United States Department of Agriculture
Research, Education, and Economics
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is the principal in-house scientific research agency of the USDA. The agency is committed to providing access to agricultural information and developing new knowledge and technology needed to solve technical agricultural problems. Research is done to ensure an abundance of high-quality, safe food and other agricutural products to meet the nutritional needs of the American consumer, to sustain a viable economy, and to maintain a quality environment and natural resource base. Research is conducted at the ARS headquarters in Beltsville, MD, as well as throughout over 100 national laboratories in the United States (see ARS Research: Selected Highlights).
ARS research has contributed to improved crop yields and more environmentally sensitive farming techniques. In addition to enhancing productivity, today's agricultural research is as much about human health as it is about crop production. For example, a powerful but expensive anticancer drug could become more plentiful, thanks to a new process developed by ARS scientists. The process makes the drug-called taxol-from laboratory-cultured cells of its increasingly rare natural source, the yew tree. The new process is 100 times more productive than the original process for deriving taxol, which was patented by USDA in 1991. Taxol is a potent chemotherapy drug for breast, ovarian, lung, and other cancers. Under the original process, it took about 6,700 pounds of bark from rare yew trees to make a pound of taxol.
ARS research is also as much about development of new products and new crop varieties. One environmentally friendly product now on the market grew out of ARS research showing that adding alum to poultry litter helps reduce runoff of nutrients from the litter into groundwater and surface waterways. The alum reduces phosphorus runoff by 70 percent, reduces the litter's ammonia vapors-which can physically damage the chickens and cause respiratory problems for poultry house workers-and reduces heavy metal runoff such as copper, zinc, and iron by up to 50 percent. The ARS-patented technology is now used by poultry growers across the United States and in Canada.
On the crops side, a new potato variety known as AWN86514-2 is highly resistant to attack by late blight, the disease that caused the Irish potato famine of the1840s. Late blight is caused by a fungus, Phytophthora infestans. New, more aggressive strains of the fungus that are fungicide-resistant have appeared in recent years, so breeders have been scrambling to find potatoes with natural resistance. The new potato held up well in tests when attacked by the newsstand most virulent strains of the fungus. That's good news for consumers, because the average American eats about 143 pounds of potatoes a year, making potatoes the Nation's favorite vegetable. ARS released the new potato in collaboration with agricultural experiment stations in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington.
ARS research provides solutions to a wide range of problems related to agriculture-problems that require the long-term commitment of resources or that are unlikely to have solutions with a quick commercial payoff that would tempt private industry to do the research. These problems range from fighting the ongoing battle to protect crops and livestock from costly pests and diseases, to improving the quality and safety of agricultural commodities and products for humans, to making the best use of natural resources. All the while, the research results must help ensure profitability for producers and processors while keeping down costs for consumers.
For more information about ARS, see its home page: http://www.ars.usda.gov/
National Agricultural Library
It is the mission of the National Agricultural Library to serve as the chief agricultural information resource of the United States, ensuring and enhancing access to agricultural information for a better quality of life.
The library serves national and international customers, including researchers, farmers, educators, policymakers, agricultural producers, and the general public. A key NAL goal is to become a "library without walls," a library whose collection and services are available electronically throughout the world. By adapting electronic information technology to its needs, the library is well on its way to meeting this goal with worldwide accessibility over the Internet.
Over 48 miles of bookshelves hold the NAL collection. Materials in the collection include the latest electronic resources as well as books, journals, reports, photographs, films, videotapes, maps, artwork, and historic materials dating to the 16th century. Tens of thousands of new items are added each year. The collection is international in scope and includes items in nearly 75 foreign languages.
The library is located in Beltsville, MD, on the grounds of the ARS Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. In addition to being the agricultural library for the Nation, NAL is also the departmental library for USDA, serving thousands of USDA employees around the globe. NAL is a key resource in USDA's scientific and research activities. About 170 people work at NAL, including librarians, computer specialists, information specialists, administrators, and clerical personnel. Volunteers ranging from college students to retired persons work on various programs at NAL too. The library has an active visiting scholar program as well, which allows professors, scientists, and librarians from universities worldwide to intern at NAL on projects of mutual interest.
AGRICOLA (Agricultural Online Access) is NAL's bibliographic database providing access to the NAL collection. AGRICOLA contains nearly 3.5 million citations to agricultural literature and is available on the Internet through the NAL homepage at http://www.nal.usda.gov. NAL provides reference and document delivery services in all aspects of agriculture. It also includes specialized information centers that provide customized information services on topics such as alternative farming systems, animal welfare, food and nutrition, technology transfer, rural development, and water quality.
For walk-in visitors, the library is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. Many of NAL'sservices are available anytime through the NAL homepage. NAL can be contacted at: The National Agricultural Library Agricultural Research Service, USDA, 10301 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705-2351, (301) 504-5755, E-mail: email@example.com
The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) see agriculture as a knowledge-based, global enterprise sustained by the innovation of scientists and educators. Its mission is to advance knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities.
CSREES works with land-grant universities, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU's), Hispanic and Native American institutions, as well as universities and other public and private organizations to advance research, extension, and higher education in the food and agricultural sciences and in related environmental and human sciences. Its programs increase and provide access to scientific knowledge, strengthen the capabilities of State universities, expand accessibility and use of improved communication and network systems, and promote informed decision making.
CSREES links the research and education resources and activities of USDA, improving customer service and responsiveness to emerging issues and national priorities. CSREES programs focus on improving economic, environmental, and social conditions in the United States and globally. These conditions include improved agricultural productivity and development of new products; safer food; cleaner water and air; enhanced stewardship and management of natural resources; healthier and more responsible individuals, families, and communities; and a stable, secure, diverse, and affordable food supply.
The CSREES domestic and international research, education, and extension networks are strengthened with partnerships that maximize resources and program impact. CSREES partners include:
CSREES research, education, and extension leadership is provided through programs in:
CSREES programs include:
New Uses for Agricultural Materials
Virginia Tech scientists have demonstrated in the laboratory that cotton gin waste is a suitable source for fuel ethanol. Successful development could convert existing gin waste, which typically gets plowed back into the soil, into 680,000 gallons of ethanol each year. This could create 100 new jobs in southeast Virginia. Large-scale testing is under way.
Roadmaps to Better Crops and Animals
Arkansas researchers have engineered plants to produce two human proteins that may be involved in the regulation of cancer metastasis. Large-scale, low-cost production of these two cancer-related proteins in plants may facilitate their practical use in early cancer diagnosis or treatment. Farmers may become pharmaceutical producers.
Texas A&M researchers have cloned a bull calf from cells frozen for 15 years. The resulting calf is believed to be the first animal specifically cloned for disease resistance. The cells used to clone the calf are from a bull that was naturally resistant to brucellosis, tuberculosis, and salmonellosis-infectious diseases that can be transmitted among cattle to humans. Breeding resistance into cattle could reduce pathogens in meat and milk. Ranchers who cannot afford to vaccinate or test their herds for these diseases would benefit from this research.
Looking Out for the Small Farm
The CSREES' Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program advances farming and ranching systems that are profitable and environmentally sound for families and communities. SARE's national outreach arm, the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), combines SARE-funded research results with other information to produce practical publications on a variety of topics, including marketing.
Protecting Water Quality
The Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College in Wisconsin is playing a key role in the St. Louis River Watch Program, which protects the watershed and improves water quality. Since 1997, the college has supported water sampling in the river, using students in 21 area schools, teacher training, and data collection. An annual conference to measure results and encourage stewardship is held by the college. The St. Louis River contributes significant amounts of water, nutrients, and pollutants to Lake Superior. The river and lake are important to the region's water supply and recreation.
Healthier Lives Through Research and Education
Local Problem Solving
Purdue students are mentoring kids who live in public housing by helping them with homework and basic life skills. College students gain life experience while helping children improve their grades. Georgia 4-H community service club members are helping kids to read. Participants are spending more time reading, and their teachers are seeing improved literacy skills.
Managing Agricultural Waste
For More Information
Are you a congressional staffer who wants to know how U.S. agriculture would be affected if China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO)? Are you a reporter seeking insights on future patterns of adoption of genetically engineered crops? Are you an industry analyst who has heard the meatpacking industry has fewer and fewer firms and wonders why this increasing concentration occurred and what it means? Are you looking for farm income and farm program payment information to use in designing a new safety net program for small or limited-resource farmers? Are you a nutrition educator who wonders what Americans eat and why they make the food choices they do?
If so, you are in luck. These are just a few of the many timely issues addressed by the Economic Research Service (ERS)-USDA's premier source of social science information and research. ERS conducts social science research for a purpose. That purpose is to build the knowledge base for informed and effective decision making on economic issues related to agriculture, food, natural resources, and rural economies.
ERS publications are easy to find. They are posted in their entirety, and summarized for easy access to the main ideas, on the ERS Web site: http://www.ers.usda.gov
Copies are also available from the USDA Order Desk (1-800-999-6779 or 703-605-6220).For assistance in locating specific publications, periodicals, or data products, please call the ERS Information Center at (202) 694-5050 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finding the Facts
Agricultural Trade. Are prospects bright or dim for U.S. agricultural trade? To find out, visit the ERS Web site where you will find the Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade, which offers the latest value and volume of U.S. farm exports by commodity and region, and also the agricultural trade balance, import commodities, and export outlook. Or take a look at the Trade Briefing Room, which will hook you directly into the Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States-a trade database that you can search according to the commodity, country or region, and time period that interests you.
Farm Income and Finance. Are farmers doing better or worse economically than in the past? How many farmers make a living "just farming" these days? What percentage off arm income comes from government payments? You can find the answer to these questions in the ERS periodical Agricultural Income and Finance. Issued 3 times a year, this report provides historical estimates and forecasts of farm sector financial information that will allow you to gauge the financial well being of the Nation's farmers and ranchers. It includes farm sector receipts, expenses, debt, assets, and costs of producing crops and livestock. Or visit the Farm Sector Performance Briefing Room, where you will find links to the latest farm income forecasts, other farm financial data, and related research reports.
Food Consumption and Prices. How much of their personal income do Americans spend on food these days? (Answer: 10 percent) How much of their food expenditures are on "food away from home"? (Answer: 47 percent) For direct access to data on retail food prices, food expenditures, and food costs, and access to numerous publications on America's eating habits, visit the Food Markets Briefing Room on the ERS Web site.
Resource Trends and Indicators. How much cropland is being lost to urban uses? The answer-it turns out that acres in cropland have remained quite stable over time, varying from 440 to 460 million acres since 1945-can be founding the ERS Land Use and Value Briefing Room. Are farmers using more or fewer chemicals today than in the past? For the answer to this and many other questions about how natural resources (land and water) and commercial inputs(energy, nutrients, pesticides, and machinery) are used in the agricultural sector, see the Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators report, which is posted on ERS' Web site.
Rural Economic Indicators. Which rural counties are experiencing population growth? What is the median household income in your county? What proportion of your States rural jobs are in farm and farm-related industries? Does commercial bank restructuring impair local rural economic growth? The Rural Development Briefing Room provides a rich source of information about rural population dynamics, employment change, jobs by industry, and credit and finance. You can also learn about Federal funds going to rural America simply by going to the ERS Web site.
Staying on Top of Special Topics
New Farm Bill Legislation. Find out what the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 will mean for farmers, ranchers, the food industry, and consumers in America. Learn about new provisions concerning commodity programs, rural development, nutrition, farm credit, and conservation.
Domestic Conservation and Environmental Policies. Find out what policy instruments are available to encourage farmers to adopt conservation and environmental practices, and how effective they have been.
FoodSafety. Learn that food borne illnesses from a few selected pathogens cost society at least$6.9 billion annually in medical costs and lost productivity. Find out what your government is doing to improve the safety of the Nation's food supply, and what you as a consumer can do to keep your family's food safe.
Food Security and Hunger. Find out that although most households (nearly 90 percent)in the United States are food secure, during 2000 some 11 million U.S.households (10.3 percent of total) were food insecure-that is, they did not always have access to enough food to meet basic needs.
World Trade Organization. Find discussions of the three pillars of agricultural trade negotiations: export subsidies, domestic support, and tariffs as well as other trade negotiation issues. The Web site also contains an analysis of Chinas potential membership in the WTO; for example, did you predict that the largest increases in China's agricultural imports after full accession are likely to be for corn ($587 million), wheat ($543 million), and cotton ($359 million)?
Research Reports: In-depth Understanding of Complex Issues
Changing Structure of Global Food Consumption and Trade, ERS, WRS No. 01-1, May 2001. Higher income, urbanization, other demographic shifts, improved transportation, and consumer perceptions regarding quality and safety are changing global food consumption patterns. Shifts in food consumption have led to increased trade and changes in the composition of world agricultural trade. Given different diets, food expenditure and food budget responses to income and price changes vary between developing and developed countries. In developing countries, higher income results in increased demand for meat products, often leading to increased import of livestock feed. Diet diversification and increasing demand for better quality and laborsaving products have increased imports of high-value and processed food products in developed countries. Consumer groups in developed countries have also brought attention to organic production of food and the topic of animal welfare. One way in which the public and private sectors have responded to consumer demand for these quality attributes has been by developing and implementing mandatory and voluntary quality control, management, and assurance schemes.
Structural and Financial Characteristics of U.S. Farms: 2001 Family Farm Report, ERS, Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 768, May 2001. Family farms vary widely in size and other characteristics, ranging from very small retirement and residential farms to establishments with sales in the millions of dollars. The farm typology developed by ERS categorizes farms into groups based on the primary occupation of the operator and sales class of the farm. The typology groups reflect operators' expectations from farming, position in the life cycle, and dependence on agriculture. The groups differ in their contribution to agriculture production, degree of specialization, extent of participation incommodity and conservation programs, and dependence on farm income. These (and other) differences are discussed in this report.
Economic Issues in Agricultural Biotechnology, ERS, Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 762, March 2001. Agricultural biotechnology has been advancing very rapidly, and while it presents many promises, it also poses many questions. Many dimensions to agricultural biotechnology need to be considered to adequately inform public policy. Policy analysis is made more difficult by the fact that agricultural biotechnology encompasses many policy issues addressed in very different ways. We have identified several key areas-agricultural research policy, industry structure, production and marketing, consumer issues and future world demand-where agricultural biotechnology is dramatically affecting the public policy agenda. This report focuses on the economic aspects of these issues and addresses some current and timely issues as well as longer term issues.
Household Food Security in the United States, 2000, ERS, Food and Nutrition Research Report No.21, March 2002. This report, based on data from the September 2000 food security survey, provides the most recent statistics on the food security of U.S. households, as well as on how much they spent on food and the extent to which food-insecure households participated in Federal and community food assistance programs. Between 1998 and 2000, food insecurity fell by 11 percent and hunger by 16 percent. The declines were widespread, affecting most regions and types of households. For the year ending September 2000, nearly 90 percent of American households were food secure for the entire year. The rest were food insecure at least some time during the year, meaning they did not always have access to enough food for active, healthy lives for all household members.
How Will the Phase out of Federal Estate Taxes Affect Farmers? ERS, Agriculture Information Bulletin No. 751-02, March 2002. Concern among policymakers that the Federal estate tax might force the liquidation of some family farms has resulted in the enactment of a variety of special provisions over the years. Providing relief to farmers and other small business owners was the primary impetus for the 1997 changes to Federal estate and gift tax policies and a major objective of the 2001 law that will phase out and eventually repeal the Federal estate tax. While only about 4 percent of all farm estates owe Federal estate taxes, a much larger percentage of farm estates must file an estate tax return, make use of special farm provisions, alter their business practices, or engage in costly estate planning to reduce the impact of the estate tax on their farm business. Thus, the phase out and repeal of the Federal estate tax will affect a much broader group of farmers than just those who owe tax.
What Does ERS Look Like?
For more information about the agency, visit the ERS Web site: http://www.ers.usda.gov
The National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), "The Fact Finders for U.S. Agriculture," is USDA's official source of comprehensive agricultural statistics. The only way to "tell the story" of the phenomenal success of American agriculture is by having data available that measure productivity.
The NASS mission is to provide timely, accurate, and useful statistics in service to U.S. agriculture. These statistics are not only important to tell the success story of American agriculture, but they are vital to support the efficient handling and marketing of commodities in today's global market. This mission, which serves both producers and consumers by allowing for informed decisions, is accomplished through the collection and dissemination of official USDA statistics through weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual surveys and the 5-year census of agriculture.
Agricultural statistics have been vital to providing for stable markets and serving public interests since 1791, when George Washington personally conducted the Nations first agricultural survey and compiled the results. Seventy-two years later, in 1863, the newly established USDA, named the Peoples Department" by its founder, Abraham Lincoln, issued the first USDA crop report.
Why Are Ag Statistics Important?
Statistics Based Primarily on Producer Reports
Data collected from these varied sources are summarized by the NASS State Statistical Offices and then sent to the Agency's Agricultural Statistics Board in Washington, DC, whose members determine and issue State and national official statistics. Reports are released to the public according to a published calendar.
A Model of Federal-State Cooperation
What Data Are Available?
In addition to the information above, statistics on more specialized commodities including hop stocks, mink, cherries, cranberries, lentils, and peppermint oilier also available. Enhanced statistics for the nursery, equine, and aquaculture industries have been enthusiastically received by data users.
2002 Census of Agriculture
You make it Known-Agriculture Counts!
The above slogan carries an important message to over 2 million farms and ranches across America, as the National Agricultural Statistics Service began the enormous task for the Department of Agriculture of the mail out of the census of agriculture questionnaires in December 2002. Farmers and ranchers, the cornerstone of the Nation's food and fiber system, are the only ones who can provide the information needed to compile the 5-year complete accounting of American agricultural production demographics, structure, economics, and other characteristics.
Response to the 2002 Census of Agriculture is required by law (Title 7, U.S. Code) to ensure all operations, large and small, are properly counted and represented. That same law requires that individual producer information is safeguarded and strictly confidential. High-quality census data depend on a complete response from everyone receiving a form.
Results from the 2002 Census of Agriculture will be released on the NASS Web site http://www.usda.gov/nass/ in early February 2004. The census of agriculture is the only source for uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every county in the Nation.
What Will the Picture Reveal for 2002?
The Census of Agriculture results provide data on the number of farms, land in farms, land use and ownership, operator characteristics, crops, machinery and equipment, livestock, fertilizer, poultry, chemicals, market value of products, irrigated land, production expenditures, type of organization, farm programs, and corporate structure. Data are also published for Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the American Samoa.
Where Can You Find Current Survey and Census of Agriculture
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