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USDA Marketing Orders Help Industries Climb to New Heights

Every successful business must have a solid plan to successfully take it from the initial startup phase all the way through its push to expand its operations after the business matures. The same can be said for an industry looking to reach new heights in its lifecycle. A concerted emphasis must be placed on strengthening research, product development, and marketing efforts. To help out on this front, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) oversees 28 fruit and vegetable marketing order boards and committees. These entities develop regulations that moderate the flow of high quality produce, benefitting growers, handlers, and consumers. These groups also create research, marketing, and promotional campaigns that help expand the reach of the industry’s products. 

Through the AMS Marketing Order and Agreement Division (MOAD), industries approach the agency to establish a way to overcome marketing barriers. These efforts help growers and handlers within a geographic area increase their sales. The issues the committees focus on vary. For example, the Pistachio Marketing Order established reporting and Aflatoxin testing requirements on inshell and shelled pistachios. Pistachios produced in California, Arizona, and New Mexico are now required to be certified as meeting certain minimum quality requirements that are established by the Administrative Committee for Pistachios (ACP).

Secretary's Column: 2014, a Year of Action, Partnership and Innovation at USDA

This has been a tremendous year for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the rural families and communities we serve. Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden recently shared a reflection on her most inspirational moments this year. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished at USDA over the course of this year, and I thought I’d take a moment to share just a few of our top accomplishments.

Inner-city Baltimore Youth make Special Visit to Boulder-White Clouds in Idaho


On a chilly Friday afternoon in Washington, D.C., local employees, partners, and visitors took refuge from the cold outside for a special film-screening event in USDA’s Jefferson Auditorium, “Engaging the Next Generation of Conservation Stewards.” 

Five short films debuted to an audience of more than 80 partners and guests. This point, in itself, may have you wondering, “So What?” However, it’s the goal of the films and the potential for affecting the lives of young people that make this an important event. 

A Year of Promise for American Agriculture

It's not hard to list our accomplishments here at USDA: After all, our progress on the much anticipated 2014 Farm Bill has been lauded as "the most successful Farm Bill implementation." We also launched a website for New Farmers and started a conversation with women in agriculture that will continue to grow for many years to come.

What is sometimes less obvious is the people whose lives these programs and initiatives impact. So, to wrap up the year, I wanted to share a few of my most cherished memories from my first year as Deputy Secretary.

Forest Service Exceeds Ecological Restoration Goals

I am proud to announce that we exceeded our ecological restoration goals for Fiscal Year 2014. This was no small feat.

A lot of great people across the U.S. Forest Service worked hard to make it a reality. We did substantial homework and planning, and then based on that we made strategic investments across all agency programs to help us create resilient forests, grasslands and watersheds while sustaining communities. This work reduced the wildland fire threats to communities and firefighters and minimized the risk of forest pests and climate change, while supporting American jobs and rural economies. That is a fantastic combination.

USDA Leaders Participate in Ecosystem Services Conference - Discuss New Markets for Producers

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller was one of several government leaders to present last week at the A Community on Ecosystem Services (ACES) Conference to discuss how USDA incorporates ecosystem services and market-based approaches into its conservation mission.

Every two years, leaders in the study and practice of ecosystem services and environmental markets meet at a large conference. The conference, held in Arlington, Virginia this year, aims to link science, practice and sustainable decision-making by bringing together stakeholders from across the nation and world.

Partnerships Make "Gouda" on USDA's Commitment to Rural America

’Tis the season for good cheer, holiday festivities and cheese plates.   There are seemingly endless varieties to enjoy – Gouda, Blue, Cheddar, Asiago, Feta, Muenster and many more.  Hardworking American dairy farmers and cheese artisans make these delicious products. A strong dairy sector not only provides us with delicious food for the holiday table, it also has a great impact on rural America and local economies.

My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has a long history of working with the dairy industry, state governments and stakeholders to help farmers and producers.  I’ve actually been able to see first-hand how AMS programs services benefit dairy operations.  In August, I toured two Wisconsin dairy farms – Rosendale Dairy, a large farm with over 8,500 cows, and R&G Miller & Sons, an organic dairy farm with about 260 milking cows.

Rural Battery Manufacturer Gets Boost from USDA Business Program

Small business owners face countless challenges when it comes to finding success in the global marketplace – and for those in rural areas, the challenges are often more pronounced.

For more than 30 years, Superior Battery has been manufacturing a wide range of batteries from its plant in Russell Springs, Ky. The business is locally owned and operated, and was started by Randy Hart – an Air Force veteran and tool-and-die enthusiast – his wife and four nephews.

Organic 101: Organic Seeds Are Fundamental Right from the Start

This is the twenty-second installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

The fall harvest is in, and organic farmers are already looking forward to planting their spring seedlings.  Organic farmers rely on organic seeds to meet the growing demand for certified organic products. These seeds are essential to the integrity of the supply chain for quality organic food, feed and other products.  All organic producers must use organic seeds, annual seedlings and planting stock unless organic varieties are not commercially available.

To meet the increased demand for organic seeds, the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is collaborating and sharing information with the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) and its partner, the Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies (AOSCA), to better understand the organic seed market and to help farmers locate seed producers and supplies.

The Poinsettia, in the Shadow of the Christmas Tree

The poinsettia – academic types may call it by its binomial name, and biologists might refer to its species. But how many of us are guilty of calling it that red flower with the pointy leaves used to decorate during the holidays?

In the world of holiday shrubbery, the poinsettia has always taken a backseat to the Christmas tree. With its lights and ornaments, the tree has become the icon of the holiday in contrast to the poinsettia, which is usually placed in a nearby corner.