Across the country, more and more people are looking for organic options at their local markets. Thanks to the remarkable growth in the number of domestic and international certified organic operations, Americans now have more choices than ever.
In fact, according to data released today by my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), there were 19,474 certified organic producers in the United States and 27,814 certified organic operations around the world at the end of 2014. In just one year, the number of U.S. certified organic operations increased by more than 5 percent. And since the count began in 2002, the number of domestic organic operations has increased by over 250 percent. You can access the full list of certified operations at http://apps.ams.usda.gov/nop/ or download the list in Excel format going back to 2010. Read more »
Testing can provide the vital information needed when deciding what cover crop seed to purchase. Pictured here is AMS Botanist Elizabeth Tatum identifying a weed seed. (AMS photo)
Cover crops are the real heroes in the world of agriculture. Their job starts after a field is harvested and ends just before the next season’s crop is planted. Expectations for cover crops are high because if they don’t produce, the next crop may suffer.
After crops are harvested each year, planting fields are left bare. Runoff from rainwater, wind, and other forms of erosion devastate planting fields by stripping essential nutrients from the soil – nutrients needed for the next growing season. In addition to the loss of vital nutrients, the exposed fields are prime real estate for noxious-weed seeds intent on stealing what is left of the field’s nutrients. Replacing the lost nutrients and removing the weedy invaders costs millions of dollars each year for farmers. Read more »
Meat at a grocery store in Fairfax, Virginia. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.
When trading commodities on the market, it is critical that buyers and sellers across the supply chain speak the same trade language. For meat products, large volume buyers – ranging from the federal government to schools, restaurants and hotels – reference the U.S. Institutional Meat Purchase Specifications (IMPS) when making their purchases.
Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center, first row) is thanked by AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (far right, first row) and members of the AMS research and promotion team for speaking at the diversity and inclusion training event on Feb. 18, 2015. USDA photo.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, and all of USDA are committed to supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers and promoting diversity and inclusion in all sectors of agriculture. As Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I had the pleasure of advancing these important priorities during our Research and Promotion Program (R&P) board diversity and inclusion training session, held in Northern Virginia prior to the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum.
Meeting participants – including more than 50 board members and board staff from 20 of the 22 R&P boards that we oversee, AMS employees, and representatives of Certified Nominating Organizations – gathered to tackle a serious issue: how to recruit talented and diverse board members who are representative of the industries they serve. The R&P boards allow farmers and ranchers to pool their resources and set common goals to develop new markets and strengthen current markets for the commodities they grow or handle. Read more »
Montana is a leading producer of certified organic wheat, dry peas, lentils and flax. MOA provides the state’s organic community with valuable education, information, support, assistance, promotion, and representation. Pictured here is an organic grain operation in Montana. USDA photo courtesy of Betsy Rakola.
According to a 2014 USDA Economic Research Service report, consumer demand for organically produced products continues to show double-digit growth. This year, the Montana Organic Association’s (MOA) annual meeting highlighted the sector’s ongoing growth with its theme of Organic Business: Benefitting Producers and Consumers. As USDA’s Organic Policy Advisor, I represented USDA at MOA’s conference and presented information about USDA’s support for the growing organic community.
MOA’s mission is to advocate for and promote organic agriculture for the highest good of the people, the environment and the state’s economy. The conference brought in over 200 people, a large number in a rural state with just over 200 certified organic operations. MOA President Nate Brown noted, “The Montana Organic Association annual conference is our biggest event of the year and has been the lifeblood of the organization for the past 12 years. We feel the conference is a great way to bring together Montana’s organic community every year for a weekend of learning and socializing in order to keep up with the growing organic market in our state.” Read more »
As every farmer and rancher will tell you, life on the farm means you make tough choices every day. At times the challenges and risks facing farmers, especially those just starting out, can seem difficult and daunting. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new farmers have one less thing to worry about: they no longer have to choose between doing what they love and having access to affordable, reliable health insurance coverage for themselves and their families.
There are stories like Elena, who worked alongside her father on their Colorado farm throughout her early 20s. The Affordable Care Act allowed her to remain on her parent’s health insurance through the age of 25. But after she turned 26, she had to take a job in town that came with health benefits. By getting Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage, she was able to come back to her family farm while maintaining access to health coverage. Read more »