Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack listens to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) supervisory plant physiologist Dr. Jerry Hatfield explain the equipment to gather information on climate changes and impacts on corn and soybean plants in Iowa.
As world leaders gather in Paris this week to negotiate a new global climate agreement, it is important to recognize the contributions of farmers, ranchers and foresters in the United States towards achieving a more food secure world while adapting to climate change, increasing carbon sequestration, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Over the course of my tenure as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. producers have faced a record drought, which the University of California estimates has cost farmers in California alone an estimated $3 billion in 2015. We’ve seen increasing incursions of invasive pests and diseases and extreme weather, everything from bark beetle to severe droughts, which have cost billions in lost productivity. We’ve faced a series of record wildfire seasons in the western United States—the worst decade in U.S. history for wildfire. The growing El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific has created the perfect storm for disasters to strike the already damaged and weakened western landscape. Read more »
A new Handbook supports NRCS conservation planners and other agricultural professionals as they work with organic producers.
Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow. The Organic Trade Association that represents more than 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states reports that demand for organic products exceeded $39 billion in 2014. To meet that demand, more farmers and ranchers are pursuing organic certification and seeking assistance through USDA programs.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making sure that its people in the field are prepared to work with organic producers and those who want to get into organics. The agency has just released to staff its new Organic Farming Handbook describing things they need to know when working with organic producers. Read more »
“Today I had the opportunity to meet with Cuban fruit and vegetable farmers in the Antero Regalado Agricultural Cooperative in Güira de Melena, and hog and sheep producers in the Niceto Pérez Livestock Cooperative. They talked openly about the membership structure of their cooperatives, and they share many of the same concerns that face American farmers, such as climate change and pests, in addition to their own unique challenges with irrigation and equipment. I look forward to seeing more Americans have the opportunity for conversations and exchanging of ideas with their Cuban counterparts like I have had over the past few days. Throughout history, agriculture has served as a bridge to foster cooperation, and I have no doubt that agriculture will continue to play that powerful role as we expand our relationship with the Cuban people in the coming years.” – Secretary Vilsack
Last week, I was part of the first USDA team to visit Cuba since U.S. Government offices were closed there in 1961, and I was the third U.S. Cabinet official to visit the island since President Obama announced his intent to resume relations with Cuba late last year. Food and agricultural goods are the dominant U.S. exports to Cuba, and it is my firm belief—and one that appears to be shared by the Cuban people and government officials—that agriculture can serve as a bridge to foster cooperation, understanding and the exchange of ideas. Read more »
Sample FSA County Committee election ballot.
This is a great time of the year for the Farm Service Agency (FSA), not just because of another successful American harvest, but because of the opportunity for agricultural communities throughout the country to vote for officials to represent them on FSA County Committees.
In my first year as FSA Administrator, I’ve traveled to 32 states and visited with farmers and ranchers from California to Maine. I know firsthand the impact of successfully delivered farm programs in rural communities all across this great nation. Working with county committee members while serving as FSA state executive director for California and now as Administrator, I have a deep appreciation for the essential role these farmer-elected committees play in connecting FSA with the needs of local producers. Read more »
Beginning farmers may explore new web resources to help them get started. USDA photo.
Agriculture is an inherently risky business. Some risks are everyday business risks; some risks are brought on by natural disasters. Producers need to regularly manage for financial, marketing, production, human resource and legal risks.
Helping farmers and ranchers overcome such unexpected events, not only benefits individual producers, but also rural communities that depend on agriculture. Over time, resilient rural producers help form robust rural economies, which build a strong economic foundation and provide improved access to credit for the next generation of beginning farmers and ranchers. Read more »
The cover of the new Guide for Farmers Markets on Military Installations, which is filled with effective strategies to bring farmers markets’ community spirit and local food to service members and their families stationed at installations across the country.
As we take time this week to honor America’s veterans, we are also thinking about how we can improve the health and welfare of military communities across the country. That’s why we are so proud to release the first-ever Guide for Farmers Markets on Military Installations. By assisting military installations in establishing farmers markets, the guide will help increase access to fresh, local food for soldiers on military installations. On-base farmers markets also connect members of the military with their surrounding communities and offer family-friendly gathering places where children can learn where their food comes from.
In a truly collaborative effort, my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), created this detailed manual with the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Healthy Base Initiative (HBI), and in partnership with Wholesome Wave. It explains how commanders can establish and successfully operate farmers markets on military installations. Read more »