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Posts tagged: AMS

Planting Seeds for New Careers for our Veterans

Veterans Farm founder Adam Burke taking AMS Veteran Program Manager Yowei Peralta on a tour of the organization’s blueberry farm

Veterans Farm founder Adam Burke (dark jeans and blue shirt) takes AMS Veteran Program Manager Yowei Peralta (khakis and white shirt) on a tour of the organization’s blueberry farm. Each plant bears a military Identification tag of a veteran that participated in the fellowship program. Photo Courtesy of Veterans Farm.

Tucked away in the countryside of Jacksonville, Fla., is a place that offers hope and opportunity for returning veterans. Veterans Farm, a 19-acre handicap-accessible farm that helps veterans learn how to make a living from farming and find healing in the land, opened its doors in 2009. Its founder, Adam Burke, an Iraq combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is utilizing his skills to create a unique environment where veterans can develop agriculture skills that can help them become effective farmers or ranchers.  USDA is partnering with Veterans Farm to conduct quarterly workshops to connect these veterans to key departmental resources that can plant the seeds for their new agricultural careers.

I recently attended one of these workshops to introduce our veterans to my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). In particular, I talked about opportunities to strengthen the local food sector via AMS’ Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (which includes the Local Food Promotion Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program) as well as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. I also talked about our recent partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to begin a series of grant-writing workshops to help potential grant applicants write successful grant applications. Read more »

USDA Agencies, Suppliers and Vendors Taking Steps to Improve USDA Foods Purchase Process

Fresh vegetable cups at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.

Just after the ACDA event concluded, we met in California with producers and processors about our fruit and vegetable purchases for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). These meetings are another example of the steps we take to learn from our stakeholders and improve USDA Foods products. USDA Photo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) commodity purchases play an important role in supporting American agriculture.  One commodity purchasing effort – the USDA Foods Program – purchases about 2 billion pounds of nutritious, domestically produced foods each year and supplies this food to families, schools, food banks, and communities nationwide, also serving as a key tool for combatting hunger.

Together, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Food and Nutrition Service and Farm Service Agency manage the USDA Foods Program. And together, we have launched the USDA Foods Business Management Improvement project, a broad effort to review and re-engineer USDA’s food procurement practices to improve the program for our customers and stakeholders. Read more »

Assisting the Organic Community through Cost Share Programs

Man showing vegetables

Organic certification cost share programs puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes. It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.

Consumers are increasingly looking for organic products when they visit the supermarket.  Last year, organic products reached a record number of sales, accounting for over $39 billion in U.S. retail sales.  To meet consumer demand, the industry needs more organic operations to produce everything from organic milk to organic granola bars. 

Thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA has two cost share programs that assist organic farms and businesses with about $11 million per year in certification assistance– making it possible for producers and handlers of all sizes to consider organic certification.  Cost share programs support certified operations across the organic supply chain by making certification more affordable. Read more »

Walk, Run, Ride to the First USDA Farmers Market at Night

USDA Farmers Market at Night poster

This Friday, the USDA Farmers Market will host its first night farmers market. Join us for live music, food trucks, and much more. We’ll provide everything you need for a perfect evening picnic on the National Mall. (Click to enlarge)

For 20 years, my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has managed the USDA Farmers Market.  It’s quite a milestone, and I’m thrilled to celebrate it this week by hosting the first night farmers market in Washington, DC!  There will be live music, food trucks, and an array of farmers, growers, and vendors offering cured meats, fruits and vegetables, cut flowers, cheese and dairy, and delicious baked goods—everything you need for a perfect evening picnic on the National Mall!

As part of our work to support local and regional food systems, AMS is always looking for innovative ways to help farmers markets succeed, including our own market in Washington, DC.  As we celebrate the USDA market’s 20th season, we are introducing night markets from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 15, June 19, July 17, Aug. 21, Sept. 18, and Oct. 16.  Each night market will have a different theme featuring live music and educational exhibits. Read more »

Industry & Government Benefit from Streamlined User-Fee Rulemaking

Inspector testing food quality

AMS quality assurance programs tell consumers and businesses that an impartial, unbiased third-party has assessed the quality and verified various aspects of their products. AMS inspectors provide a number of services spanning from visual inspection to taste testing.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides voluntary grading, inspection, laboratory analysis, audit verification and certification services for meat, poultry and egg establishments, fruit and vegetable handlers and processors, dairy processors, cotton producers and other parts of the agriculture sector to facilitate marketing and communicate quality attributes to consumers.

AMS quality assurance programs tell consumers and businesses that an impartial, unbiased third-party has assessed the quality and verified various aspects of their products.  Through the delivery of these programs AMS facilitates marketing of more than $150 billion worth of agricultural products that help to fuel America’s agricultural economy. Read more »

USDA Fosters Market Transparency in Grass Fed Lamb and Goat Industry

Sheep eating grass

USDA will release the National Monthly Grass Fed Lamb and Goat Meat report. This is the one of the first reports of its kind, filling a significant data gap for the industry and increasing transparency in the marketplace.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there are over five million head of sheep and lambs in the United States, and over 2.6 million head of goats. A growing trend is producing these animals using grass fed production systems, especially for small to mid-sized producers.  

In response to the changing and widening marketplace, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will begin releasing the National Monthly Grass Fed Lamb and Goat Meat report through their USDA Market News service today, Wednesday, May 13, 2015.  This is one of the first reports of its kind, filling a significant data gap for the industry and increasing transparency in the marketplace. Read more »