Chad Nelson takes a break from an audit with the University of Nebraska team. Pictured left to right: Kolin Scheele, Dr. Ty Schmidt, Chad Nelson, Laura Gorecki and Joe Buntyn.
About once every five years since 1991, the National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) brings together producers, consumers, academia, and government in a collaborative research and data collection exercise that spans the entire U.S. beef industry. Funded by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (the beef checkoff program), the NBQA assesses the current status of the industry regarding production processes and practices that ultimately affect consumer demand for beef.
The audit uses a multi-phase approach to identify the top challenges the fed-beef (cattle raised for meat production) industry faces. The NBQA first gathers data to measure current quality and consistency of U.S fed-beef, and then quantifies the level to which cattle producers are applying common sense husbandry techniques, specifically the Beef Quality Assurance principles, to safeguard that quality. The results are translated into practical guidance for continued improvement in the production of fed-beef and, in turn, consumers’ acceptance of the end products found in stores. Read more »
Redlands Field Day, February 18, 2015 at Redlands Community College (RCC) in El Reno, Oklahoma. Photo by Ed Zweiacher, Royse Ranch Manager, VESTA State Coordinator, Redlands Community College
All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.
The Southern Great Plains has historically posed a challenge to farming and ranching. Extended drought, late season freezes and excessive rainfall are facts of life in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. With continued climate change, the likelihood is growing that extreme weather conditions will have even more of an effect on the country’s ability to produce food and fiber as we move into the future. It’s paramount the nation’s farmers and ranchers are given tools to develop strategies to help weather the storms and maintain the productivity and profitability necessary to stay on the land.
The USDA Southern Plains Climate Hub (Hub), along with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Redlands Community College, the region’s Agricultural Universities and other partners have been working to develop best management practices designed to help ag producers adapt to intense weather events through improving soil health. This includes the establishment of demonstration farms that implement soil health practices such as no-till, cover cropping and better pasture management. As a result of conducting field days and soil health seminars associated with these demonstration efforts, the Hub and its partners are providing real world examples of how implementing these soil health practices can help agriculture “harden” itself to extreme drought, volatile temperature swings and heavy rain events. Read more »
On market day, Crossroads Farmers Market creates a lively, safe community gathering space, bringing together food growers, makers, and consumers. The market is tied closely to the primarily low-income, mostly immigrant community with 75% of their vendors being immigrants. Photo by Molly M. Peterson
Anticipation is building for the opening of seasonal farmers markets in communities across the country—especially in Takoma Park, MD, at the Crossroads Farmers Market. With over 1,000 visitors each week and vendors offering 131 different fruits and vegetables, market manager Michelle Dudley has a lot of work to do figuring out the perfect placement of farmers and vendors coming to the market starting June 1.
Thanks to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), she has it all mapped out! Read more »
Local Food Hub’s Kristen Suokko (right) and Bee Thorp (second from right) and Susan Hill (left) explain to USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary Elvis Cordova how the high tunnels extend the growing season and USDA’s commitment to local foods is having an impact. USDA photo by Peter Wood.
Results—at USDA we are constantly tracking and measuring them. We want to know that what we’re doing is making a difference, that we’re making progress towards our mission, that the communities we support are getting the help they need. Recently I had the pleasure of visiting local food stakeholders that are making a real difference in Charlottesville, VA and hear firsthand how USDA programs have made an impact in their community.
During my visit, I had a chance to listen to farmers, local food organizers, and business owners share their experiences involving local food production. Just outside Charlottesville, I toured the Hill Farm and the warehouse of Local Food Hub. The open dialog of these visits is important to me and important to USDA. I strongly believe that we need to hear from the public so we make sure our priorities, programs and services are in line with what the American people need. Read more »
James McCuen and Shawna Kalama discuss business opportunities available for beginning ranchers. USDA-RMA photo by Jo Lynne Seufer.
Shawna Kalama is a proud member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She’s also a beginning rancher, pursuing her dream the past few years near the Cascade Mountains on the Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington State. Kalama has successfully leveraged several USDA programs to simultaneously support both her entrepreneurial education goals and her growing livestock operation.
She began earning her business degree at Heritage University, and recently participated in a risk management education program, sponsored by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). This week, the agency announced that $8.7 million in cooperative agreement funding is available for the risk management education program for fiscal year 2016. The program introduces the agency’s risk management tools, crop and livestock insurance programs and educational partnerships to new and beginning, and traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers. The curriculum includes an overview of RMA’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis tool, which identifies potential problems, and finds solutions and resources to help beginning farmers and ranchers manage risks. Nearly 90,000 producers participated in risk management education events in 2015. Read more »
The organic community needs more farmers, ranchers and handlers to produce everything from organic vegetables to organic grains to organic meats. The organic cost share programs make organic certification more affordable for producers and handlers across the country. USDA photo
The organic community needs more farmers, ranchers and handlers to produce everything from organic vegetables to organic grains to organic meats. Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow, with retail sales hitting over $39 billion in the United States in 2014 and over $75 billion worldwide.
USDA’s National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has overseen the organic sector since 2002. Since that time, the number of certified organic operations in the U.S. has increased to more than 21,700 — nearly a 300 percent increase. Read more »