Growing up on a farm in Camilla, Ga., I developed a passion for agriculture early. Being a farmer’s daughter helped me understand the challenges farmers and ranchers face over time and the need for common-sense policies and programs to create and expand opportunities for the farmers of the future. Now, as the Deputy Secretary of the USDA, my highest priority is to ensure that beginning farmers and ranchers – women, young people, immigrants, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees – have access to the programs and support they need to succeed.
Today, we’re announcing a new resource: USDA.gov/newfarmers. This new website is a one-stop shop to connect new farmers and ranchers with USDA resources, programs and support. On www.usda.gov/newfarmers, new farmers can find information about accessing land and capital, managing risk, finding education, outreach and technical assistance, growing businesses and markets, and investing in the land and environment. Read more »
Driscoll’s berries being sold in a store (Photograph courtesy of Driscoll’s. Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.)
Two years ago this month, the United States and the European Union (EU) implemented an organic equivalence arrangement, meaning products that are certified as organic in the U.S. can also be sold as organic in the EU, and vice versa. This arrangement broke down many of the barriers that organic producers, especially small and medium-sized farmers, were facing in exporting their goods to one of their largest markets. It has also proved to be a good example of how we can recognize each others’ systems and work together across borders to arrive at beneficial agreements.
The U.S. and EU have some of the strongest regulatory protections in the world, and the organic equivalence arrangement recognizes these standards and uses them for everyone’s benefit. Before the agreement, growers and companies wanting to trade products on both sides of the Atlantic had to obtain separate certifications to two different standards, which meant a double set of fees, inspections, and paperwork. Now, if a product is certified organic by one party, it can bear both the USDA organic seal and the EU organic logo, without going through that second certification process. This is possible because the EU and the U.S. have recognized that though our regulatory systems are different, they both produce high quality organic food and agricultural products under rigorous programs. Secretary Vilsack, while addressing the EU agricultural ministers earlier this week, had the same message of cooperation in regards to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Read more »
Last Wednesday, I participated in a regional forum of the White House Working Families Summit that was held at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. Coming from a small town in Southwest Georgia myself, I can relate to the unique challenges that rural Americans face. Growing up, my father worked seven days a week on our peanut and cattle farm with help from my mother. To make sure our family had a constant source of income and health insurance, my mother also worked off the farm at the local independent bank. I am fortunate to be the product of hard working parents who provided my sister and me with the best opportunities possible.
All families have a right to have access to a good education system, affordable healthcare and jobs. Our rural families are concerned about creating strong prospects for their children, whether it is on or off the farm. But it is also essential that there are opportunities that will attract young people back to rural areas and help us secure the future of agriculture. Read more »
Farming has always been a backbone of West Virginia. Check back next Thursday for another spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
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.
West Virginia’s climate and topography earned our state the Mountain State nickname. Our rugged mountains also ensure our agricultural community remains extremely diverse. Since West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, farms have been the backbone of the state. According to the first agricultural census, conducted in West Virginia in 1870, there were 39,778 farms with 8,528,394 acres in production, with an average farm size of 214 acres. In the 2012 Census of Agriculture there were 21,480 farms in West Virginia with 3,606,674 acres in production, with an average farm size of 209 acres.
Unlike in many other states, West Virginia’s small farms (those farms selling less than $250,000 in agricultural products) account for nearly 29 percent of total farm sales in 2012, contrasting the US average of 11.1 percent. An even more telling statistic is that nearly half of sales of agricultural products were from farms selling less than $1,000,000, compared to the U.S. average of 33.6 percent. West Virginia has one of the highest ratios of small farms to total number of farms based on the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Read more »
A monarch butterfly, a honey bee and an alfalfa leafcutter bee gather nectar from a showy milkweed. Photo by John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms.
Every year, millions of tourists fly from central Mexico into the United States, first stopping in the deep American South and then continuing northward even into parts of southern Canada. How all of this is done without passports, customs agents or airplanes?
This is the annual journey made by monarch butterflies, one of the best-known and most beloved butterflies in North America.
The fact that the annual migration of these distinctive black and orange butterflies spans three countries and thousands of miles makes it an important and prolific pollinator over this large area. Read more »
Loveless uses smoke to calm the bees when he opens the boxes for inspection. Smoking the bees allows the beekeeper to work in the hive while the colony's defensive response is interrupted.
This post is part of a disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Wednesday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
Larry Loveless of Gillespie, Ill., works full-time at a factory by day, but spends his evenings and free time beekeeping.
The harsh winter of 2013 brought devastating losses to many livestock producers, including beekeepers. Loveless lost more than half of his colonies due to several days of sub-zero temperatures. He started with 20 colonies and was down to only seven by the end of the winter.
“I’ve lost a few colonies here and there, but I’ve never experienced this horrific of a loss,” said Loveless, whose hives were already at a disadvantage because of last year’s drought. Read more »