With over 11,000 dairy farms, more than a million cows, and over 200 dairy plants, Wisconsin produces more than 25 percent of all cheese in the United States. Photo courtesy of Yelp Inc.
’Tis the season for good cheer, holiday festivities and cheese plates. There are seemingly endless varieties to enjoy – Gouda, Blue, Cheddar, Asiago, Feta, Muenster and many more. Hardworking American dairy farmers and cheese artisans make these delicious products. A strong dairy sector not only provides us with delicious food for the holiday table, it also has a great impact on rural America and local economies.
My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has a long history of working with the dairy industry, state governments and stakeholders to help farmers and producers. I’ve actually been able to see first-hand how AMS programs services benefit dairy operations. In August, I toured two Wisconsin dairy farms – Rosendale Dairy, a large farm with over 8,500 cows, and R&G Miller & Sons, an organic dairy farm with about 260 milking cows. Read more »
Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty
A strong rural economy benefits the whole nation. Sales of specialty crops – which include everything from fruits and vegetables to tree nuts, cut flowers and nursery crops – total nearly $65 billion per year. The success of specialty crop farmers and businesses creates opportunities for new jobs and is critical to the rural economy. That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is partnering with states to support the hardworking American farmers who grow these products.
This week Secretary Tom Vilsack announced millions of dollars in grant funding authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, including $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) awarded by AMS. The goal of the SCBG program is to promote and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers by supporting projects that create new business opportunities, boost productivity and improve food safety. Every state department of agriculture receives a block grant that it can use to fund projects that support its specific priorities. This year’s specialty crop block grants fund 838 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories.
USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.
Strong local food systems are one of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies. On Monday, he announced the award of over $52 million to support local and regional food systems and the organic industry through five USDA grant programs. Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.
As part of that announcement, my agency—the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program, as well as over $1 million in matching grants through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). For years, AMS has led USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems by awarding grants that give farmers and ranchers around the country tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food. Read more »
The new Farm Bill has created many new tools and resources for beginning farmers and ranchers – and questions about which programs are right for their operations.
That is why I took to Google+ this month to talk about how the new Farm Bill can help new and beginning farmers and ranchers.
For the hangout, I was joined by Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Deputy Under Secretary Karis Gutter, Agriculture Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo and Natural Resources Conservation Service Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin. Together, we shared with new and beginning farmers information about the programs and services offered by USDA through the new Farm Bill – including support for beginning farmers and ranchers by increasing funding for beginning farmer development, facilitating farmland transition to the next generation of farmers, and improving outreach and communication to military veterans about farming and ranching opportunities. Read more »
On Tuesday, September 9th, at 3 p.m. eastern, Deputy Secretary Harden will host a Google+ Hangout to share some highlights from the new Farm Bill and discuss what this means for new and beginning farmers and ranchers.
The Agricultural Act of 2014 is important legislation that provides authorization for services and programs that impact every American and millions of people around the world. The new Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer. The new Farm Bill will allow USDA to continue record accomplishments on behalf of the American people, while providing new opportunity and creating jobs across rural America. Read more »
At AMS, we are committed to ensuring that all research and promotion boards are as diverse as the members they serve. Photo courtesy of National Black Growers Council.
U.S. agriculture is increasingly diverse, with farmers, ranchers, processors, distributors, vendors, and more from various backgrounds. Just like their products, the operations and the men and women that run them are diverse – in gender, race, age, size, and production practices. At USDA, we are committed to supporting all of American agriculture with our programs and services.
My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is in a unique position to encourage and promote diversity, particularly when it comes to industry leadership. AMS oversees 22 industry-funded research and promotion programs that allow farmers and businesses to pool resources, set common goals, and make collective decisions about how to best develop new markets, strengthen current markets, and conduct important research and promotion activities covering a wide variety of topics from nutrition to sustainability. These programs, which create opportunities for farms and businesses across the country, are led by industry board members appointed by the Secretary. AMS has been working hard to ensure that research and promotion boards reflect the full diversity of American agriculture. We know that the programs are stronger when the boards represent the diversity of the industries they represent and the consumers they serve. Read more »