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Posts tagged: #MyFarmBill

Join us for a Google+ Hangout: The Growing Biobased Market — Influencers, Insight, and Impacts

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (right) tours Domtar Inc. in Plymouth, NC on Friday, Aug. 15, 2013. Domtar produces lignin, a biobased material with the potential to create advanced new products and energy. Domtar is working with a number of partners, including the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, on development of lignin applications that includes fuel additives, solid fuels, high performance adhesives and more.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (right) tours Domtar Inc. in Plymouth, NC on Friday, Aug. 15, 2013. Domtar produces lignin, a biobased material with the potential to create advanced new products and energy. Domtar is working with a number of partners, including the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory, on development of lignin applications that includes fuel additives, solid fuels, high performance adhesives and more.

Did you know USDA is the federal leader in helping to advance the U.S. bioeconomy through the use of renewable agricultural (plant), marine and forestry raw materials? By using agricultural feed stocks to make everyday finished products like biolubricants, bioplastics, construction materials and cleaners these products, we add value to the agricultural industry and up and down supply chains.  That is, jobs are not created just on the farm or near the farm gate, but throughout the manufacturing process on sales of these biobased products.

Please join me Thursday, December 12, 2 p.m. eastern, as I host a #MyFarmBill Google+ Hangout about the BioPreferred program. We’ll hear from some of the industry standouts working with USDA to create new markets for biobased products.  The Hangout will also include YOUR questions and comments. Read more »

I was Local When Local Wasn’t Cool

Under Secretary Avalos with fresh apples from the USDA Farmers Market.  Share your favorite local ingredients by mentioning @AMS_USDA and using the #LocalisCool hashtag.

Under Secretary Avalos with fresh apples from the USDA Farmers Market. Share your favorite local ingredients by mentioning @AMS_USDA and using the #LocalisCool hashtag.

No one would ever accuse me of being a trend-setter—especially my kids.  But I’m proud to say that I’ve been part of the local food movement my whole life. I grew up on a family farm in New Mexico.  For us, local food wasn’t really a trend or a movement.  It was how we made our living.  By growing, raising and selling our food throughout the year, we connected to other farmers, ranchers and our neighbors.

More American families are making a conscious decision to eat healthier and buy local foods.  Many farmers and producers are combining their hard work with innovative practices like hoop houses and new marketing opportunities like food hubs.  These are two examples of modern approaches that are helping extend growing and selling seasons and bringing farmers and suppliers together to meet the increasing demand for local foods. Read more »

Local Food Leaders Take a Break to Hang Out

What do Tristan Reader of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), Amy Bacigalupo of the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota, Haile Johnston of Common Market in Philadelphia and Michael Todd’s environmental studies class at Ames High School in Ames, IA have in common? They’re all building connections between farms and consumers and creating strong local food systems in their communities.  And all joined me for a Google+ Hangout – a live, virtual panel – on Thursday, November 21 to discuss their work.

There is amazing energy surrounding the development of local food systems in communities nationwide, and our discussion certainly reflected that. But it also came at a time of uncertainty. Congress has yet to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs bill, the major piece of legislation funding USDA’s local food efforts (along with many other critical programs). Until a bill is passed, many of the key resources for producers, businesses and communities engaged in local food systems are without funding. That reality lent a sense of urgency to some of the topics we discussed. Read more »

Food Hubs – Building Businesses and Sustaining Communities

An infographic looking at how food hubs are building businesses and sustaining communities. Click to view a larger version.

An infographic looking at how food hubs are building businesses and sustaining communities. Click to view a larger version.

Food is a great equalizer.  Whether sharing it with loved ones around our holiday table or worrying about how we’re going to fit lunch in to our busy work days–food is something we all have in common.  But we don’t always think about the path it takes to get to our plates or even the store shelves.  And while there are many different ways it gets to us, we’re seeing food hubs play an increasingly important role for everyone along the way–farmer to corner store, chef to school lunch.

Food hubs are innovative business models emerging more and more across the country. They bring farmers and suppliers together, with 81 percent of food hubs focusing on increasing opportunities for local farms and allowing smaller producers to pool their products and fulfill larger contracts. Ninety-one percent of food hubs are near cities, connecting rural farmers to larger suburban and urban communities.  Oftentimes, farmers who work with food hubs offer a wider variety of products and are able to continue selling their goods later into the growing season.  That translated into an average of over $3.7 million in sales in the last year.  And USDA’s efforts have helped expand the number of regional food hubs operating around the country.  There are over 230, a 65 percent increase since 2009. Read more »

Hangout to Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

At USDA, we know that local and regional food systems are an important part of America’s diverse agriculture sector.   Local and regional food is a multi-billion dollar market opportunity for America’s farmers, ranchers and food businesses. From the produce vendor at one of the nation’s 8,100 farmers markets to the operating  220 food hubs across America to the robust farm to school activities in each state,  the expanding market opportunity for local and regional food continues to gain momentum

USDA stands ready to aid and assist America’s farmers and ranchers who want to participate in this growing sector. We’ve been coordinating our work via the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative. However, our ability to continue supporting the local and regional food marketplace is at stake without the passage of a Food, Farms and Job Bill. Read more »

We Can’t Wait

Michael Scuse, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, listens to those impacted by the Atlas Blizzard in South Dakota.

Michael Scuse, Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, listens to those impacted by the Atlas Blizzard in South Dakota.

Farmers and ranchers know many variables are sometimes not in their hands, especially when it comes to weather.  That’s why USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Senator Tim Johnson asked me to travel to South Dakota this week to see firsthand the widespread destruction to livestock in the wake of the Atlas Blizzard, and to consult with affected producers on how USDA can help right now – - despite two years of Congressional inaction on the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill.

When I joined one farmer in his living room, learning how his livestock losses, including pregnant stock, meant years of income gone, I thought of Congress, how it lurches from one crisis to the next, and how that legislative atrophy creates real consequences beyond just American farmers but for entire rural communities. Read more »