USDA Deputy Undersecretary Ann Mills (ninth from left) visits with Leopold Conservation Award winners at USDA last week. USDA photo.
“Water conservation begins where the first drop of rain falls…most likely on private working lands.” This is a favorite saying of Tom Vandivier, a Texas cattle rancher and 2008 recipient of the Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award (LCA).
Tom was one of more than two dozen recipients of the LCA – which recognized landowners for achievement in environmental improvement on agricultural land – in Washington, D.C. last week. I was fortunate to meet with them here at USDA headquarters to talk about the importance of conservation and the need to spread the message that investing in conservation practices on our farm and ranch lands not only protects water, air and wildlife – it also makes economic sense. Read more »
This is an image of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station in H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest near Portland, OR. USDA photo.
The lands of the Pacific Northwest produce a bounty of grains, dairy, beef, fish, vegetables, and wild game that feed the people of the region and the rest of the country. Many of those who work directly with the land have been doing so for generations. Two of my own great uncles helped to bring irrigation to the Rogue River Valley near the turn of the 20th century, and my cousins have been farming there ever since.
Over time, farmers, ranchers, fishers, and private forest owners have accumulated knowledge and wisdom from family, local communities, and agricultural universities. These individuals have supported a technically progressive agricultural industry that supplies most of the nation’s potato crop and a good share of its wheat and milk. Agricultural producers are used to working with many sources of information about weather, water, climate, soils and fertility, pests, and disease and then making important decisions and investments about what they will do on the land. Their decisions about investments of time, money, and materials have daily, seasonal, annual, and multi-year implications. Selections of fruit, nut, grape, or forest tree varieties and capital investments in machinery, irrigation, and processing are made with today’s best information in anticipation of several decades or more. Doing this right requires both technical savvy and the wisdom to integrate many different kinds of information. Read more »
Beginning in 2014, crop insurance will be available as a pilot insurance program for cucumbers in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina and Texas.
As consumer demand for fresh fruit and vegetables increases, so do the production risks for the nation’s farmers as they grow these crops. To meet this challenge, the Risk Management Agency (RMA) pays close attention to the changing agriculture sector to ensure that crop insurance is made available where feasible.
A tremendous amount of work goes into offering a new insurance product, making sure that the product provides the coverage needed by growers at a reasonable premium without distorting the market or affecting a grower’s management decisions for the crop. New insurance products must have written policy, underwriting and loss procedures, as well as an actuarially-sound premium rate. The ability to innovate with new and expanded insurance offerings to reflect modern and changing farming practices is central to how the Federal Crop Insurance Program works. Read more »
Dairyman Bob Giacomini (center) discusses his dairy operations and the critical need for more rainfall to Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills and other participants.
On a recent trip to California, I had the pleasure meeting several farm families who are impacted by the state’s worsening drought. Both stops gave me a first-hand view of the challenges these farmers face. We discussed how USDA can further help them with available resources. While the discussion centered on concerns over water supply, I was heartened to see that the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) recommended conservation practices have helped them better prepare for the state’s historic water shortage.
During the first stop, I visited with a distinguished dairyman and conservationist in Marin County, Bob Giacomini, and his four daughters, who operate the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Driving over the hill towards Bob’s milking complex, I could see the pastures had little, if any, grass. In talking to Bob, he said that typically the grass would be at least two feet tall by now. He has real concerns about having enough forage for his cows. I also spoke with Paul Bianchi, who had joined us. Paul owns a dairy operation in neighboring Sonoma County and, like Bob, is very concerned about his ability to feed his cows. Both discussed the real possibility that they may have to sell some of their herd. Read more »
Innovation is at the heart of the American agriculture success story. As a matter of course, today’s farmers and ranchers must constantly prepare and adapt to get ahead of tomorrow’s challenges.
At USDA, we have a long history of fostering research and innovation that help agricultural production thrive. I am pleased that the 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law today by President Obama, includes new support for agricultural research and, through a new research foundation, recommits to innovation for years to come. Read more »
Today, Secretary Vilsack joined the President in Michigan to sign the 2014 Farm Bill, an accomplishment that would not have been possible without your engagement. Last year we began the #MyFarmBill campaign in an effort to share with all Americans the need for a comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill to keep up momentum in American agriculture. Today that bill was signed and we are able to move forward to do work that grows the rural economy and creates jobs.
The new Farm Bill will allow the proud men and women who feed millions around the world to invest confidently in the future. While no legislation is perfect, this bill is a strong investment in American agriculture and supports the continued global leadership of our farmers and ranchers. Take a look at how your voices were included in the 2014 Farm Bill: Read more »