AMS’s Seed Regulatory and Testing Division scientist conducts a test to detect the presence of harmful pathogens in grass seed. USDA photo.
Before the late 1800’s, there weren’t any standards or laws overseeing the seed trade. This allowed individuals to take advantage of the unorganized seed market by selling low quality seed to buyers. In some instances, what was sold wasn’t even seed at all.
Unfortunately, even the most seasoned seed buyers can’t always tell what they will get when purchasing seed. Will the seed grow? If it does grow, what will it grow into? Will these seeds contain a disease that will hurt my other crops? Will the packet contain other unwanted weeds that will reduce my yield, hurt my animals, or destroy my land? The worst part is that the outcome of your purchase won’t be known for months after you buy and “try” to grow them. In the late 1800’s, these questions asked by millions of people around the world led to the rapid development of laboratories tasked with using science to predict seed quality. Read more »
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack addresses dairy producers at the National Milk Producers Federation annual meeting in Dallas, Texas on Oct. 29, 2014
Over the past nine months, USDA staff in offices around the country have been hard at work implementing new initiatives under the 2014 Farm Bill. The Farm Service Agency in particular has been tasked with getting a number of new safety net features off the ground for farmers and ranchers, including the Agricultural Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs. Because these new programs are important to farmers’ and ranchers’ businesses, USDA also wants to make sure plenty of time and tools are available to help farmers and ranchers make the best decisions for their operations.
Last week, Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that America’s milk producers have an extra week to enroll in the voluntary Dairy Margin Protection Program. The program provides financial assistance to participating farmers when the margin – the difference between the price of milk and feed costs – falls below the coverage level selected by the farmer. The original sign up deadline was November 28, 2014, the day after Thanksgiving. The deadline has been moved to December 5, 2014, which allows both FSA staff and dairy producers to spend more time with their families over the holiday. Read more »
With more than 12,500 acres, Illinois growers account for more than three-fourths of all pumpkins harvested for processing in the United States. Check back next Thursday for more interesting information on another state from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!
The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
Most people think of corn and soybeans when they imagine Illinois agriculture. That’s not surprising, considering that The Prairie State ranked second in the nation when it comes to harvested acres for both of these crops in 2012. Our farmers harvested more than 21 million acres of corn and soybeans in Illinois during 2012. That keeps a whole lot of combines rolling each fall.
However, Illinois agriculture achievements expand way beyond just corn and soybeans. Our farmers produce a wide variety of crops and livestock. For example, you can probably thank an Illinois farmer when you open that can of pumpkin pie filling this Thanksgiving. With more than 12,500 acres, Illinois growers account for more than three-fourths of all pumpkins harvested for processing in the United States. Read more »
Given the breadth and scope of the NOSB’s responsibilities, members have to demonstrate a commitment to the integrity of the organic industry. The NOSB is as diverse as the organic community they serve. Photo courtesy of AMS.
From Shayla Bailey, USDA: This is the twentieth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations. To mark the 20th milestone, USDA invited Dr. Jean Richardson, Chair of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), to be a guest author. The NOSB provides critical support to the USDA and the organic community. We thank the NOSB for their commitment to the organic community, and the integrity of the organic label.
Twice a year, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meets to advise the Secretary of Agriculture on what substances should be allowed or prohibited in organic agriculture. The NOSB recommends standards, policies and guidance that help shape the organic regulations to the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
The NOSB was established under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, and in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act. Made up of dedicated volunteers, the 15-member board includes four organic farmers, two handlers, three individuals with expertise in environmental protection or resource conservation, three representatives of public interest or consumer interest groups , a scientist, an organic retailer and an organic certifying agent. Earlier this year, I was honored when my fellow board members elected me as the Chair. Read more »
By clarifying expectations for organic certifiers, USDA’s instruction ensures that all organic products are labeled consistently, assure consumers that all organic labeling requirements are being met and provide a fair market for all organic operations.
When consumers see the word “organic” on a product package or label, they have expectations about what is inside the package. The National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), protects the integrity of the organic label by ensuring that organic producers and handlers meet consumer expectations. The NOP recently published an instruction that will bring more clarity to products with brand names containing the word “organic.”
Organic products have strict production and labeling requirements. They must be produced and handled by operations that are certified as complying with the USDA organic regulations; made without the use of genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge; and use substances allowed by the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List). Read more »
Dr. Hue Karreman demonstrates how to put your arm inside a cow’s mouth. Photo by Lisa McCrory
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) Field Days at Stonewall Farm in Keene, New Hampshire. The field days combine many activities for attending farmers, giving them the opportunity to learn from each other, speak with experts in the organic field, catch up with old friends and make some new friends too.
As Deputy Administrator for USDA’s National Organic Program, part of the Agricultural Marketing Service, I participated in a panel discussion on the future of organic certification with Dr. Jean Richardson, Chair of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and Henry Perkins, President of the Maine Organic Milk Producers. I also had the opportunity to present information about the National Organic Program, including USDA’s programs that support organic agriculture, sound and sensible certification, the National Organic Standards Board and the revised sunset process. Read more »