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Posts tagged: Producers

USDA Helps Eastern North Carolina Recover after Matthew

Under Secretary Michael Scuse, North Carolina FSA State Executive Director Bob Etheridge, and FSA County Executive Director Kenny Johnson standing with farmer Kent Smith

Under Secretary Michael Scuse, North Carolina FSA State Executive Director Bob Etheridge, and FSA County Executive Director Kenny Johnson stand with farmer Kent Smith to assess flood damage to his sweet potato crop in Tarboro, North Carolina.

When Hurricane Matthew hit last month, disaster struck as high flood waters devastated communities up and down the East Coast. Agricultural producers in Eastern North Carolina were hit especially hard and suffered devastating losses to crops, livestock, and property.

Secretary Vilsack recently designated 39 counties in North Carolina as primary natural disaster areas, in addition to 15 contiguous counties. This week, I traveled to the state to visit some of the communities that were affected. I saw a peanut farm littered with uprooted plants and cracked shells. I met with an organic tobacco producer whose top soil had completely washed away. I visited a sweet potato and soybean farm that suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses. We drove by washed out roads and gutted homes with waterlogged furniture piled high on the side of the road. Read more »

NRCS Helps to Keep Native American Traditions Alive

U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Mississippi soil conservation technician Allen Hughes displays baskets made from Southeastern longleaf pine needles in Poplarville, MS

NRCS Soil Conservation Technician Allen Hughes mailed longleaf pine needles from his backyard to Oregon to be used to weave baskets, a Native American tradition across the U.S. Photo: Justin Fritscher, NRCS.

The 567 federally-recognized Native American Tribes are unique in their own way—from their languages and family structure, to their clothing and food. Tribes are working hard to revive their roots to help reconnect their heritage to the land, rekindle their spiritual bonds and cultural traditions, and raise awareness amongst future generations; especially tribal youth in line to inherit the land.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with the tribes like the Choctaw Indians, comprised of nearly 10,000 members across the United States, to farm and harvest hickory king corn and other heirloom white varieties, and process them to make hominy. Hominy is made from dried corn kernels, but it is expensive to purchase. NRCS provides the tribe with technical assistance to help transform idle land into a hominy-making enterprise–enabling the tribe to provide their own locally-grown, fresh produce, and cut their expenses by growing the corn. Read more »

Helping States Build an Agricultural Future

A woman picking apples

A woman picking apples—one of many specialty crops—grown in New England. Since the beginning of the Obama administration, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has awarded $455.5 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants to all 50 states and several U.S. territories. These grants have supported 6,138 projects that increase capacity, opportunity, and economic success for America’s specialty crop growers. Photo courtesy Alberto Romero.

Specialty crops—fruits, vegetables, nuts and nursery crops—are an agricultural and dietary staple.  They’re a central part of a healthy diet and are vital to the economic success of American agriculture and to the farmers and businesses that rely on them for their livelihoods.

That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, works to support and expand markets for specialty crop growers and producers.  This year, through our Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, we awarded $62.5 million to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories to support critical work related to this segment of the agricultural industry. Read more »

Celebrating Stakeholder Diversity is Essential for Success

Organic certifiers auditing an operation in Mexico

Given the size and growth of the U.S. Hispanic population and its purchasing power, the Hispanic community is a key driver of the growth of U.S. consumer markets, including our organic market.

On behalf of the Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP), please join us as we continue celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month.  The month-long observance, that occurs every year from September 15 through October 15, celebrates the cultures and traditions of Americans who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico, and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.  At the NOP, increasing our appreciation of Hispanic cultures as well as our connections with Hispanic people are essential for our success.

There is much that we have done and continue to do in serving Hispanic stakeholders.  The USDA organic regulations, as well as the National Organic Program Handbook – which contain USDA organic standards, guidance documents, policy memos and instructions – are available in Spanish.  In addition, our recent Sound and Sensible initiative resources, which are helping make organic certification more accessible, attainable and affordable for small producers and processors, also include resources in Spanish. Read more »

El Celebrar la Diversidad de Participantes es Esencial Para el Éxito

Organic certifiers auditing an operation in Mexico

Dado el tamaño y el crecimiento de la población hispana en los Estados Unidos y su poder adquisitivo, la comunidad hispana es un motor clave del crecimiento de los mercados nacionales de consumo, incluyendo nuestro mercado de productos orgánicos.

De parte del Programa Nacional Orgánico (NOP, por sus siglas en inglés) del Servicio de Comercialización Agrícola (AMS, por sus siglas en inglés), por favor, únase a nosotros a medida que continuamos celebrando el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana.  La observancia de un mes, realizada todos los años del 15 de septiembre al 15 de octubre, celebra las culturas y tradiciones de los estadounidenses que tienen sus raíces en España, México y países de habla hispana de América Central, América del Sur, y el Caribe.  En el NOP, el aumentar nuestra apreciación de las culturas hispanas igual que nuestras conexiones con los hispanos es esencial para nuestro éxito.

Es mucho lo que hemos hecho y seguimos haciendo para servir participantes hispanos.  Las regulaciones orgánicas del USDA, así como el Manual del Programa Nacional Orgánico – que contienen los estándares orgánicos, documentos de orientación, memorandos de política e instrucciones – están disponibles en español.  Además, nuestra reciente iniciativa orgánica “Sound and Sensible,” que ayuda a que la certificación orgánica sea más accesible, alcanzable y asequible para pequeños productores y procesadores, también incluye recursos en español. Read more »

Growing Rural Economies and Opportunities through Social Media

KSU Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement Facebook screenshot

Kansas State University used a FSMIP grant to develop social media strategies for rural businesses to expand their customer base.

From Facebook to Snapchat, rural businesses are exploring how to use social media to improve their customer’s experience and expand their customer base. Over the last eight years, USDA and the Obama Administration have partnered with rural communities to build more opportunities that support rural small business owners, farmers and ranchers through applied research.   Today USDA awarded nearly $1 million in Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) grants to support market research to strengthen markets for U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally.

Administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), FSMIP projects make a real difference to diverse stakeholders and largely benefit rural communities.  For example, in 2013, FSMIP awarded a 2-year grant to Kansas State University to develop social media strategies for small green businesses, including nurseries, garden centers and lawn care operations, and to explore the potential of social media to expand their markets and profitability.  Social media holds promise as a strategy for these rural businesses which frequently have a small customer base and struggle to be profitable throughout the year, given the seasonal nature of their business.  Through social media, business owners could reach more potential customers for little to no cost but they often do not know how or why they should use these tools. Read more »