U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) engineer Kevin King (right) explains an edge of field water quality monitoring station to Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby, farm owners Joe and Clint Nester in the Western Lake Erie Basin near Bryan, Ohio on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014. The device allows tracking of both surface and underground water moving thru field tile. Monitoring stations results help determine what may be best farming practices on different types of soil in the watershed. USDA photo by Garth Clark.
USDA has a long history of investment in water quality and quantity issues. Still, Toledo, Ohio Mayor Michael Collins issued an emergency water advisory leaving about 500,000 people without clean tap water to drink or cook with from Aug. 2 to Aug. 4. The reason for the advisory: toxins produced by algae in Lake Erie got into the city’s water supply. Residents were forced to rely on bottled and trucked-in water for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth. The Lake Erie algae bloom incident shows we all have a lot more work to do to ensure adequate water supplies for now and into the future.
In response to the algae bloom incident, USDA leadership, represented by Terry Cosby, NRCS state conservationist, joined Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Marcy Kaptur, this week to immediately announce $2 million in new federal emergency funds to reduce runoff in the Western Lake Erie Basin. Read more »
Spiraling firefighting costs have shrunk the budget for critical forest and rangeland priorities, including investing in Forest Service programs designed to mitigate the impacts of wildfire.
Over the past twenty years, a changing climate, population growth near forests and rangelands, and the buildup of brush and other fuels have dramatically increased the severity of wildfires and the damage that they cause to our natural lands and communities. Year after year, fire seasons grow longer and longer, destroying homes, threatening critical infrastructure and the watersheds that provide clean drinking water to millions of people. Between 1980 and 2011, the average annual number of fires on Federal land more than doubled, and the total area burned annually tripled. Even as fire seasons have grown, the way we pay to fight these fires remains unchanged – and fundamentally broken.
The Forest Service’s firefighting appropriation has rapidly increased as a proportion of the Forest Service’s overall budget, increasing from 16 percent in 1995 to 42 percent today. As the costs of wildfires have spiraled out of control, it has shrunk the budget of other Forest Service programs, taking millions of dollars from other critical forest health and land management priorities in order to pay for them. What’s more, often the programs we are forced to divert funds from are the very programs which help to mitigate the impact of wildfires. Read more »
Last week, USDA marked the six-month anniversary of the signing of the 2014 Farm Bill. I am proud to say that we’ve made important progress on every title of the Farm Bill, including issuing disaster assistance payments, updating risk management tools, modifying farm loan programs, announcing new support for agricultural research, establishing new conservation programs, and much more.
My team and I at USDA have gathered together some top statistics that show how the Farm Bill is at work in your state—and the record results we’ve achieved this time around. For example: Read more »
One year ago this week, I was honored to be sworn in as Deputy Secretary of USDA.
Along with Secretary Vilsack, I have had the privilege to lead a remarkable team here at USDA as we have worked to implement the 2014 Farm Bill, create a one-stop-shop for new farmers and ranchers seeking access to resources as they begin their farm businesses and lead a nation-wide discussion about who our next generation of farmers and farm leaders will be.
I am most proud of the opportunities that I have had to meet, learn from, and support the thousands of new farmers and ranchers that I have met during my first year in office. As a daughter of farmers, shaping the future of farming and ranching is incredibly personal for me. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers are exceptionally productive, passionate stewards of our land and it is essential they have all the tools they need to be successful business people. Read more »
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Everyday at USDA, we work to ensure that American agriculture delivers safe, nutritious food and clean, plentiful water. But we’re facing serious challenges worldwide affecting agriculture and natural resources. With our agricultural system under stress, we must partner to find new ways to approach solutions to these challenges.
A new partnership that’s creating a lot of excitement is the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). The Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill, established this new, private, non-profit Foundation to foster research, innovation, and public-private partnerships important to America’s agricultural economy. This independent nonprofit foundation will consult with USDA to fund complementary research activities to address challenges relating to plant and animal health, production and products; food safety, nutrition and health; renewable energy, natural resources and the environment; agricultural and food security; agriculture systems and technology; and agricultural economics and rural communities. Congress provided $200 million for the Foundation, and this money must be matched by non-federal funds as the Foundation identifies and approves projects. In this way, the Foundation will leverage private donations to fund research activities making this a truly public-private partnership. Read more »
USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.
We just wrapped up the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week here at USDA. It has been an AMAZING week filled with celebrations at farmers markets across the country. Last Friday, at our own USDA Farmers Market, we hosted hundreds of youths to introduce them to healthy back-to-school snacks; and we even had a special guest appearance from our old friend Smokey Bear (who turned 70 years old on Saturday).
Every year, the first full week of August is our opportunity to highlight the country’s thousands of farmers markets, the farmers and ranchers who make them possible, and the communities that host them. Farmers markets and, more broadly, local and regional food systems, are one of the four key pillars that USDA is focusing on in order to encourage rural economic development and improve the quality of life for rural Americans. Read more »