Mt. Washington, in the White Mountains National Forest, NH. USDA photo by J. Knowlton.
If you work outside, you care about the weather. But if your business depends on the weather, you should care about the climate.
Those of us who have lived in the Northeast for years know that something is up with the weather. It’s more changeable; too wet one month, too dry the next. Spring is coming earlier but late frosts linger and fall seems to stretch on. This year’s cold winter reminds us of what winters used to be like. Read more »
NRCS District Conservationist Lewis Nichols (left) worked with Illinois rancher James “Jim” Johnson and his son Thad on a comprehensive nutrient management plan to best use manure on their land. USDA photo.
A dairy cow can produce up to 140 pounds of manure in a day. So for James “Jim” Johnson, who owns 150 dairy cows on his Boone County, Ill. ranch, that means 7.7 million pounds of manure per year. Where does this manure go?
On many ranches, manure is stored and filtrated in a waste lagoon. But after a heavy rain in 2011 caused Johnson’s waste lagoon to overflow onto a nearby road, Johnson sought help to prevent it from happening again. In an effort to protect the quality of water and soil, he worked with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to find a solution.
NRCS assessed his operation and developed a comprehensive nutrient management plan. The assessment and plan helped Johnson to change his barns to properly handle the storage and flow of manure. Read more »
AMS ensures that seed shipped in interstate commerce are labeled and advertised truthfully. This allows seed buyers to make informed choices and promotes fair competition within the industry.
Believe it or not, food doesn’t come from the refrigerator or even the kitchen. It doesn’t even come from the grocery store or the farmer. All food—whether meat, grain, vegetable or fruit—owes its existence to seeds. Seeds are the backbone of human existence, providing us with the fundamental necessities needed for life: food, clothing, medicine, and shelter.
To protect the quality of these important, yet often forgotten, natural resources and to promote a robust U.S. seed market (current value of over $7.3 billion), Congress enacted a program over a century ago that would later evolve into what is now known as the Federal Seed Act. The act, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) in Gastonia, NC, is a law that protects American businesses, farmers, and the general public from misrepresentation when buying seed. Read more »
The Thompson Ridge Fire in the Sante Fe National Forest approximately 10 miles north of Jemez, NM consumed over 29,903 acres. Photo by Valess Calera Trust Kristin Honig.
Those of us living and working in the Southwestern U.S. have recently experienced a prolonged, extreme drought persisting over several years. We have witnessed large, destructive and catastrophic wildfires that have taken both lives and property, observed expansive areas of forest tree death as a result of massive insect outbreaks, and seen our water supplies in reservoirs and dams across the region decline to previously unseen levels. Yet, what can we realistically do in the face of these climatically driven changes that will likely continue and intensify into the future?
Changing climatic conditions in the southwest that impact temperatures, alter growing seasons, increase plant moisture stress, and trigger extreme events directly contribute to these recent regional catastrophes and water scarcities. Recently, a highly respected, third generation public land cattle rancher in our region put it this way: “I believe that the climate is changing. But I can’t accept it. If I do I would just go out of business. I have to cope and go on.” So we are left to look around us and ask what information, tools, and technology can we reach for when it gets tough? Read more »
This is an image of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station in H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest near Portland, OR. USDA photo.
The lands of the Pacific Northwest produce a bounty of grains, dairy, beef, fish, vegetables, and wild game that feed the people of the region and the rest of the country. Many of those who work directly with the land have been doing so for generations. Two of my own great uncles helped to bring irrigation to the Rogue River Valley near the turn of the 20th century, and my cousins have been farming there ever since.
Over time, farmers, ranchers, fishers, and private forest owners have accumulated knowledge and wisdom from family, local communities, and agricultural universities. These individuals have supported a technically progressive agricultural industry that supplies most of the nation’s potato crop and a good share of its wheat and milk. Agricultural producers are used to working with many sources of information about weather, water, climate, soils and fertility, pests, and disease and then making important decisions and investments about what they will do on the land. Their decisions about investments of time, money, and materials have daily, seasonal, annual, and multi-year implications. Selections of fruit, nut, grape, or forest tree varieties and capital investments in machinery, irrigation, and processing are made with today’s best information in anticipation of several decades or more. Doing this right requires both technical savvy and the wisdom to integrate many different kinds of information. Read more »
Innovation is at the heart of the American agriculture success story. As a matter of course, today’s farmers and ranchers must constantly prepare and adapt to get ahead of tomorrow’s challenges.
At USDA, we have a long history of fostering research and innovation that help agricultural production thrive. I am pleased that the 2014 Farm Bill, signed into law today by President Obama, includes new support for agricultural research and, through a new research foundation, recommits to innovation for years to come. Read more »