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Posts tagged: business

Grant it, Food Hubs Mean More Local Food for You

Mix of bright vegetables

Spring is now upon us and many local farmers markets are opening with displays of brilliant and vibrant colors. Farmers across the country are making local foods available to their communities. USDA photo courtesy of Peter Wood, AMS.

Spring is upon us and many local farmers markets are opening with displays of brilliant and vibrant colors. The fresh air has more people talking about and buying local foods. In fact, data from the USDA Economic Research Service suggests that farmers across the country sold an estimated $6.1 billion in locally marketed foods in 2012. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a role in increasing these numbers by creating marketing opportunities for American farmers and local food businesses through the combination of applied research, technical services, and grant support.

As the demand for local food increases, food hubs are one way farmers can deliver more fresh food to retailers, schools, hospitals and restaurants. That’s why expanding local food efforts have focused on creating more food hubs. A food hub is an enterprise that helps farmers collect and gather local and regional agricultural products for distribution and marketing to wholesale, retail, and institutional customers. Read more »

Cover Crops: Agriculture’s Hero

Testing can provide the vital information needed when deciding what cover crop seed to purchase. Pictured here is AMS Botanist Elizabeth Tatum identifying a weed seed. (AMS photo)

Testing can provide the vital information needed when deciding what cover crop seed to purchase. Pictured here is AMS Botanist Elizabeth Tatum identifying a weed seed. (AMS photo)

Cover crops are the real heroes in the world of agriculture. Their job starts after a field is harvested and ends just before the next season’s crop is planted. Expectations for cover crops are high because if they don’t produce, the next crop may suffer.

After crops are harvested each year, planting fields are left bare. Runoff from rainwater, wind, and other forms of erosion devastate planting fields by stripping essential nutrients from the soil – nutrients needed for the next growing season. In addition to the loss of vital nutrients, the exposed fields are prime real estate for noxious-weed seeds intent on stealing what is left of the field’s nutrients. Replacing the lost nutrients and removing the weedy invaders costs millions of dollars each year for farmers. Read more »

Expanding Trade Opportunities by Translating Documents into Spanish

Meat at a grocery store in Fairfax, Virginia. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Meat at a grocery store in Fairfax, Virginia. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

When trading commodities on the market, it is critical that buyers and sellers across the supply chain speak the same trade language.  For meat products, large volume buyers – ranging from the federal government to schools, restaurants and hotels – reference the U.S. Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications (IMPS) when making their purchases.

For the first time, the IMPS and poultry and turkey trade descriptions, which are maintained by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), have been translated into Spanish.  These documents are part of a continued effort to expand the use of meat specifications used in the United States, Canada and Mexico for trade.  You can also find French translations of these documents through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Read more »

Livestock Mandatory Reporting – Bringing Transparency to the Marketplace

Livestock grazing.

The purpose of the program is to provide marketing information for cattle, swine, lamb, and livestock products that can be readily understood and utilized by producers. USDA Photo Courtesy of the National Organic Program.

The Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting (LMR) Program was established to expand pricing information available in the livestock industry. Part of USDA Market News data, the information is distributed by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and allows analysts to dive in head first and fulfill all of their number crunching ambitions.

The purpose of the program is to provide marketing information for cattle, swine, lamb, and livestock products that can be readily understood and utilized by producers. Livestock Mandatory Reporting encourages competition in the marketplace by vastly improving price and supply data, bringing transparency, breadth and depth to market reporting. The program gets its authority through the Livestock Mandatory Reporting Act of 1999, which must be reauthorized by Congress every five years. The program is up for reauthorization in September 2015. Read more »

Why Test Seeds?

AMS’s Seed Regulatory and Testing Division scientist conducts a test to detect the presence of harmful pathogens in grass seed. USDA photo.

AMS’s Seed Regulatory and Testing Division scientist conducts a test to detect the presence of harmful pathogens in grass seed. USDA photo.

Before the late 1800’s, there weren’t any standards or laws overseeing the seed trade.  This allowed individuals to take advantage of the unorganized seed market by selling low quality seed to buyers.  In some instances, what was sold wasn’t even seed at all.

Unfortunately, even the most seasoned seed buyers can’t always tell what they will get when purchasing seed.  Will the seed grow?  If it does grow, what will it grow into?  Will these seeds contain a disease that will hurt my other crops?  Will the packet contain other unwanted weeds that will reduce my yield, hurt my animals, or destroy my land?  The worst part is that the outcome of your purchase won’t be known for months after you buy and “try” to grow them.  In the late 1800’s, these questions asked by millions of people around the world led to the rapid development of laboratories tasked with using science to predict seed quality.  Read more »

Still Made in Rural America: Steel in California Gold Country

Del Oro High School in Loomis, CA, boasting a new Performing Arts Building and Gymnasium—as well as 400 tons of Metal Works steel. (Photo courtesy Metal Works)

Del Oro High School in Loomis, CA, boasting a new Performing Arts Building and Gymnasium—as well as 400 tons of Metal Works steel. (Photo courtesy Metal Works)

Small town Oroville, California sits on the banks of the Feather River at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was established to supply the thousands of prospectors headed to Bidwell Bar, one of the first gold rush mines in the state. Today, this community of 16,260 people produces much more than just gold dust.

At the edge of town, what started in 1989 as a backyard blacksmith shop by owners Michael Phulps and Sean Pierce has become a 82-employee steel manufacturing company called Metal Works, thanks to a little help from USDA Rural Development. Fourteen years ago, Metal Works received their first Business & Industry loan guarantee to purchase a 20,000 square foot fabrication shop and office building on a little over 18 acres. Since then, they’ve converted their original 9,400 square foot building to a retail steel shop, and added another 20,000 square foot fabrication shop, burn table, and a modern, high-precision drill and beam line. Now, they’ve leveraged a new Rural Development guaranteed loan to refinance, save tens of thousands of dollars annually, and hire 10 new employees as a direct result of those savings. Read more »