Posts Tagged ‘USDA

Be Counted in the USDA Farm Census!

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 by

For producers who missed the February 4 deadline, NASS is alerting them that it’s not too late to be counted. The Census is conducted only once every five years by the National Agriculture Statistics Service and provides detailed data on nearly every facet of U.S. agriculture at the national, state and county levels.

Whether a farm is on two acres or 2,000, the information gathered from all producers is important.

The survey looks at land use and ownership, production practices, expenditures and other factors that affect the way farmers do business. Decision makers and commodity groups at the local and state level use the Census of Agriculture to make decisions that directly impact farmers, their businesses and their communities.

Farmers and ranchers are not missing an opportunity to have their voices heard and their farms represented in the 2012 Census of Agriculture. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), almost 1.5 million Census forms were submitted by farmers, helping ensure communities and agricultural industries have a voice in the future.

When is the deadline to respond to the Census of Agriculture?

NASS has extended the February 4 Census deadline to ensure every farmer and rancher in the United States is counted. If they have not already done so, producers should complete and mail back their Census form or respond online as soon as possible. For those who do not respond by March 14, NASS will begin following up by telephone and personal visits. Federal law requires all agricultural producers to participate in the Census and requires NASS to keep all individual information confidential.

If you have questions about the Census, lost, did not receive, or need help filling out your form, they can visit or call 1-888-4AG-STAT (1-888-424-7828).

Farmers that did not receive a questionnaire in the mail can still sign up to get one by registering at Just enter your contact information and a new questionnaire will be mailed to you.

USDA Launches New Microloan Program to Assist Small Farmers

Friday, January 18th, 2013 by

Accessing capital for small to medium-sized producers who want to scale up or even adjust current production practices to support their current customer base is challenging. This week, however, the USDA announced an effort to address some of those hurdles with a new microloan program designed to help small and family operations, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. Under the new program farmers can secure loans under $35,000 to invest in season extension solutions, start up costs, irrigation systems, and annual expenses like seed, fertilizer, utilities, land rents, marketing, distribution costs and family expenses.

“I have met several small and beginning farmers, returning veterans and disadvantaged producers interested in careers in farming who too often must rely on credit cards or personal loans with high interest rates to finance their start-up operations,” said Vilsack in the agency’s press release.“By further expanding access to credit to those just starting to put down roots in farming, USDA continues to help grow a new generation of farmers, while ensuring the strength of an American agriculture sector that drives our economy, creates jobs, and provides the most secure and affordable food supply in the world.”

The program, administered through the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), focused previously on providing larger loans that proved unwieldy for smaller producers to leverage. Now, the agency will provide these micro loans to small operations interested in scaling up through a pared down application process that requires applicants to fill out half as much paperwork in accordance with the smaller loan amounts. Previously, under traditional farm loans, farmers were tasked with filling out 17 forms to apply for the funds. Under the micro-loan program they will only be required to complete eight.

Recipients will have up seven years to repay the loan, unless the funding goes toward annual operating costs, in which case the loans are required to be repaid in 12 months or when the farmer’s products are sold, at a 4.9 percent interest rate.

Producers interested in applying for a microloan may contact their local Farm Service Agency office.

News from the Hub – Week of July 23, 2012

Friday, July 27th, 2012 by

Fresh Picks: Top 5 stories worth reading

Bicycle delivery of local produce targets pollution and obesity in Hillsboro
Bicyclists haul trailers of fresh produce from the market, where they load up two trailers with Community Supported Agriculture shares, which are then distributed to people in surrounding apartment complexes.

Farm-friendly speed dating? Try ‘weed dating’
Christian Science Monitor
An Idaho farm offers a new form of speed dating for those looking for something different than the typical dating scene. It’s called ‘weed dating,’ and participants meet each other while pulling weeds amongst rows of zucchini and tomatoes.

New York trans fat ban has cut consumption, study finds
Los Angeles Times
Since the city banned trans fats in restaurant food in 2008, diners have consumed 2.4 fewer grams of trans fats per lunch, which should mean better health, researchers say.

Females Outnumber Males in Agricultural Undergraduate Programs
The USDA Food and Agricultural Education Information System released a report revealing that the number of women undergraduates enrolled in land-grant agricultural programs is larger than the number of men enrolled.

Food’s sticker shock: A closer look at drought and crop damage
Los Angeles Times
For many people, a trip to the supermarket has become a perilous journey of navigating aisles of expensive goods and even more expensive goods. And now, it might seem, a villain has been found ­ weather that has prompted drought conditions and damaged crops in much of the United States. (more…)

FoodHub: A bridge over the urban-rural divide

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 by

FoodHub  returns to the White House to talk about new opportunities for rural Members

“We are out on the farm; we’re out in the country. It’s really helpful to have technology that connects us to the cities to be able to sell.”

That’s how folks at Unger Farms explained the benefit of using FoodHub to reach wholesale food buyers in the Portland, Oregon metro market. Indeed, for those not familiar with the site, opening market access to far flung rural producers is one of the primary goals of Ecotrust, the Portland-based non-profit that founded and developed FoodHub.

To date,

  • More than 20% of FoodHub’s membership in its six core states (OR, WA, ID, MT, AK and CA) is based in counties in which at least 30% of the population lives in rural areas.
  • 55% of rural FoodHub Members are sellers, 82% of which are farmers, ranchers, or dairies. Remaining sellers include breweries, wineries, fishermen, processors/manufacturers or producers of specialty products.
  • 30% of rural FoodHub members are buyers, of which 27% K-12 or Pre-K schools or school districts. (more…)

USDA Provides Millions to Fund SNAP Programs at Farmers’ Markets

Friday, May 11th, 2012 by

One criticism of the local food movement is that only the well-off can afford to take advantage of their region’s bounty.  However, now, thanks to $4 million in grant funding from the USDA, state residents who utilize SNAP benefits will be able to spend more of their monthly allowance with their local farmers, at their local farmers’ market.

“Our country’s 7,100 operating farmers markets offer opportunities to our children and their families to access healthy food across the country,” said Deputy Secretary Merrigan. “SNAP participation at farmers’ markets helps provide fresh fruit and vegetables to families and expands the customer base for local farmers – a win-win for agriculture and local communities.”

The additional funding will go towards ensuring farmers’ markets have the tools in place to process SNAP transactions through Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, technology. Currently, there are more than 1,500 farmers markets using the EBT systems and since 2008, SNAP expenditures at farmers markets have risen by 400 percent.

In 2009 more than 6.6 million people in FoodHub’s current 6-state membership region qualified for SNAP benefits. (Check out the break-down by state in a report by USDA Food and Nutrition Services here.) In 2010, 40 million people received benefits in an average month. As of August 2011, 45.8 million people received monthly benefits from the SNAP program.

“This funding will help SNAP customers increase their opportunities to access healthy, local foods,” Merrigan said. “And evidence suggests they will take advantage of that access. When we couple this approach with strategies like the education, cooking demonstrations, and community support often found at farmers markets, consumption of healthy foods should rise even more.”

The funding is being funneled through the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which also houses National School Lunch Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, and the Summer Food Service Program.

Learn more about getting SNAP benefits at your farmers’ market here.

New Food Hub Resource Guide Expands Market Opportunities for Farmers and Ranchers

Friday, April 20th, 2012 by

Today, FoodHub was proud to be present for the release of the USDA’s  Regional Food Hub Resource Guide at the National Good Food Network Food Hub Collaboration conference.

“The Regional Food Hub Resource Guide is an important tool to help promote local and regional efforts to support small and medium sized producers,” said Agriculture Deputy Secretary Merrigan. “Food hubs play a critical role in developing stronger supply chains and addressing the infrastructure challenges while supporting food access, regional economic development and job creation.”

The guide is an extensive collection of information and resources, providing background on everything needed to develop or participate in a regional food hub. It also highlights the economic contributions food hubs make to local communities and the role they play in expanding regional food systems. Included in the guide are resources for finding funding opportunities, support, best practices, strategies to address challenges and more.

Currently, according to the USDA, there are more than 170 food hubs operating throughout the country. The innovative business models espoused by food hubs allow farmers of all sizes to meet the growing consumer demand for fresh, local food by gaining entry into commercial and larger volume markets such as grocery stores, hospitals and schools.

“The new guide is the most comprehensive handbook on food hubs ever available,” Merrigan said. “Now farmers, buyers, researchers, consumers or anyone interested in creating a food hub in their community can tap into a single resource to find the information that they need.”

The Regional Food Hub Resource Guide follows a release earlier this year of the Know Your Farmer Compass, a guide to USDA resources related to local and regional food systems. The Compass consists of an interactive U.S. map showing local and regional food projects and an accompanying narrative documenting the results of this work through case studies, photos and video content. Both the Food Hubs Resource Guide and the Compass will be updated as new findings arise from case studies and projects underway.

USDA Grant to Bring More Farm-Fresh Food to Schools

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 by

Starting this year, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services will award up to $3.5 million in grants to assist schools in procuring food from local producers and support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes.

These grants are part $5 million in funding awarded to the USDA through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and will be provided to the agency annually. The grants are intended help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses. The remainder of the funding will go to support technical assistance and administrative costs related to USDA’s farm to school program.

“School cafeterias are great places to champion U.S. agriculture and to teach students where their food comes from,” said Deputy Secretary Merrigan during a visit to Southern High School in Harwood, Md., where she announced the funding opportunity. “More and more, schools are connecting with their local farmers, ranchers and food businesses each day and these programs are a great way to bring more local offerings into school cafeterias and support U.S. producers as well. As we struggle with obesity and associated diet related diseases, farm to school programs give us one important tool to help our kids make lifelong healthy eating choices.”

Letters of intent are suggested, but not required, by May 18, 2012. Project proposals are due June 15, 2012.

Check out the Farm to School section of FoodHub’s Knowledge Base for resources on developing your own Farm to School program, then visit the USDA Farm to School website to learn more about this new grant and sign up for an educational webinar on how to prepare your proposal.

Farmers’ Market Funding Frenzy

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 by

Just in time for the beginning of the 2012 season, the USDA announced last week that more than $10 million dollars of grant funding is available this year through their Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP). Now in its seventh year, this grant program is intended to bolster local farm-direct marketing efforts on a national scale through funding projects like road-side stands, farmers’ markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA). Special priority will be given to projects that increase access to fresh and affordable food options in underserved or low-income communities. Applications can be submitted online at,  with more information available at (more…)

News from the Hub – Week of March 26, 2012

Saturday, March 31st, 2012 by

Fresh Picks – Top 5 Stories Worth Reading

Oregon food bank combats rising meat prices by turning to local lentil farmers for protein
The Republic
The food bank in Eugene says it’s facing a shortage of protein brought on by rising Asian demand for meat and domestic animal production squeezed by high feed costs. The solution? Local lentils. Food For Lane County has contracted with five farmers to enlarge the stock of high-protein lentils and barley soup mix it developed this year.

Food business training is hot commodity
New York Daily News
A variety of training programs are bubbling up in Queens to help the culinary entrepreneurs start up food businesses. The Queens Chamber of Commerce is offering a free Restaurant Boot Camp in Spanish on Monday in Astoria to help aspiring entrepreneurs navigate often confusing city regulations, secure funding and avoid costly fines.

Maryland hopes to win sales with sustainable crab
The Seattle Times
Competition is tough when it comes to the packaged blue crab meat many associate with the Chesapeake Bay but which often comes from the Gulf of Mexico, Venezuela and the Far East. That’s one reason Maryland fisheries officials hope to set their catch apart by touting the state’s sustainable fishing methods.

Alaska state Rep. Tammie Wilson sponsors bill to do away with most safe food regulations
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
A bill introduced by North Pole Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson would do away with much of the state’s safety regulations for food sold directly to consumers in an attempt to grow Alaska’s local food industry and farmers markets. Wilson’s bill would require sellers to provide a card that alerts the consumer that “This product has not been inspected by any governmental agency and may be harmful to your health.”

Black farmers file claims in USDA settlement
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The 1999 settlement of the Pigford v. Glickman lawsuit provided about $1 billion to 15,000 farmers who say the agency unfairly turned them down for loans because of their race between 1981 and 1996. A second settlement approved by a court in October 2011 is giving another chance to black farmers with discrimination claims from that era who were left out of the first Pigford settlement.


News from the Hub – Week of March 12, 2012

Friday, March 16th, 2012 by

Fresh Picks – Top 5 Stories Worth Reading

New Study Explores Innovation and Opportunities for Diverse Local Food Distributors
Today, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan released a new report on the distribution practices of eight producer networks and their partners distributing locally or regionally-grown food to retail and foodservice customers. The report shows how these networks tap into the growing commercial demand for local and regional food products while creating additional economic opportunities and expanding healthy food access.

Locally Produced Food Gets Boost Through Food Hubs
The USDA is helping small farmers connect with people who want to buy locally produced food by fostering “food hubs.” By aggregrating local produce from many small farmers, food hubs can sell to large buyers that want locally and regionally grown food, such as schools and hospitals. These hubs remove some of the most onerous, time draining chores for farmers, who typically reach consumers by driving long distances to farmers markets and restaurants.

Bad Food: Illnesses from Imported Food Are on the Rise, CDC Says
Altogether about 16% of the food eaten in the U.S. comes from other countries — and given some of the many holes in the food safety net for imports, that should be a little concerning. In a new report published on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that foodborne disease outbreaks caused by imported food appeared to rise in 2009 and 2010.

Brooklyn food pantries go grow-your-own
New York Daily News
A Bedford-Stuyvesant food pantry built an indoor farm where clients grow fresh produce year-round — and provide vegetables for hundreds of families a week. Brooklyn is in the grip of an urban farming craze. Grow-your-own is going strong, from rooftop gardens to massive plantings at public high schools.

Food Craft Institute to open in Jack London Square
San Francisco Chronicle
Local producers will share some of their skills and experience as instructors at the new Food Craft Institute, a school for artisan food companies opening in Oakland’s Jack London Square in April. A nonprofit affiliated with Oakland’s Eat Real Festival, the annual street food festival, the institute will offer its first “master course” in jam, followed by courses in pickling, charcuterie, and coffee roasting and coffee bar management.