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.
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Wisconsin is the Dairy State, but can you guess what other agricultural crop they lead the nation in? Read below for the answer, and check back next Thursday for another Census of Agriculture Spotlight!
The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
Welcome to America’s Dairyland! It is simply impossible to talk about Wisconsin agriculture without immediately bringing up our dairy sector. After all, as the 2012 Census of Agriculture results showed, 16.5 percent of all farms in our state have milk cows.
Wisconsin has significantly more dairy farms at 11,543 than any other state. We are also one of only two states with more than one million milk cows. And, of course, who can forget about Wisconsin cheese? As NASS’ Dairy Products reports point out every year, Wisconsin farmers produce more cheese than any other state, producing more than 25 percent of all cheese in the United States. That’s nearly 3 billion pounds of cheese a year! Read more »
This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.
An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »
Dee Waldron, a Morgan County farmer, uses data from the NRCS Soil Climate Analysis Network, or SCAN, to make more informed farm management decisions.
Utah dairyman Dee Waldron watches the weather closely. He wants clear, up-to-date weather and climate information anytime and anywhere that help him make critical farming decisions, such as when to irrigate, plant and harvest.
Waldron operates a dairy and feed grain farm in Morgan County, just east of Salt Lake City. This area is considered a high mountain desert and is not very productive without annual mountain streamflows stored in irrigation reservoirs.
“Before, I used to take a shovel in the field, dig down, and guess by feeling how much moisture was available for my crops,” Waldron said. “Now I use my computer and iPhone to access the local weather forecast, the amount of soil moisture, the snow levels in the mountains, the amount of water in the river, and even the soil temperature. This really helps us as agricultural producers.” Read more »
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 »
China’s dairy industry has seen the benefits of U.S.-grown alfalfa hay thanks to the Cochran Fellowship Program. (Photo credit: USDA-NRCS)
China’s growing middle class and rising demand for high-quality food products have led to a boom in the country’s dairy sector. With the help of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and the Cochran Fellowship Program, U.S. alfalfa hay producers have been able to capitalize on this expanding dairy market.
More than 10 years ago, FAS recognized an opportunity in China’s dairy sector and used the Cochran Fellowship Program to educate south China dairy professionals about the U.S. dairy industry. Between 2005 and 2007, four delegations of dairy farm managers, veterinarians, college professors, industry association leaders, government officials, and dairy processors participated in dairy training programs. Once they returned to China, the fellows conducted feeding trials through FAS’ Quality Samples Program, learning how Chinese farmers could use U.S. alfalfa hay to help increase milk yield, improve cows’ health, and boost farmers’ revenue. Read more »