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Posts tagged: Florida

Rabies and Vampire Bats

A vampire bat in Mexico

A vampire bat in Mexico. Photo by Luis Lecuna, USDA APHIS, International Services, Mexico.

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. For APHIS, changes in environmental conditions will increase the likelihood of shifts in the distribution and nature of current domestic diseases, invasive species and agricultural pests.  These changes will likely influence the dynamics of invasion and establishment of these diseases and pests, and therefore much of APHIS’ work. Understanding and adapting to these changes is therefore critical to meeting our mission.

Vampire bats rank high on the list of animals that scare us the most. Spooky Halloween tales of their blood-sucking, nocturnal, and secretive habits have likely led to their bad reputation. The fact that some also carry and spread the deadly rabies virus doesn’t help.

The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of Central and South American wildlife and livestock. They also sometimes bite and feed on the blood of people. Recently, vampire bats have been documented within 35 miles of the Texas border. This has caused concern and speculation about the potential movement of vampire bats to areas within the United States as a result of rising global temperatures. To gain a better understanding of the likelihood of such movement, USDA-APHIS geneticist Dr. Toni Piaggio with the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center partnered with U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Mark Hayes to analyze and map the potential distribution of vampire bats under various climate scenarios. Read more »

How USDA & Partners Eradicated Oriental Fruit Fly from Florida

Oriental fruit flies on papaya

Oriental fruit fly infestations can ruin more than 400 types of fruits and vegetables. Photo by Stephanie Gayle, USDA-ARS.

There’s a good reason why USDA and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) constantly monitor more than 56,000 fruit fly traps they have strategically placed across Florida. An outbreak of exotic fruit flies—one of the most destructive pests of fruit and vegetables—could threaten Florida’s powerhouse agricultural industry. By detecting these pests early and responding rapidly, USDA, FDACS, county officials, and growers can avoid large-scale agricultural losses and keep valuable export markets open.

In August 2015, some of those traps captured Oriental fruit flies (OFF) in Miami-Dade County.

The OFF attacks more than 430 different fruits, vegetables, and nuts, including avocado, mango, guava, papaya, and pitaya. All of these crops and more grow in the county, which is Florida’s top producer of tropical fruit, tropical vegetables, and ornamental nurseries. The county’s $1.6 billion agricultural industry supports 11,000 jobs. Read more »

Organic Sound and Sensible Initiative: Spanish Resources

People learning about organic production

The NCAT sound and sensible project focused on educating farmers and ranchers in the Gulf States region about organic production, as well as helping facilitate organic certification.

The Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP) works every day to ensure that products with the USDA organic seal meet consistent, uniform standards. In addition to its rigorous certification process and oversight to protect the integrity of the organic seal, the program also connects organic farmers and businesses with resources to help them understand and comply with the standards.

In recent years, increasing numbers of Spanish speaking farmers and businesses have entered the organic sector. For example, among all operations located outside of the United States that are certified under the USDA organic regulations, 42 percent are in Spanish speaking countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, within the United States, the number of Hispanic producers, many of whom speak Spanish as their primary language, increased 21 percent between 2007 and 2012. Read more »

Iniciativa Orgánica Sound and Sensible: Recursos en Español

People learning about organic production

The NCAT sound and sensible project focused on educating farmers and ranchers in the Gulf States region about organic production, as well as helping facilitate organic certification.

El Programa Nacional Orgánico (NOP, por sus siglas en inglés) del Servicio de Comercialización Agrícola (AMS, por sus siglas en inglés) trabaja todos los días para asegurar que los productos con el sello USDA Organic cumplan con estándares consistentes y uniformes. Además de su riguroso proceso de certificación y vigilancia para proteger la integridad del sello orgánico, el programa también se conecta a los agricultores y las empresas orgánicas con recursos para ayudarles a entender y cumplir con las normas.

En los últimos años, el número de agricultores y negocios de habla hispana en el sector orgánico ha crecido. Por ejemplo, entre todas las operaciones ubicadas fuera de los Estados Unidos que están certificadas bajo las normas orgánicas del USDA, un 42 por ciento están en países de habla hispana en América Latina y el Caribe. Mientras tanto, dentro de los Estados Unidos, el número de productores hispanos, muchos de los cuales hablan español como su idioma principal, aumentó un 21 por ciento entre el año 2007 y 2012. Read more »

A Peach of a School Meal Alternative

An overview of Florida’s Fresh Peach Promotion from March 1 through June 1, 2015

An overview of Florida’s Fresh Peach Promotion from March 1 through June 1, 2015.

An increasing number of our nation’s schools are using locally grown foods for school meals thanks to efforts of The USDA Farm to School Program. However, the availability of locally grown produce is often at the mercy of harsh weather conditions and other elements that lower production and cause shortages of popular food items.

Florida has experienced this challenge first-hand. A disease called citrus greening has already caused millions of dollars in damage to Florida’s orange crop.  USDA scientists have been actively engaged in research to eradicate the disease, but the fruit, a favorite of school children, is now less available than in the past. The Florida Farm to School team is working with Florida Classic Growers to provide a new fruit alternative for school menus while also assisting fruit growers hit by damage to their orange crop.

By Lindsey Grubbs, Florida Farm to School and WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program Director, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Farm to School Program took on a new project this year in conjunction with citrus growers focused on a new product in Florida: peaches! The Florida citrus industry has been experiencing difficulties recently with the spread of citrus greening. Citrus greening was discovered in Florida in 2005 and since taken a toll on the area’s orange groves. Read more »

Helping Small Farmers in the South Go Organic

A man leading a workshop

The NCAT sound and sensible project focused on educating farmers and ranchers in the Gulf States region about organic production, as well as helping facilitate organic certification.

Rock Woods, Gulf States Regional Director for the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), knows the importance of persistence. Rock wanted to help more farmers in the southeast learn about organic certification, but he also knew that farmers are busy. That’s why Rock and NCAT launched a sustained engagement and outreach effort to reach potential organic farmers, and his persistence paid off!

NCAT is one of 13 organizations that the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP) partnered with to create educational materials that support the sound and sensible initiative to make organic certification more affordable, accessible, and attainable. Read more »