FAS Administrator Phil Karsting shows one example of U.S. organic produce from Earthbound Farms, now available at the Gourmet Market at Siam Paragon shopping complex in Bangkok. Photo credit: U.S. Embassy Bangkok, Thailand
In mid-August, I traveled to Southeast Asia and witnessed firsthand the great strides being made to help increase food security and trade. I also came to appreciate the immense potential for future trade opportunities in the area. I returned with a reaffirmed sense of urgency to continue building upon recent gains in trade with Thailand.
Thailand purchased a record $1.7 billion in food and agricultural products last year from the United States, making it our 13th largest export market. Overall, U.S. agricultural exports to Thailand have grown by more than 150 percent over the past decade. Throughout my visit, growing demand for both U.S. bulk commodities and consumer products was very clear. Read more »
A delegation of Thai lumber company executives (including Opas Panitchewakul, Pracha Thawornjira, Jaroonsak Cheewatammanon, Khomwit Boonthamrongkit and Wasant Sonchaiwanich) tours the Mauvila Timber distribution warehouse in Loxly, Ala., with Lane Merchant (left), the company’s general manager.
The pine forests of Georgia and the Pacific Northwest are a far cry from the crowded streets of Bangkok, where several shipments of U.S. softwood products are headed thanks to a collaborative effort by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), the Southern Forest Products Association and the Softwood Export Council.
In June 2014, executives from five Thai lumber companies visited the United States under the auspices of FAS’s Cochran Fellowship Program. Thanks to the knowledge they gained and the relationships they forged with the U.S. softwood industry during their visit, several participants subsequently made first-time purchases of U.S. softwood. These initial purchases are a big step for U.S. softwood producers to make headway into the $58 million market in Thailand. Read more »
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Under Secretary Robert Bonnie speaks during a celebration event marking the launch of The International Year of Soils at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Dec. 5, 2014. Friday is also the 1st World Soil Day. USDA photo by Zack Baddorf.
Last week at the United Nations in New York, I joined top USDA officials to celebrate World Soil Day and the U.S. launch of the International Year of Soils, or IYS. Last year, the United Nations General Assembly designated Dec. 5 as World Soil Day and declared 2015 as the IYS to “serve as a major platform for raising awareness of the importance of soils for food security and essential ecosystem service.” Representing the United States were Robert Bonnie, USDA under secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, and David Smith, deputy chief for soil science and resource assessment, with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Under Secretary Bonnie was one of 10 distinguished guests making presentations on the floor of the United Nations. He emphasized the serious challenges that are facing agriculture and food security, particularly in light of the fact that in the next 40 years, farmers and ranchers will need to produce as much food as they have in the last 500 years to feed a rapidly growing population. He also said that NRCS’ work in soil conservation, soil health and soil science has been integral to the economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture. Read more »
Poultry farmer Kao Her and former District Conservationist Lynn Jenkins look over a map of Her’s farm. Since beginning his poultry operation in 2005, Her has added two, 600-foot poultry houses to his property, as well as an updated stacking shed and composter, all with financial and technical assistance from NRCS. NRCS photo.
Kao Her is a self-taught poultry farmer. Everything he knows about poultry farming he learned over two weeks with the farm’s previous owner and nine years of on the job trial-and-error.
“I’ve learned a lot by mistake,” said Her, a member of the Hmong community. “My cousin always told me to do my research before getting into something new. But that’s never been my way of doing things.”
Her houses 235,000 broilers, or meat chickens, in six poultry houses in the small town of Noel, Missouri, located just six miles northeast of where Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma intersect. He walks three miles a day through his 500-foot and 600-foot houses checking on the chickens that help provide for his family. Since beginning his Class 1 poultry operation in 2005, Her has raised chickens for local commercial poultry operator, Simmons. Read more »
Alex Weiss from Caledonia Spirits, Arnold Coombs from Bascom Family Farms, and Jeremy Stephenson from the Vermont Cheese Council, attend the Food and Hotel China Show in Shanghai to exhibit their agricultural products. The small businesses attended the trade show with the help of one of the State and Regional Trade Groups – coalitions of state departments of agriculture – that use USDA market development program funds to provide support for about 30,000 companies annually. (Courtesy Photo)
Recently, USDA announced that U.S. agricultural exports for fiscal year 2013 finished at another record level, continuing the strongest five-year period for such exports in our nation’s history. Much of this success is due to small businesses, which Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack noted are the backbone of the economy in rural communities, small towns and big cities.
USDA’s efforts with small businesses is helped by the work of four State Regional Trade Groups – coalitions of state departments of agriculture – that use USDA market development program funds to provide support for about 30,000 companies annually. Read more »
Volunteers distribute sack lunches to children at the New Freedom Park Summer Food Service Program site in Aurora, Colorado. The lunches are delivered in a school bus by an organization called Lunch Box Express.
Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado, is known for its diversity of businesses and residents. It is home to establishments ranging from upscale restaurants to motels housing low-income and homeless families. However, the upscale scene doesn’t tell the whole story. Within a two-mile stretch of Colfax, there are an estimated 15,000 children who qualify for free and reduced school meals, which means there are thousands of children who could benefit from a free nutritious meal during the summer.
Several Colorado organizations recognized this high need and joined together with a goal of feeding 1,000 children in the neighborhood this summer. The Colfax Community Network (CCN) is an organization that advocates for children and families living in the area by providing information, services and programs to strengthen and improve family and community life. Read more »