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Posts tagged: organic

Strengthening Produce Businesses, One Program at a Time

The packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC packinghouse in Palmetto, Fla. is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. USDA Photo by Hakim Fobia.

The packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC packinghouse in Palmetto, Fla. is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. USDA Photo by Hakim Fobia.

Successful businesses all seem to have a common bond – a commitment to quality, consistency, and integrity. During a recent trip with my colleagues, I saw firsthand the many ways that companies are turning to my agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – to provide these factors to pave their path to success.

Our first stop was the packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC in Palmetto, Fla. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. The fascinating thing about West Coast Tomato LLC is that the facility is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. “Our use of technology has significantly decreased our re-packing,” says plant director John Darling. “As a result, we’re better equipped to meet buyer requirements.” Read more »

Powered by Diversity and Healthy Soil, an Organic Iowa Farm Flourishes

The Rosmann’s have a retail store on the farm where they sell a wide variety of goods to visiting consumers. NRCS photo.

The Rosmann’s have a retail store on the farm where they sell a wide variety of goods to visiting consumers. NRCS photo.

In many respects, Ron and Maria Vakulskas Rosmann’s “Farm Sweet Farm” is a typical Iowa farm. The Rosmann’s grow corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs.

But that’s where the similarities with traditional farming operations end.  A certified organic producer since 1994, the 700-acre farm near Harlan, Iowa is home to a remarkable amount of diversity — above and below the ground.

“Last year, we planted 26 different species of seeds, and this is typical,” Ron said. Read more »

Montana Organic Association Focuses on the Benefits of Organic Business

Montana is a leading producer of certified organic wheat, dry peas, lentils and flax. MOA provides the state’s organic community with valuable education, information, support, assistance, promotion, and representation. Pictured here is an organic grain operation in Montana. USDA photo courtesy of Betsy Rakola.

Montana is a leading producer of certified organic wheat, dry peas, lentils and flax. MOA provides the state’s organic community with valuable education, information, support, assistance, promotion, and representation. Pictured here is an organic grain operation in Montana. USDA photo courtesy of Betsy Rakola.

This is the twenty-third installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

According to a 2014 USDA Economic Research Service report, consumer demand for organically produced products continues to show double-digit growth.  This year, the Montana Organic Association’s (MOA) annual meeting highlighted the sector’s ongoing growth with its theme of Organic Business: Benefitting Producers and Consumers.  As USDA’s Organic Policy Advisor, I represented USDA at MOA’s conference and presented information about USDA’s support for the growing organic community.

MOA’s mission is to advocate for and promote organic agriculture for the highest good of the people, the environment and the state’s economy. The conference brought in over 200 people, a large number in a rural state with just over 200 certified organic operations.  MOA President Nate Brown noted, “The Montana Organic Association annual conference is our biggest event of the year and has been the lifeblood of the organization for the past 12 years.  We feel the conference is a great way to bring together Montana’s organic community every year for a weekend of learning and socializing in order to keep up with the growing organic market in our state.” Read more »

How Industries Create a Research and Promotion Program

Currently a proposal for an Organic R&P is getting closer to Step 1 in the creation process. While a proposal has not been formally submitted to USDA, a proponent group is working with stakeholders to develop a draft. USDA photo courtesy of Sam Jones-Ellard.

Currently a proposal for an Organic R&P is getting closer to Step 1 in the creation process. While a proposal has not been formally submitted to USDA, a proponent group is working with stakeholders to develop a draft. USDA photo courtesy of Sam Jones-Ellard.

We often talk about the many ways research and promotion (R&P) programs benefit both ag industries and the consumer. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers leverage these programs and the pooled resources they collect to help overcome marketing barriers and connect with consumers. R&P programs are self-help initiatives that are national in scope and funded by the industry to help these businesses continue to strengthen their rural economies and the communities they support.

To form a new R&P, there are specific steps that the industry and USDA follow: Read more »

NIFA and the Farm Bill: A Year Later

February 7 marks the first anniversary of the Agriculture Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill. This milestone provides an opportunity to report on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) efforts during the last year to implement the many provisions of relevance to the agency.  Here are a few of the more significant provisions that have been implemented: Read more »

Five Questions Non-Operator Landowners Should Ask their Farmers about Soil Health

NRCS provides five questions non-operator landowners should ask their farmers about soil health. NRCS graphic by Jennifer VanEps.

NRCS provides five questions non-operator landowners should ask their farmers about soil health. NRCS graphic by Jennifer VanEps.

More farmers, ranchers and others who rely on the land are taking action to improve the health of their soil. Many farmers are actually building the soil. How? By using soil health management systems that include cover crops, diverse rotations and no-till.

And when they’re building the soil they’re doing something else – they’re also building the land’s production potential over the long-term.

But how do non-operator landowners (people who rent their land to farmers) know if their tenants are doing everything they need to do to make and keep their soil healthy? Barry Fisher, an Indiana farmer and nationally recognized soil health specialist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, recommends that they ask their farming partner these five questions. Read more »