Agriculture Department

USDA and Interior stress cooperation in fighting wildfires

The two largest public-lands agencies in the United States, the Interior and Agriculture departments, “signed a memorandum emphasizing cooperation among federal, state, tribal and local agencies in battling wildfires as the main part of the wildfire season arrives,” said The Associated Press. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue signed the memorandum following a briefing at the interagency fire command center in Boise, Idaho.

Groups ask USDA for stronger rules on scientific integrity

A coalition that includes some of the largest U.S. environmental groups called on USDA “to take the necessary steps to ensure that the USDA maintains scientific integrity” and to inaugurate a third-party review of complaints by USDA scientists that their work has been censored or suppressed. …

USDA to award $8 million for nutrition training

The Agriculture Department said it will award $8 million "to help school nutrition professionals better prepare healthy meals for their students."

Broader program to preserve Southwestern willow flycatcher

The Agriculture and Interior departments unveiled an eco-system-wide program to enhance habitat for threatened and endangered species in the U.S. Southwest.

U.S. directs $150 million in forest, drought aid to California

The Agriculture Department announced $150 million to revitalize forests in Northern California and for drought relief for farmers and rural communities.

USDA offers $66.5 million for specialty crop, organic research

A total of $66.5 million is available for work that will benefit specialty crop and organic producers, said the Agriculture Department. The money would cover the cost of research and "extension" -- activities that deliver information about improved crops...

USDA to update protocols at animal research center

The Agriculture Department stopped all new research projects at its Meat Animal Research Center until new protocols are implemented in response to reports of the harsh treatment of animals at the facility in Nebraska, according to Feedstuffs.

USDA to start over on overhaul of biotech regulations

Seven years and 88,000 public comments after it began an overhaul of the regulation "of certain genetically engineered organisms," the Agriculture Department has withdrawn its proposed rule.

States, tribes will test ways to reduce rural child hunger

Five pilot projects will test ways to reduce child hunger in rural America, with approaches that range from home delivery of food to providing three school meals a day, says the Agriculture Department. The USDA awarded $27 million in grants for the demonstration projects in Virginia, Kentucky and Nevada, and the Chickasaw and Navajo nations, from money provided in the 2010 child-nutrition law.

Diet panel – Eat more fruit, veggies, dairy and less meat

The new edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans should encourage people to eat more fruit, vegetables, dairy and whole grains and less sugar and refined grains, says a panel of experts advising the government. In its report, the panel says half of Americans have preventable, chronic diseases and two-thirds are overweight or obese. The persistent and high level of diet-related disease "raise the urgency for immediate attention and bold action," says the panel.

Non-browning biotech apple gets USDA approval

The Agriculture Department approved cultivation of two apple varieties that are genetically engineered to resist browning. Developed by Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., the apples will be marketed as Arctic Granny and Arctic Golden.

USDA weighs bio-control against emerald ash borer

The Agriculture Department set a 30-day comment period on the environmental assessment of its plan to release a parasitic wasp to combat the destructive emerald ash borer, which has been detected in 24 states from Colorado to New Hampshire.

Drought covers a quarter of U.S., thin snowpack in West

Five weeks into the year, the Agriculture Department declared natural disaster areas in nine states, from Idaho to California to Texas. In all, 256 counties - 8 percent of all counties in the nation - are eligible for low-interest agricultural loans and disaster relief programs, said the USDA. The weekly Drought Monitor says 28 percent of the contiguous United States is in drought, up nearly 2 points since the start of the year.

U.S. farm income to plummet by one-third in 2015

U.S. farm income will drop to its lowest level in six years under the weight of sharply lower crop prices and a plunge in milk prices, according to a forecast from the Agriculture Department. Net farm income, which reflects earnings from production in the current calendar year, would fall by 32 percent from 2014 levels. The USDA said another measure of the farm sector, net cash farm income, would slump by 22 percent, a smaller decline because it includes revenue from stocks carried over from last year.

USDA opens review of federal milk pricing system

The Agriculture Department announced a once-a-decade review of the milk marketing-order system, to see if the system, in use for decades, "should be continued without change, amended, or rescinded."

More cattle and hogs to ease meat squeeze

U.S. cattle, hog and poultry producers are expanding production, the government said in forecasting a sharp 3-percent increase in per-capita meat consumption this year. In its monthly WASDE report, the Agriculture Department raised its forecast of meat production by more than 1 billion pounds for this year. It estimated that the average American would consume 208.5 pounds of beef, pork and poultry in 2015, the equivalent of 9 ounces a day.

USDA announces $30 million for citrus greening research

The Agriculture Department awarded $53 million for research to help growers combat citrus greening, a devastating plant disease, and to search for a way to prevent it.

When it comes to farming, a “medium” can sound large

A mid-size family farm in the United States averages 1,582 acres - 2.4 square miles - in size and rings up $645,000 in annual sales, says the Agriculture Department's "Farm Typology" report. There are 118,340 mid-size farms, predominantly grain and soybean operations, although more than 40 percent also raise cattle and 5 percent have hogs. Only 5.6 percent of the 2.11 million farms in the country meet USDA's criteria for a mid-size family farm, which is from $350,000 to $1 million in gross cash farm income (GCFI).

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