2015 Soybean Yield graphic. Click to enlarge.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Farmers love data. And while big picture items are great, growers tell us they really want and can use local data. In addition to national and state-level statistics, some of our most popular data are the county-level agricultural production information that we collect and publish.
Collecting local data is not an easy task. For example, in Iowa, where I oversee agricultural statistics, to determine 2015 county-level numbers, we surveyed 11,500 farmers in December and January to supplement data from nearly 3,000 Iowa farmers surveyed for the January 12th Crop Production Annual Summary report. These statistical surveys are designed so all farmers in the state have a chance to be selected for participation. In order to publish county data, we need responses from at least 30 producers in each county or yield reports for at least 25 percent of the harvested acreage in a county. Luckily, here in Iowa, we received 50 or more farmer reports for many counties but we still had a couple of counties that did not make the 30 report requirement for publication. Read more »
Corn in Iowa was among the crops across the nation hit hard by the 2012 drought. The rapid response by crop insurance companies to that crisis demonstrated why public-private partnerships are good for today’s agricultural economy.
Farming is in my blood, and I’m proud of that. I grew up on my family’s sheep ranch in northern Utah and managed our raspberry farm before coming to USDA. For the past three years, as Administrator for the Department’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), I’ve sat across the table and listened to producers who, like myself back in Utah, couldn’t find an insurance product for their operation.
Natural disasters and unexpected events make agriculture a risky business, so having a strong safety net is essential for today’s farmers and ranchers. Nobody knows that better than RMA. Read more »
Matt McCue and Lily Schneider of Shooting Star CSA, an organic farm in California. Their operation is chemical and pesticide free and they rely on practices that reduce impact on the environment.
Teamwork can improve virtually any endeavor, from partnering with a neighbor by exchanging butchered meat for hay to feed the rest of the herd or simply sharing a ride to save on gas. The result is usually savings and efficiency.
At USDA, that notion is taken to another level with public-private partnerships that improve economic stability for producers, the financial sector, and a nation that leans heavily on the shoulders of its farmers and ranchers. 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 »
With 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and nearly 28,000 certified organic operations from more than 120 countries around the globe, organic agriculture has seen enormous growth and success over the last two years.
For years, the organic industry has experienced enormous growth, defying expectations and creating exciting opportunities for producers and entrepreneurs around the world. 2014 was another record year for the organic community, with 19,474 certified organic operations in the United States and nearly 28,000 certified organic operations from more than 120 countries around the globe.
The retail market for organic products is now valued at more than $39 billion in the U.S. and over $75 billion worldwide. With its rapidly growing market and high consumer interest, USDA is focused on helping this area of agriculture achieve even greater success. In May 2013, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack issued guidance that identified organic priorities for the Department, including training and outreach, growing the organic sector, reducing paperwork, improving research, and gathering data. Read more »
- Wind-devastated farmland in Kansas during the Dust Bowl.
The U.S. Southern Plains states have always been known for their wild weather. Stories of the volatile climate of this region abound. Whether you’re talking about Pecos Bill roping a tornado in Texas, Dorothy being blown away by a twister to the Land of Oz, or the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma where “the wind comes sweeping down the plains,” all three of the Southern Plains states have a well-deserved reputation for extreme weather events. Never has this been more on display than in 2015. At the beginning of this year, the states of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas had suffered through four long years of an extreme drought greater even than those that ravaged the region during the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. This extreme weather cost agriculture in the region well over $20 billion and put an incredible strain on the available water supplies of numerous communities. Then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, in a repeat of what has happened so many times in the past, the extreme drought on the Southern Plains was finally broken by extreme rainfall. Read more »