Logs from the U.S. being shipped overseas are unloaded near the Port of New Orleans in New Orleans, LA on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013. USDA photo by Anson Eaglin.
2013 was a record year for America agricultural exports, with $141 billion in sales and an additional $180 billion in related business activity. We expect even greater things in 2014, when international sales of U.S. farm and food products are expected to reach $149.5 billion. Taken as a whole, these numbers are impressive – but they impress me even more when I think about all the American companies who made this happen.
Many of these companies are based in rural communities, and they employ more than a million U.S. workers to produce products that are valued throughout the world. It’s amazing to think about those individuals, from small towns across America, who produce everything from cheese to pet food to distillers dried grains. It makes me proud of the work USDA is doing to connect these rural producers to international markets. Read more »
This week, USDA and its partners launched a new conservation initiative, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a program that goes beyond traditional government support for conservation and allows businesses and other for-profit partners to invest in regional conservation projects. RCPP takes conservation off the farm and out of the forest and moves it into the board room.
The RCPP will competitively award funds to conservation projects designed by local partners and specifically tailored to local needs. Eligible partners include private companies, universities, non-profit organizations, local and tribal governments and others joining with agricultural and conservation organizations and producers to invest money, manpower and materials to their proposed initiatives. Read more »
National Small Business Week began yesterday with a proclamation from President Obama recognizing the small businesses across the Nation which, especially in our rural and small-town communities, making vital contributions to communities and the American economy.
Individually, the impact of a small business may seem minor in comparison with conglomerates. The Small Business Administration (SBA), however, estimates that more than half of our American workforce either owns or is employed by a small business, and two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year is created by–you guessed it–a small business. It’s clear this portion of economy is significant, but in rural towns and areas where each job and transaction has an effect on the community, small business is essential. In rural America, the entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops, agri-businesses, small-scale manufacturers, and other enterprises are the local economy. Read more »
Farmers, ranchers and foresters have long understood the need to care for our land and water—not only because preserving those resources for our children and their children is the right thing to do, but because they know that our farms and forests are more productive and efficient when they’re properly cared for.
Science and technology has expanded our capability and improved our understanding over the years, but this core mission remains the same. Today’s farmers and ranchers have risen to the twin responsibilities of producing safe, affordable food while employing cutting edge conservation practices on their operations to conserve water, minimize runoff, prevent soil erosion, and preserve wildlife habitat. They know that this will only become more critical as we take on the challenges of feeding a growing global population and dealing with the impacts of a changing climate. Read more »
Rural Americans have always had a strong connection to the land. Since 2009 alone, more than 500,000 farmers, ranchers and rural land owners across the country have embarked on record conservation projects with USDA as a partner. This week, USDA built on those efforts by announcing two new conservation programs that provide producers with even stronger tools to protect land and water resources across rural America.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) were both established under the 2014 Farm Bill. ACEP, which streamlines several existing USDA easement programs, makes available $366 million per year to a variety of public and private partners for conservation easements. The easements provided through ACEP help ensure the long-term viability of our food supply by preventing conversion of productive lands to non-agricultural use, while simultaneously protecting critical wetland resources.
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Using the USDA Certified Grass-Fed claim as its initial focus, a new USDA program will reduce costs for small producers wanting to market their cattle as USDA certified grass-fed.
Sometimes big things come in small packages. At USDA, we provide programs and services to producers of all sizes – and now we’re offering even more to small-scale and local beef producers. Many small-scale producers are contributing to the growth of the grass-fed beef industry. And, thanks to a new program tailored to meet their needs, they now have another resource in their marketing toolbox.
The USDA Grass Fed Program for Small and Very Small Producers, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is designed as a verification tool for small and very small producers to certify that animals meet the requirements of the grass-fed marketing claim standard and will make them eligible to have their products marketed as “USDA Certified Grass Fed Beef”.
With today’s label-conscious, savvy consumers, producers are relying on verified and certified labels to help distinguish their products in the marketplace. This new initiative joins our suite of consumer-trusted verification programs for meat, poultry, and eggs. Read more »