This week, USDA released preliminary data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture that provides a snapshot of a rural America that remains stable in the face of difficult economic times. While the data do not paint a perfect picture, they do tell a story of the unlimited potential and growing opportunity in modern rural America.
Census data indicate that the loss of farmland has slowed significantly since 2007, which means that while a total of 72 million acres of farmland have been lost since the 1982 census, we have begun to stem the tide. New tools in the 2014 Farm Bill should help to further slow and perhaps even reverse this trend in some areas of the country.
The results reinforce what we have known for many years: the farm population is aging. While that is a concern, the data also show that the number of young farmers increased slightly and the number of minority farm and ranch principal operators increased dramatically, reflecting the changing face of America as a whole. We are hopeful that USDA policies that attract and retain the next generation of talent into rural America will help to continue this trend. Read more »
Barbara Robinson gets ready to plant tomatoes in her high tunnel at her farm, B&W Orchards. Robinson specializes in blueberries but grows other fruits and vegetables. Photo by NRCS.
Known to her neighbors in Clarke County, Miss. as the blueberry lady, Barbara Robinson has a vibrant 20-acre farm packed with blueberries, muscadines and other produce. Robinson is one of the nation’s many fruit growers, and a recent USDA report shows the land dedicated to growing cultivated fruits, nuts and flowers is rapidly growing.
The National Resources Inventory released recently by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service shows a boom in land dedicated to growing fruits, nuts and flowers, increasing from 124,800 acres in 2007 to 273,800 in 2010. Cultivated refers to farms that plant a second crop amid the fruit, nut and flower crop. This finding is one of many in the newest NRI report.
While the report only provides the numbers and doesn’t make inferences, experts at NRCS say one reason for the growth is more available assistance to fruit, nut and flower growers. Read more »
Grapes like these may soon have the USDA Quality Monitored seal on their packaging.
When you think of what really makes fruit and vegetables stand out it usually comes down to quality. Determining quality – making sure your fresh food looks, smells, feels and tastes just the way you expect it to – is what USDA’s Quality Monitoring Program (QMP) does.
The program, run by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Specialty Crops Inspection Division, allows produce suppliers and others to have products inspected by USDA based on specific internal standards or U.S. grade standards. As a neutral third-party, USDA evaluates various commodities through QMP – everything from olive oil to canned, frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables. Read more »
USDA Market News reporter Holly Mozal teaches a Cochran Fellowship group from Haiti about our Market News database. We capture data for everything from cotton, fruits, vegetables and specialty crops, livestock, meats, poultry, eggs, grain and hay, to milk and dairy, and tobacco.
At some point in our lives, we all wonder what it would be like if we didn’t exist. How would things be different? Last month, American farmers and businesses experienced what it was like to live without USDA Market News. While the markets continued to operate, we received several phone calls and heard stories of how so many small and mid-sized producers struggled without the valuable information we provide.
In the 100-year history of Market News, this was only the second time that the data reports were not available. The reports give farmers, producers and other agricultural businesses the information they need to evaluate market conditions, identify trends, make purchasing decisions, monitor price patterns, evaluate transportation equipment needs and accurately assess movement. The information, gathered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and provided for free, captures data for everything from cotton, fruits, vegetables and specialty crops, livestock, meats, poultry, eggs, grain and hay, to milk and dairy, and tobacco. Read more »
Chris and Tracy Adams with their daughters Ashley and Abigail.
Similar to the old adage, when Chris Adams married the wife, he married the family – and the family farm. Lucky for him, he loves farming and enjoys working with his in-laws to manage the 4,000-acre farm of soybeans, wheat and corn. Now it’s his full-time job, working with his brother-in-law to raise fields of commodity crops each year. But recently, Chris and Tracy Adams, and the rest of the family, began experimenting with farming at a much smaller scale.
They built a seasonal high tunnel, a greenhouse-like structure that produces a plentiful supply of strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes and peppers. High tunnels are made of plastic or metal pipe and covered with sheeting, typically made of plastic. Unlike greenhouses, they require no energy to heat, instead relying on natural sunlight to create favorable conditions for growing vegetables and other specialty crops. Read more »
A mother and son shop for veggies and flowers—both specialty crops—at a local farmers market. Over half the foods we eat are considered specialty crops. Support for this vital sector of agriculture relies on the stability provided through a comprehensive Farm Bill. Photo by Melinda Shelton.
“Specialty crops”—the label may sound like exotic foods or something reserved for a special occasion, but this area of agriculture represents more than half the foods we eat on a daily basis. Defined as fruits and veggies, tree nuts, herbs, dried fruit, decorative plants and flowers, these crops are not only a key component of a healthy diet—they are also key to sustaining U.S. farms and agriculture. Read more »