needs. Read more »

Building Technology that Supports Organic Integrity

Representatives of the database development team

Representatives of the database development team (from left to right) are: Jennifer Tucker (USDA), Indu Shekhar (Harmonia), Aleksey Gasnikov (Harmonia), Dirk Otto (Intact), Manisha Amdiyala (Harmonia), Stacy Swartwood (USDA), Swathy Mudhagouni (Harmonia), Kristin Tensuan (USDA), and Thomas Lorber (Intact).

If you have accessed the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) list of certified organic operations recently, you may have noticed a new look to the site, and new ways to search for organic operations.  These changes reflect an early release of the Organic INTEGRITY Database, a system funded by the 2014 Farm Bill and built by the AMS National Organic Program and Information Technology Service with support from Intact and Harmonia Holdings Group.  

The changes you see on the site are only a small part of the database development project.  For example, underlying the new site is a brand new classification system (or taxonomy) for categorizing products that carry USDA organic certification. Previously, organic certifiers reporting farm and business information to USDA submitted a single text list of certified products for each operation.  Certifiers reported data differently and there was no method to catch spelling or spacing problems. For example, one listing included the item “grapechickenapples.” An interesting appetizer or, a big data quality problem! Read more »

Food Safety Marketing Helps Pave Path to Success at Produce Auction

Under Secretary Ed Avalos (right) with AMS Associate Administrator Rex Barnes (middle) visiting with producers

Under Secretary Ed Avalos (right) with AMS Associate Administrator Rex Barnes (middle) visit with producers during their visit to the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction.

Finding new ways to market the safety and quality of your food is the key to success in the agricultural industry. This is especially true for our small and mid-sized growers who are looking to expand to various outlets. These growers are now turning to produce auctions as a way to sell their food to a wider range of customers such as retail wholesale buyers and farmers markets outside their local communities. 

In a recent trip to the Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction in Dayton, Va., I saw approximately 400 growers use this auction to share their bountiful harvest. Taking place several times a year, the largest wholesale auction in Virginia is an excellent alternative market for small growers. Prospective buyers bid intensely to procure large lots of fruits, vegetables, flowers, bedding plants, trees and shrubs, fall decor (pumpkins, mums, gourds), and compost, to name a few. Read more »

USDA Embraces One Health Approach for Solving Problems Associated with Antimicrobial Resistance

One World. One Health. Animal. Human. Environment infographic

One World. One Health. Animal. Human. Environment infographic. USDA photo (Click to enlarge)

This week is World Antibiotic Awareness Week and USDA remains focused on prolonging the usefulness of a very precious resource—antibiotics.  These medicines successfully treat and prevent infectious diseases and must be used responsibly to remain effective to all who need them.  USDA also recognizes that antimicrobial resistance, or the ability of bacteria and other microbes to survive the effects of an antibiotic and then proliferate, is a serious threat to both animal health and human health.

Earlier this year, the World Health Assembly developed a global action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR).  The five objectives of the plan are: Increasing awareness, strengthening research and surveillance, reducing infections, optimizing antimicrobial use, and ensuring sustainable investments to contain AMR. Read more »

Bringing More Farmers Markets to Service Members

Guide for Farmers Markets on Military Installations

The cover of the new Guide for Farmers Markets on Military Installations, which is filled with effective strategies to bring farmers markets’ community spirit and local food to service members and their families stationed at installations across the country.

As we take time this week to honor America’s veterans, we are also thinking about how we can improve the health and welfare of military communities across the country.  That’s why we are so proud to release the first-ever Guide for Farmers Markets on Military Installations.  By assisting military installations in establishing farmers markets, the guide will help increase access to fresh, local food for soldiers on military installations.  On-base farmers markets also connect members of the military with their surrounding communities and offer family-friendly gathering places where children can learn where their food comes from.

In a truly collaborative effort, my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), created this detailed manual with the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Healthy Base Initiative (HBI), and in partnership with Wholesome Wave.  It explains how commanders can establish and successfully operate farmers markets on military installations. Read more »