USDA is committed to working with our partners in the sheep industry to support them as they provide quality products to consumers and increase producer returns here at home. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung
Since they were brought over during the earliest explorations of North America, the sheep industry has played a vital role in the agricultural history of our nation. In the 1940s, there were over 55 million sheep in the U.S., but today those numbers hover around one-tenth of that total. There are about 80,000 sheep ranchers across the U.S., and, with support from the 2014 Farm Bill, they will have additional resources to help develop innovative approaches to address their long-term needs.
Consolidation of the U.S. sheep packing industry, higher feed and energy costs, loss of animals to predators and lower lamb consumption, along with competition from imported of lamb cuts, have taken their toll on U.S. sheep producers. In response to industry needs, USDA is committed to working with our stakeholders to ensure the long-term viability of the sheep industry. Read more »
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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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 »
Our new local and regional Market News reports are just one way USDA is ensuring that farmers and ranchers get access to the resources they need to thrive in the local market sector. Photo courtesy of Cascade Brook Farm.
It wasn’t too long ago that beef was far less traveled, and families often put a side of beef away in the freezer for the winter. Modern day conveniences make beef and the beef buying experience more suitable to a faster pace of life, but old traditions are hard to let go. Across the board, we’re seeing a return to buying local, and—although modern conveniences are still enjoyed—local beef is also more accessible.
USDA Market News, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, recently created a series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products, including beef. As a part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the reports provide farmers, other agricultural businesses and consumers with a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information for local and regional food outlets. Read more »
Organic certification cost share programs puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes. It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.
The cost of organic certification is becoming more affordable for many certified producers and handlers. Thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, cost share and assistance programs are available to organic producers and handlers through fiscal year 2018.
Cost share programs benefit certified producers and handlers across the organic supply chain, providing critical support to the organic community and rural America. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) administers these funds—which total almost $13 million this year—through grants to participating states. In 2012 alone, USDA issued nearly 10,000 reimbursements that totaled over $6.5 million. Read more »
The Baltimore Farmers Market helps meet America's demand for local and regional food. Farmers markets, farmers auctions, and direct to consumer reports are now being produced by USDA Market News. The reports are available for businesses of all size to help level the playing field in the $7 billion a year local and regional food market. USDA Photo Courtesy of Lance Cheung.
America’s hunger for locally and regionally grown food has become a $7 billion-per-year market. That means more consumers are savoring farm-fresh food, and more farmers—especially small and mid-size farmers—are profiting from new markets for their products. It also means that a trove of useful pricing and volume data about local and regional food markets is now available, ready to be collected and analyzed. Thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA is making that data available to farmers and businesses of all sizes for free and helping to level the playing field.
USDA Market News has created a new series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products. The reports—covering products from all commodity areas—are all available on the Local & Regional Food Marketing Information web page, which provides farmers, other agricultural businesses, and consumers with a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information for local and regional food outlets. Three report categories are now online: Read more »