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Posts tagged: Sustainability

Healthy Soil is Covered Soil

Bales on land

The crop nutrients removed by baling and removing corn stalks can be costly to replace.

Of the several practices USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recommends to improve soil health and sustainability one of the most important is to keep the soil covered. 

In corn and soybean fields, the starting point is maintaining the post-harvest crop residue on the soil surface. Crop residue is plant material remaining after harvesting, including leaves, stalks, and roots. Read more »

A European Take on Food Security

U.S. Pavilion at ExpoMilano

The 35,000 square foot U.S. Pavilion at ExpoMilano includes a massive vertical farm that will be harvested daily (photo courtesy of U.S. State Department).

Just like America, Europe is trying to address the challenge of how to feed the 9 billion people who will populate the world by the year 2050. In fact, the theme of ExpoMilano2015 – the world’s fair being held in Milan, Italy, this year – is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” On May 1, the European Union kicked off the Expo with a series of meetings, lectures and discussions surrounding that theme, and I was invited to take part.

The agricultural sector in the EU must produce food for more than 500 million consumers. At the meeting I attended, discussion focused largely on what research priorities should be established to inform the EU’s centralized agricultural policy, specifically on how to achieve three goals: Read more »

The International Institute of Tropical Forestry Celebrates 75 Years of Research Success

Ray Rodriguez, a collaborator from Para la Naturaleza, talks about the rural-urban ecotone and positive outcomes of community action as participants enjoy a birds-eye view overlooking the Río Piedras River Watershed boundaries in the San Juan metropolitan area, the final stop of an urban field trip on May 20 held as part of the Institute’s 75th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Forest Service)

Ray Rodriguez, a collaborator from Para la Naturaleza, talks about the rural-urban ecotone and positive outcomes of community action as participants enjoy a birds-eye view overlooking the Río Piedras River Watershed boundaries in the San Juan metropolitan area, the final stop of an urban field trip on May 20 held as part of the Institute’s 75th anniversary celebration. (U.S. Forest Service)

Scientists and community members in Puerto Rico recently celebrated 75 years of tropical forestry research with a diamond jubilee of festivities.

Last month, the International Institute of Tropical Forestry (IITF) hosted an urban field trip, where participants explored several field stations within and around the Río Piedras River watershed in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to learn about the watershed’s vulnerabilities and values in a social, economic and ecological context from Institute scientists and program collaborators. The field trip was led by Institute Director Ariel E. Lugo. Read more »

Expanding Opportunities for Small-Scale Beef Producers

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.

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 »

Decades of Research Show Increased Sustainability for American Agriculture

The Pioneers of Progress booklet illustrates how U.S. cotton has increased sustainability over the last 4 decades.  The original cover art was inspired by vintage almanacs, acknowledging the heritage of the U.S. cotton industry. Image courtesy Cotton Inc.

The Pioneers of Progress booklet illustrates how U.S. cotton has increased sustainability over the last 4 decades. The original cover art was inspired by vintage almanacs, acknowledging the heritage of the U.S. cotton industry. Image courtesy Cotton Inc.

U.S. agricultural producers have been engaged in sustainable farming practices for many years as an inherent part of their work.  They need the environment to flourish and thrive in order to continue producing the foods we eat and the materials we use.  Agricultural research and promotion groups, with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), allow producers and businesses across a commodity industry to pool their expertise and resources in order to help create new markets and invest in research.  The research they conduct helps improve production, discover new uses, and plays an important part in helping their industry identify and adopt sustainable practices. Read more »

Finding Success with Next Generation Farmers

Under Secretary Ed Avalos (left) listens to Carlos and Greg Chavez explain the ongoing effects of drought on farms in Texas. Greg, a next generation farmer, has worked to increase the sustainability and success of his family farm by implementing new technology and irrigation methods that decrease water consumption.

Under Secretary Ed Avalos (left) listens to Carlos and Greg Chavez explain the ongoing effects of drought on farms in Texas. Greg, a next generation farmer, has worked to increase the sustainability and success of his family farm by implementing new technology and irrigation methods that decrease water consumption.

Not everyone goes to work every day knowing that they will be inspired by the people they meet—I’m very fortunate in that way.  From the federal agencies that I oversee to the farmers and ranchers I visit with, I am truly inspired by their dedication to serving the American people and their commitment to the success of rural America.  And many of the issues that they work on or face in their daily lives are the same issues that we are all concerned with—sustainability and conservation, short-term and long-term stability, and making sure our children and the next generation have paths to success.

During a recent visit to the Texas Panhandle, I stopped to have breakfast and visit with the father and son team who run the Chavez family farm.  Carlos and Greg Chavez farm 3,600 acres of corn, wheat and cotton, and run 1,200 head of cattle on winter wheat.  Greg, the son, has focused his attention on implementing new crop watering techniques, leveraging technology and conservation practices to combat the inherent dryness brought on by the strong Panhandle winds. Read more »