USDA’s revised guide, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs can help schools find, buy and serve more regional offerings.
Fruits and vegetables are at the top of USDA’s back to school list, and just in time for the new school year, the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables is making it easier for schools in eight states to purchase them. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes the pilot in not more than eight states participating in the National School Lunch Program, and provides them with an opportunity to better access nutritious foods. The pilot also helps create and expand market opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers, opening the door for a variety of vendors, small growers, food hubs and distributors to supply unprocessed fruits and vegetables to participating schools.
So far, five states (California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York and Oregon) have spent over $600,000 through the pilot from February through June 2015. Several California districts contracted a produce distributor to connect local and regional producers with schools to receive peaches, cauliflower, apricots, and kale from their state. Students in Oregon are chomping on pears from the Pacific Northwest, while many Connecticut and New York schools are feasting on Macintosh apples from Massachusetts orchards and Empire apples from New York. Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin were also selected for the pilot and will begin receiving deliveries of fruits and vegetables in the coming months. Read more »
In 2015, U.S. farmland value averaged $3,020 per acre, a 2.4 increase from previous year’s values.
If you are interested in the farm economy, August is a great time of the year. Here at NASS, we start the month by putting out an analysis of farm production expenditures. In other words, how much does it cost to produce our foods, fuels, and fabrics. On the next day, we publish a report on the value of farmland in the United States and how much it costs farmers and ranchers to rent an acre of cropland or pastureland. This year, each one of the reports told a unique story.
While the nearly $400 billion that U.S. farmers spend to produce food and fabric in 2014 is already staggering, it is even more interesting to see what is happening in the livestock sector. While feed has been the leading expense for farmers for a while now, the rest of the livestock expenses stayed on par with the other farm-related costs. For example, in 2010, U.S. farmers spent $24.4 billion on livestock, poultry, and related expenses, which was less than total rent costs and comparable to the $21 billion spent on fertilizer. Read more »
The population of the greater sage-grouse has grown by nearly two-thirds since 2013, according to a new survey. USDA NRCS photo.
The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) designated greater sage-grouse in 2010 as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Later this year, the FWS will determine whether to list the species or remove it from consideration based on the conservation actions implemented to remove threats across the range. However, a recent survey points towards an optimistic outlook for sage grouse.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has been working for the past five years through the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) to proactively conserve sage grouse and sustain the working rangelands that support western ranching economies. During this time, this innovative partnership led by NRCS has joined forces with 1,100 ranchers who have conserved 6,000 square miles of habitat, an area of working lands twice the size of Yellowstone National Park. Partnership investment of more than $424 million has been highly targeted to areas of high bird abundance to maximize benefits to populations. Read more »
United States Forest Service LWCF projects and many other Government LWCF projects can be viewed in the new interactive map.
There is a Federal program that you may not have heard of, but it is responsible for conserving millions of acres of recreational and conservation lands for Americans to enjoy, and it helps fund local parks, provide access to rivers and trails, and preserve wildlife habitat in every state in the Union. This program is the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and each year, the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture request funding from Congress to support grants to states and high priority federal recreational and conservation investments. Locating and learning about these special places is now easier than ever through a new interactive map. The map enables everyone to explore the 173 public projects proposed for investment in 43 states, including important waterfowl nesting habitat in the Prairie Potholes, battlefields and historic sites from Pennsylvania to Washington, scenic vistas in iconic locations like Maine’s Acadia National Park, and recreation sites in national monuments in California and Arizona.
Land and Water Conservation funds secure access for the American public to their Federal lands. For 50 years, the law has been one of the most successful programs for recreation and conservation in our history. LWCF has provided funding to local communities that supported the construction of more than 40,000 city parks, hiking and biking trails, and boat ramps, and access to thousands of acres of fishing and hunting and important wildlife habitat. Read more »
Sheldon Rockey, co-owner of White Rock Specialties of Mosca, Colorado.
What do you get when you combine an abandoned rural high school, two Colorado farm families and potatoes? White Rock Specialties.
The innovative potato packing facility in Mosca, Colorado, is an economic driver for valley potato growers and employment in this small, unincorporated community in the San Luis Valley.
For generations, the Rockey and New families have been farming in the valley. Each family business had their own potato packing facilities, however, time and an increase in demand for their products proved the old equipment too inefficient. Discussions started between the families and it was decided a couple years ago to merge their packing businesses and White Rock Specialties was formed. Read more »
Jerry Lami (second from right), Executive Director of West Coast Farmers Market Association in California, at a Farmers Market/SNAP sign-up event in May 2015. Also pictured (left to right) are Brenda Mutuma, Andy Riesenberg, and Karone Jackson, all from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.
Farmers markets create the ultimate win-win-win scenario. They provide consumers access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, and other foods, while also giving farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers. Just ask executive director Jerry Lami who manages the West Coast Farmers Market Association.
Mr. Lami knows firsthand the positive developments that farmers markets can spark. “They create a fantastic relationship between communities and farmers,” he shares. “Neighbors meet neighbors. It’s a social gathering and an opportunity for customers to meet growers; then new relationships begins.” The end result, he adds, is that the farmer becomes a trusted food provider. Read more »