This graphic shows past records and predictions based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Provided the by U.S. Forest Service.
Weather…. We all care about it. In many communities, local TV and radio weather forecasters are celebrities, and for good reason. While we can’t do much about the weather, it affects us all every day.
During last week’s Agricultural Outlook Forum two sessions drew exceptionally large crowds. One was the Friday afternoon “Weather and Agriculture” segment and another was the morning “Markets and Weather” presentation. While no one can say for sure what the weather outlook will be for the 2014 summer growing season, Brad Rippey, agricultural meteorologist with USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE), Eric Luebehusen, OCE ag. meteorologist and Anthony Artusa, meteorologist with the Climate Protection Section of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made some observations and predictions in the afternoon session. The snowpack in the West’s Sierra Nevada is far below normal. The Western winter wet season has been a bust, with winter precipitation less than 10 percent of average in some areas. California, the Great Basin and southern Great Plains are in drought. The meteorologists said California, the lower gulf coast and much of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas could see above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation in March, April and May. According to Rippey, “We need a miracle March in 2014 to avoid major problems in California.” The most current information is available through NOAA’s Seasonal Drought Outlook map and the USDA drought monitor. Read more »
A Dust Bowl era poster urged farmers to plant windbreaks.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
The language on the 1930s poster for the Prairie States Forestry Project was downright plaintive: “Trees Prevent Soil Erosion/Save Moisture/Protect Crops/Contribute to Human Comfort and Happiness.”
The mission of the project, initiated by President Franklin Roosevelt, was to encourage landowners to plant tree windbreaks on cropland ravaged by dust storms and drought. As a result, more than 210 million trees from North Dakota to Texas were planted in 18,500 miles of windbreaks, some of which still remain. Read more »
This week, USDA released preliminary data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture that provides a snapshot of a rural America that remains stable in the face of difficult economic times. While the data do not paint a perfect picture, they do tell a story of the unlimited potential and growing opportunity in modern rural America.
Census data indicate that the loss of farmland has slowed significantly since 2007, which means that while a total of 72 million acres of farmland have been lost since the 1982 census, we have begun to stem the tide. New tools in the 2014 Farm Bill should help to further slow and perhaps even reverse this trend in some areas of the country.
The results reinforce what we have known for many years: the farm population is aging. While that is a concern, the data also show that the number of young farmers increased slightly and the number of minority farm and ranch principal operators increased dramatically, reflecting the changing face of America as a whole. We are hopeful that USDA policies that attract and retain the next generation of talent into rural America will help to continue this trend. Read more »
This week, our weekly photo series moves on to critical programs that support farmers, producers, and communities nationwide in times of need.
This blog is Part III of a four-part series highlighting some of the ways USDA has worked with federal and local partners to adapt to challenges facing rural communities across the nation. You can see Part I and Part II.
Don’t forget, you can share your innovation stories, too, using the hashtag #AgInnovates! Read more »
Hydrologists prepare to measure snowpack. (NRCS photo)
Limited water supplies are predicted in many areas west of the Continental Divide, according to this year’s second forecast by the National Water and Climate Center of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Right now, snow measuring stations in California, Nevada and Oregon that currently don’t have any snow, and a full recovery isn’t likely, the center’s staff said.
USDA is partnering with states, including those in the West, to help mitigate the severe effects of drought on agriculture. Read more »
Last Friday, Secretary Vilsack joined President Obama in California to announce new resources to help farmers and ranchers cope with devastating losses due to one of the state’s worst droughts in over 100 years. This much-needed relief will provide up to $100 million in livestock disaster assistance and an additional $10 million for water conservation, and it would not be possible without the 2014 Agricultural Act.
Times like these underscore the importance of the Farm Bill to America’s farmers, providing them with the resources they need to keep American agriculture productive and profitable and giving them confidence to grow and invest even when disaster strikes. Read more »