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Posts tagged: small businesses

Creating New Opportunities for the Sheep Industry

USDA is committed to working with our partners in the sheep industry to support them as they provide quality products to consumers and increase producer returns here at home. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

USDA is committed to working with our partners in the sheep industry to support them as they provide quality products to consumers and increase producer returns here at home. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung

Since they were brought over during the earliest explorations of North America, the sheep industry has played a vital role in the agricultural history of our nation.  In the 1940s, there were over 55 million sheep in the U.S., but today those numbers hover around one-tenth of that total.  There are about 80,000 sheep ranchers across the U.S., and, with support from the 2014 Farm Bill, they will have additional resources to help develop innovative approaches to address their long-term needs.

Consolidation of the U.S. sheep packing industry, higher feed and energy costs, loss of animals to predators and lower lamb consumption, along with competition from imported of lamb cuts, have taken their toll on U.S. sheep producers.  In response to industry needs, USDA is committed to working with our stakeholders to ensure the long-term viability of the sheep industry. Read more »

Big Help for Small Producers

A USDA pilot program is helping small producers reach more retail markets by making Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification more accessible and affordable.  Under the pilot, cooperatives, food hubs and other groups of small producers can pool resources to implement food safety training programs, perform internal inspections and share the cost of GAP certification.

A USDA pilot program is helping small producers reach more retail markets by making Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification more accessible and affordable. Under the pilot, cooperatives, food hubs and other groups of small producers can pool resources to implement food safety training programs, perform internal inspections and share the cost of GAP certification.

For their communities, small farmers are anything but small. Their contributions are quite large – not only do they provide food for local residents – they also create jobs and economic opportunities.  However, retailer requirements and the cost of marketing can make it difficult for small producers to scale up and reach larger markets. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is working to remove those barriers by offering a number of services that help small and local producers grow and sustain their businesses.

In the produce industry, more and more retailers require suppliers to have Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, which verifies that the operation is following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration.  For small farmers, getting GAP certified can be difficult and expensive. To help offset some of these costs, the AMS Specialty Crops Inspection Division and Transportation and Marketing Program are partnering with the Wallace Center at Winrock International to implement a Group GAP Pilot Project. Read more »

SBIR Grants Help Increase Company Growth, Decrease Forest Waste

The “Forest Scramble” playscape at Myrick Hixon EcoPark, in La Crosse, Wisconsin, features small-diameter round timber construction design by WholeTrees Architecture and Structures.  WholeTrees has used four Small Business Innovation Research grants to create new markets, grow its business, and create jobs in the rural economy. Photo courtesy of WholeTrees.

The “Forest Scramble” playscape at Myrick Hixon EcoPark, in La Crosse, Wisconsin, features small-diameter round timber construction design by WholeTrees Architecture and Structures. WholeTrees has used four Small Business Innovation Research grants to create new markets, grow its business, and create jobs in the rural economy. Photo courtesy of WholeTrees.

With Mother Nature providing the raw material, a company based in Madison, Wisconsin, saw a chance to grow its business, help the local economy, and promote a sustainable environment all at the same time.

WholeTrees Architecture and Structures is a small, woman-owned business that has successfully leveraged four Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants into a business opportunity that has increased local revenue and grown the company from six employees and gross income of $150,000 in 2009 to 17 employees and gross income of about $1 million in 2013.  The company projects revenue increasing to $4 million by 2016.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administered the SBIR grants. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Making the Business Case for Rural America

These days, it seems like it’s easier than ever to turn a good idea into reality. This is the era of Kickstarter, where entrepreneurs can connect with potential investors at the click of a button.

Of course, it takes more than money to grow an idea. It takes an atmosphere that fosters creativity and rewards innovation. And at a deeper, less obvious level, it requires strong, secure infrastructure—roads and bridges, but also internet access and community facilities like hospitals and schoolsthat improves connectivity and access to information, moves products to market, and makes communities competitive and attractive to new businesses and investments. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: USDA Support Keeps Old Glory Flying High

What began as a small sail-making shop in 19th century New York City has evolved into the modern realization of one family’s American Dream—a family-owned and –operated small business whose product has been a part of some of the most iconic images in our nation’s history.

Alexander Annin’s sail-making shop, established in the 1820s, has evolved into the oldest and largest flag company in the United States and is still in operation today. Commencing with Zachary Taylor’s 1849 presidential inauguration; to the flag-draped coffin of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865; onward to the iconic image of U.S. Marines hoisting the flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi in 1945; to the flag planted by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969—all were Annin-made flags. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Record Trade Supports Strong Rural Economies

Agriculture is one of the brightest spots in our economy, and the American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide. Trade and market access support good-paying jobs and drives economic growth. A strong rural economy is critical to the overall economic health of the United States.

The past five years represent the strongest in history for agricultural trade with U.S. agricultural product exports totaling $619 billion over five years. Agricultural exports in fiscal year 2013 alone reached $140.9 billion, the highest level on record, and supported nearly one million jobs here at home. Read more »