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NIFA, Agricultural Research Tackle Society’s ‘wicked’ problems

Our charge in the food and agricultural sciences is to move from evolutionary discoveries, which contribute to marginal changes over long periods of time, to revolutionary thinking to deal with ‘wicked’ problems by deploying transdisciplinary approaches that solve complex societal challenges. Similar to how the Internet-driven disruptive technologies have transformed America and the rest of the world, advances in data science, information science, biotechnology and nanotechnology can transform agriculture and our capacity to address societal challenges.

Advances in the field of genomics have helped breeders produce desirable varieties of crops and livestock and overcome challenges that had previously been undertaken via conventional breeding. For example, in the dairy industry, most cattle are mechanically or chemically dehorned early in life to protect against injury to other cattle and their handlers. To eliminate this bloody and painful process, a team of NIFA-funded researchers at Recombinetics have successfully used gene editing to introduce the hornless gene into the cells of horned bulls. While the majority of hornless cattle generated via conventional breeding produce low quality milk, gene editing offers a simple and rapid solution of generating hornless cattle that produce high quality milk.

Taming Big-Data for Practical Scientific Research with Microchip Biology

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 USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

At Fort Valley State University (FVSU) the next generation of leaders in agricultural and life sciences are coming face-to-face with technology that will help them solve the toughest challenges of the future.

“Bioinformatics is ‘biology in silico,’ or ‘digital biology,’ and it is transforming biological research into an informational science,” said Dr. Ramana Gosukonda, associate professor of agricultural sciences at FVSU’s College of Agriculture.

USDA Market News Reporters Know Beef

The United States is the largest beef producer and one of the largest beef exporters in the world.  In order to remain competitive, our Nation’s beef producers and everyone else in the supply chain need reliable data to evaluate market conditions, identify trends, make purchasing decisions, and monitor price patterns.

USDA Market News – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – provides the entire beef industry with equal access to the data they need with just the click of a button.  Livestock, Poultry, and Grain Market News Division reporters gather and disseminate beef market information, ranging from feeder cattle to retail beef prices.  From farm-to-fork, we have the cattle and beef markets covered.

USDA Market News - Your Source for Retail Commodity Prices

Sound business decisions are based off of reliable data, and this is certainly the case for food producers and retailers.  For small and mid-sized producers, access to timely and reliable data can be critical to their success.  Whether they are selling products on the wholesale or retail market, producers need to quickly see the commodities in demand and how much they should be charging for their product or what products are the best buy for shoppers at that moment in time.

The entire agricultural supply chain turns to USDA Market News – administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – for the data they need when they need it.  Serving stakeholders of all sizes and at all levels of trading, from small producer to retailer to consumer, USDA Market News allows producers and purchasers to realistically compare prices, trends, supply and demand from day to day and from market to market across the country.  USDA Market News ensures that no group is disadvantaged by lack of information.

A Huge Undertaking with Tremendous Benefit - USDA's Integral Role in the National Beef Quality Audit

About once every five years since 1991, the National Beef Quality Audit (NBQA) brings together producers, consumers, academia, and government in a collaborative research and data collection exercise that spans the entire U.S. beef industry.  Funded by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (the beef checkoff program), the NBQA assesses the current status of the industry regarding production processes and practices that ultimately affect consumer demand for beef.

The audit uses a multi-phase approach to identify the top challenges the fed-beef (cattle raised for meat production) industry faces.  The NBQA first gathers data to measure current quality and consistency of U.S fed-beef, and then quantifies the level to which cattle producers are applying common sense husbandry techniques, specifically the Beef Quality Assurance principles, to safeguard that quality.  The results are translated into practical guidance for continued improvement in the production of fed-beef and, in turn, consumers’ acceptance of the end products found in stores.

Ready to have Market Data as Close as your Smartphone? Here We Go!

Earlier this week, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) hosted a webinar on an exciting new initiative to provide unbiased market data to users digitally. Called the Market Analysis & Reporting Services (MARS), this dynamic, innovative technology will assist USDA Market News in collecting and distributing information electronically from remote locations, by combining reporting from all commodity areas (Livestock, Cotton, Specialty Crops, and Dairy) into a single platform.

This modernization effort will improve the transparency, speed, accuracy, and flexibility of this vital service and allow Market News to continue to expand its services to agricultural market participants.  To ensure that our changes meet your needs, we are conducting focus groups and welcome you to participate.  Your input will enable Market News to speed data flow from the agricultural markets, to agency analysts, and to the public, allowing users to create unique content.

Celebrating the New Face of Agriculture

At the Agricultural Marketing Service and across USDA, we often talk about the fact that the face of American agriculture is changing. The ranks of our farmers, especially young and beginning farmers, include a growing number of women, people of color, veterans or folks in their second careers. So-called “traditional” agriculture defies the term as it pursues new strategies, new products, and new markets. Across the country, agriculture is diversifying and evolving to meet changing consumer demands.

I saw the new face of agriculture last week during travels to Illinois and Indiana. My first stop was a roundtable on Women in Agriculture held at FarmedHere in Bedford Park, Illinois, about 15 miles from Chicago. Twenty or so women gathered to talk about their farming goals and to hear about how USDA could support them. This topic is close to my heart – I’m a New Hampshire native, a state with the second highest percentage of women farmers in the country. The women around the table with me represented the new face of ag, but so too did the setting – an indoor, vertical farm that produces basil and microgreens in a facility designed to reduce energy costs and shrink the carbon footprint of growing food.  FarmedHere is managed by Megan Klein, an attorney by training who found her calling in urban agriculture and became part of this “new face.”

Market News - Indispensable to Producers on Earth, Now Goes to MARS

Editor's Note: The free webinar on the Market Analysis and Reporting Services (MARS) has been moved to Thursday, April 14, 2016 at 2 p.m. Eastern.  Sign up using this link:  http://bit.ly/1MxNAWj

For over 100 years, USDA Market News has been an indispensable service, used by agricultural producers of all sizes to get timely, unbiased data from Market News reporters across the country.  Farmers, ranchers, and the entire agricultural supply chain turn to USDA Market News – administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – for data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.  Now, Market News is entering a new phase, deploying the Market Analysis & Reporting Services (MARS).  It’s a big step forward for AMS, Market News and for the markets and producers that use our data every day.

MARS was formally unveiled during the recent USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum.  It includes the ability to capture livestock auctions for commodities like feeder cattle and will eventually include more than 600 commodities in real time (where applicable), and moves reporter’s data capture from the paper age to a connected digital age.  That means a reporter at a livestock auction in, for example, Kansas will know in real time what comparable feeder cattle is selling for at an auction in Texas.

The Life of a USDA Market News Reporter

As I walked up to my new USDA office, distracted by the animal noises, I dodged horse-drawn buggies while tiptoeing around cow pies.  Originally from the suburbs of Atlanta, my exposure to livestock was limited.  As a market reporter with USDA Market News, I found that my exposure would significantly increase and fast.

The entire agricultural supply chain turn to USDA Market News – administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – for reliable data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.  Our reports, with data gathered and distributed by reporters like me, reach millions of stakeholders every day to ensure that everyone in the ag supply chain have the information they need.

10 #USDAResults in Conservation and Forestry You Should Know

At the beginning of this year, we launched a year-long reflection on USDA-wide results achieved over the course of this Administration. This week begins a month-long focus on seven years of USDA accomplishments to preserve our natural resources for tomorrow’s generations – accomplishments that have only been made possible with the hard work of our staff at USDA and the support of our steadfast partners.

I’m proud of the work that we’ve done to build lasting partnerships to care for our nation’s unparalleled public lands and support producers as they conserve our nation’s land, water and soil. Please take some time to read a full story of our results on my Medium page at: www.medium.com/usda-results.