This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Ever wonder how USDA is able to make a forecast – either economic or weather? It takes a lot of work.
Last week, USDA’s U.S. meteorologist Brad Rippey met with producers in southwestern Michigan. The first stop, on a rainy, stormy morning, was with Bryan Bixby, owner of Bixby Orchards in Berrien Springs. Bixby described how spring wetness has been detrimental to fieldwork and crop quality. For example, wet, humid conditions shortened the southwestern Michigan strawberry season and reduced fruit quality. In addition, wetness has impeded Bixby’s efforts to complete soybean planting. During a tour of his orchards, Bixby described how the recent winter was Michigan’s harshest since 1976-77, causing substantial mortality in peach trees — requiring him to buy peaches from South Carolina in order to meet customer demand. Read more »
Marsh grasses in Maryland provide valuable habitat for wildlife and help filter runoff from nearby farms. NRCS photo.
The Chesapeake Bay is a valuable resource. The Bay is home to a variety of species, such as blue crab and striped bass, provides jobs for local fishing communities, and serves as a place to interact with nature. About a quarter of the land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is devoted to agriculture. The crops and livestock produced in this region provide food and fiber for millions of Americans. But these agricultural lands do more than produce food—they can play a role in improving the Bay’s water quality.
In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) worked with the Bay states to set water quality goals for the Chesapeake Bay and to develop Watershed Improvement Plans, or “WIPs,” for each of the states. Read more »
This graphic shows past records and predictions based on the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Provided the by U.S. Forest Service.
Weather…. We all care about it. In many communities, local TV and radio weather forecasters are celebrities, and for good reason. While we can’t do much about the weather, it affects us all every day.
During last week’s Agricultural Outlook Forum two sessions drew exceptionally large crowds. One was the Friday afternoon “Weather and Agriculture” segment and another was the morning “Markets and Weather” presentation. While no one can say for sure what the weather outlook will be for the 2014 summer growing season, Brad Rippey, agricultural meteorologist with USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE), Eric Luebehusen, OCE ag. meteorologist and Anthony Artusa, meteorologist with the Climate Protection Section of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made some observations and predictions in the afternoon session. The snowpack in the West’s Sierra Nevada is far below normal. The Western winter wet season has been a bust, with winter precipitation less than 10 percent of average in some areas. California, the Great Basin and southern Great Plains are in drought. The meteorologists said California, the lower gulf coast and much of New Mexico, Arizona and Texas could see above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation in March, April and May. According to Rippey, “We need a miracle March in 2014 to avoid major problems in California.” The most current information is available through NOAA’s Seasonal Drought Outlook map and the USDA drought monitor. Read more »
On February 20, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is expected to host two Future of Agriculture panels at the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum, “The Changing Face of Agriculture.” On the “Future of Agriculture: Building Markets Here & Abroad” panel are Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development; Paul Schickler, DuPont Pioneer President; Kellee James, Founder, CEO, Mercaris; and Cathy Burns, President, Produce Marketing Association. Topics discussed will be import/export markets, market trends, food security, technology, and innovations in agriculture.
Secretary Vilsack also is slated to moderate a second panel, the “Future of Agriculture: Young Farmers – Unlimited Opportunities” to explore the challenges, sustainability, and achievements of today’s young farmers. Panelists include: Joanna Carraway, Top Producer Horizon Award; Michael O’Gorman, Executive Director, Farmer Veteran Coalition; Greg Wegis, National Outstanding Young Farmer Award; and Emily Oakley, Interim Director, National Young Farmers Coalition. Read more »
USDA Market News reporter Holly Mozal teaches a Cochran Fellowship group from Haiti about our Market News database. We capture data for everything from cotton, fruits, vegetables and specialty crops, livestock, meats, poultry, eggs, grain and hay, to milk and dairy, and tobacco.
At some point in our lives, we all wonder what it would be like if we didn’t exist. How would things be different? Last month, American farmers and businesses experienced what it was like to live without USDA Market News. While the markets continued to operate, we received several phone calls and heard stories of how so many small and mid-sized producers struggled without the valuable information we provide.
In the 100-year history of Market News, this was only the second time that the data reports were not available. The reports give farmers, producers and other agricultural businesses the information they need to evaluate market conditions, identify trends, make purchasing decisions, monitor price patterns, evaluate transportation equipment needs and accurately assess movement. The information, gathered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and provided for free, captures data for everything from cotton, fruits, vegetables and specialty crops, livestock, meats, poultry, eggs, grain and hay, to milk and dairy, and tobacco. Read more »
USDA has published a study examining states’ adoption rates of distributed generation for solar and wind energy on U.S. farms. The results show that states with higher energy prices, more organic acres per farm, and more Internet connectivity adopt renewable electricity at higher rates. For solar systems, full-farm ownership and solar resources were also significant factors. Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) targets were found to increase state level renewable electricity adoption at the distributed-generation scale while electric cooperative prevalence in the state was found to have a negative relationship to renewable electricity adoption share. Read more »