At the first ever "Opportunities for Diversity" event, AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (at the podium) was joined by Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (first seat) and several members of the commodity Research and promotion boards. The event discussed the changing face of agriculture and the importance of including members from all schools of thought, backgrounds and culture.
The face of agriculture is changing. The changes are reflected in the Ag Census data released last week, in the rural communities we serve, and in the way the Department is looking toward the future. With a 12 percent increase in minority farm operators and a 21 percent increase in Hispanic farm operators since 2007, it’s clear that the agricultural landscape is changing. And it is vital that industry leadership evolves, too.
My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), oversees more than 20 Federal Research and Promotion (R&P) boards, whose members are appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. These boards serve a variety of commodity industries, focusing on nutrition, research, marketing and consumer outreach. By helping develop new markets and strengthening existing ones, they create opportunities for farms and businesses across the country. Read more »
The 2014 Farm Bill, passed by Congress and signed last week by President Obama, strengthens the farm safety net and ensures vital nutrition assistance for hardworking children and families during tough times. It closes loopholes and achieves much-needed reform, saving billions of taxpayer dollars.
Those accomplishments are significant and should be commended, particularly at a time when bipartisan victories in Washington are so rare.
We have already started work on a plan to implement the new Farm Bill. However, many of its provisions are new and complex. As we have done every step of the way in helping to craft this legislation, we will work to keep Congress and our stakeholders informed as we identify and prioritize everything—new regulations, guidance and other activities—that will be required so that we can implement the legislation in an efficient, timely and responsible manner. Read more »
Dairyman Bob Giacomini (center) discusses his dairy operations and the critical need for more rainfall to Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills and other participants.
On a recent trip to California, I had the pleasure meeting several farm families who are impacted by the state’s worsening drought. Both stops gave me a first-hand view of the challenges these farmers face. We discussed how USDA can further help them with available resources. While the discussion centered on concerns over water supply, I was heartened to see that the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) recommended conservation practices have helped them better prepare for the state’s historic water shortage.
During the first stop, I visited with a distinguished dairyman and conservationist in Marin County, Bob Giacomini, and his four daughters, who operate the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Driving over the hill towards Bob’s milking complex, I could see the pastures had little, if any, grass. In talking to Bob, he said that typically the grass would be at least two feet tall by now. He has real concerns about having enough forage for his cows. I also spoke with Paul Bianchi, who had joined us. Paul owns a dairy operation in neighboring Sonoma County and, like Bob, is very concerned about his ability to feed his cows. Both discussed the real possibility that they may have to sell some of their herd. Read more »
Take a look at five ways the Farm Bill strengthens our economy -- and if you learn something new, pass it on. (Click to enlarge)
Cross posted from the White House blog:
Today, President Obama traveled to Michigan State University’s equine performance center in East Lansing to deliver remarks on and sign into law the Agriculture Act of 2014 — also known as the Farm Bill, which Congress passed earlier this week.
It’s a bill whose reach extends far beyond our farms — it includes smart reforms to reduce our deficit, and the investments it makes in our rural communities will help strengthen our economy across the board. Read more »
Flooding and water damage in the Park and Tongue River Watersheds located in Cavalier, Pembina and Cavalaier Counties in North Dakota on Thursday, May 23, 2013. USDA photo by Keith Weston.
Weather dominates the conversation at local coffee shops and community gathering locations across the Northern Plains. Depending on the time of the year, I’ve heard things like this:
“We sure could use rain – really dry out there. Cattle are going to have to come off the pastures soon.”
“Hoping the rain will break here for a few days so I can get the hay cut without it getting rained on this time.” Read more »
NRCS field staff work closely with Tribal members on education, outreach and implementation of on-the-ground conservation practices. Loren Crank Jr. and Barry Hamilton with NRCS worked with Bill Todachennie, the chapter’s vice president, on this project.
Grasses for grazing livestock are making a comeback on Utah’s McCracken Mesa thanks to a project partnership among the Aneth Chapter of the Navajo Nation, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Known as the McCracken Mesa Rangeland Project, the Aneth Chapter is working to rehabilitate degraded land through a grass establishment project. McCracken Mesa rises 5,500 feet and covers 57,000 acres. An estimated 37,000 acres are intended for grazing livestock. But the mesa’s terrain, extreme weather and overgrazing from livestock have left much of the land bare.
The use of native grasses ensures a more sustainable ground cover for the mesa along with habitat for wildlife. Plants that are native to an area typically are the most suitable for restoration efforts because they boast advantages such as adaptability to the soil and have mastered surviving and thriving in the sometimes harsh environment. Read more »