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Posts tagged: Texas

Following the Rails: USDA Tracks Agricultural Exports Across the Border

Until recently, there was no readily-available public data showing the entry points of U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico, modes of transportation, or how product were used at their final destination.  Now, a USDA partnership with Texas A&M scientists provides insight into the movement of products from the U.S. to Mexico. Photo by Michael Matalis.

Until recently, there was no readily-available public data showing the entry points of U.S. agricultural exports to Mexico, modes of transportation, or how product were used at their final destination. Now, a USDA partnership with Texas A&M scientists provides insight into the movement of products from the U.S. to Mexico. Photo by Michael Matalis.

Driving down a rural road, admiring the expansive fields of corn and soybeans, I stopped at a rail crossing to wait for what seemed like an endless train of cars filled with grain.  My idle mind wondered, where are all those tons of grain headed, where was its final destination?  For anyone else, it may just be curiosity. But for me and those who work in my division within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), it’s our job to answer those questions.

We understand that for stakeholders within the agricultural industry—farmers, grain mill operators, shippers and exporters—the answers are critical.  Sound business decisions require knowledge about what is happening with the transportation of agricultural products, both in the domestic and international marketplace. 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 »

USDA-Funded Researchers Map the Loblolly Pine Genome

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, including research into trees that could fuel new energy solutions.

A team of researchers led by the University of California–Davis has mapped the complete genome of the loblolly pine. And if you don’t think that understanding the genetic makeup of loblolly pine is a big deal, perhaps you cannot see the forest for the trees.

Loblolly pine, the most commercially important tree in the United States, is the source of most paper products in this country and 58 percent of timber. On the surface, that might be reason enough for the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to invest $14.6 million in 2011 toward science that could increase the productivity and health of American forests. Read more »

The Women of Agriculture: Paving the Path for a New Tomorrow

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden looks over olive blooms with Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard owner Sandy Winokur in Elemendorf, TX on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. USDA photo by Melissa Blair.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden looks over olive blooms with Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard owner Sandy Winokur in Elemendorf, TX on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. USDA photo by Melissa Blair.

During this year’s State of the Union address, President Obama laid out an important call to action for our country:

“This year let’s all come together, Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street, to give every woman the opportunity she deserves, because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds.”

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I would like to call attention to the remarkable work of women of agriculture. Not only are women the heart of many family farming operations across the country, women are starting and growing their own agricultural businesses– creating opportunity and economic growth for their families and in their local communities. Read more »

Hunters with Disabilities Enjoy Annual Hunt on National Forests in East Texas

U.S. Forest Service employees Michael Sowell (right) and Lanton Chumley plan where to locate hunter blinds. The goal is to ensure sites are accessible to accommodate hunters with varying disabilities. (U.S. Forest Service/Mandy Chumley)

U.S. Forest Service employees Michael Sowell (right) and Lanton Chumley plan where to locate hunter blinds. The goal is to ensure sites are accessible to accommodate hunters with varying disabilities. (U.S. Forest Service/Mandy Chumley)

For some people with physical limitations, being able to participate in hunting season is a distant memory. But thanks to the Angelina and Sabine national forests employees and retired agency volunteers in East Texas, a group of local hunters have an opportunity to create new memories each December as part of an annual two-day hunt.

“For the past five years, we’ve enjoyed being a part of the Angelina Wheelin’ Sportsman hunt for deer and hogs,” said Jason Engle, a district wildlife biologist for the Angelina National Forest who leads the event planning efforts for the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas. “We want to ensure these eager hunters enjoy a great hunting experience, and we’re here to help them enjoy their national forests.” Read more »

Food Safety and Worker Safety Can Improve in Poultry Facilities

While rates of Salmonella illnesses remain stubbornly high in this country, the United States is continuing to rely on a 60-year-old poultry inspection system developed under the Eisenhower Administration.  Our knowledge of foodborne illness and poultry processing has improved significantly since then, and our food safety measures should too. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has examined new approaches to poultry safety through an extensive multi-year pilot project.  In January 2012, FSIS put forward a modernization proposal based on this project because the data showed modernizing our procedures to combat invisible pathogens, rather than relying extensively on visual inspection, could prevent 5,000 foodborne illnesses per year. As a public health agency, it is crucial that we make use of 21st century science to reduce pathogens and save lives.

Some of the changes being proposed in the modernization plan concern some groups who misunderstand what FSIS is putting forward. In particular, some have claimed that the allowed speed increase for evisceration lines would lead to higher injury rates among poultry plant workers.  But a newly released report provides evidence that this isn’t the case. Read more »