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Hearing First-Hand How Diversity Matters

The men and women who own and operate our country’s farms and ranches are increasingly diverse. In fact, according to USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture, all categories of minority-operated farms increased between 2007 and 2012.  The number of farms operated by Hispanics has increased by 21 percent in just five years.

My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), oversees all 22 industry-funded commodity research and promotion (R&P) programs.  Led by industry board members appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, these programs provide a framework for farmers and businesses to pool resources, set common goals and make collective decisions about how to best develop new markets, strengthen current markets and conduct important research and promotion activities.

Bringing You Food and Fiber to Fit Your Active Lifestyle

If you’ve learned how to cut a mango from a magazine article, read about new fabrics on a website or heard about nutrition research on almonds from a health reporter on TV, chances are one of America’s ag promotion groups made that information possible and available. From the clothes you wear to the food you eat, these groups are leading efforts to research and promote food and fiber that fits your lifestyle.

Pooling Resources for Scientific Breakthroughs

American farmers know about planting seeds—both in the ground and in groundbreaking research. While the seeds they plant as individual farmers feed and clothe the rest of us, the seeds they sow collectively through participation in research and promotion (R&P) programs are vitally important, too.

Funded entirely by industry, agricultural R&P programs are a way for producers and businesses across a commodity industry to pool their resources to help market and improve their products. With oversight provided by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), one of the most important seeds these programs sow is the foundational research that paves the way for breakthroughs that once seemed unimaginable.

Create a New Market for Cotton? No Sweat.

As more and more Americans are working to become fit and healthy, one of the top athletic clothing companies – Under Armour – has been building a team to help improve its use of natural fibers.  Relying on cutting edge research to provide products that wick away moisture, Under Armour products traditionally were not made of the classic sporting apparel material - cotton.  However, since early 2011, one of the company’s most popular items has been Charged Cotton™, a line of clothing that uses cotton -- the fabric of our lives.

Industry Insight: Checkoff Programs Empower Business

When it comes to expanding market share, increasing revenue and getting the word out about a great product or commodity, checkoff programs prove that there’s strength in numbers. Officially called research and promotion programs, checkoff programs give agricultural producers, importers and other stakeholders in the marketing chain the power to maximize resources while managing risk.

The strategy for increasing or expanding commodity markets takes more cooperation within the industry than competition between individual farms and businesses.  Consumers may not know exactly which farm grows or raises their fruit, beef, cotton or lumber, but they will decide what to buy based on knowledge, quality and availability.

The consumer’s perspective that there is a general uniformity to some commodities serves as the catalyst for many individual farms and businesses to collaborate on a comprehensive, industry-wide strategy to expand markets.  Promoting a commodity as a whole instead of by individual businesses means everyone in the industry benefits through increased sales, consumer awareness and higher overall demand.

Cotton Helps Insulate Communities the Green Way

Denim jeans are versatile because you can wear them for almost any occasion, but there are even more ways they can be used outside of your wardrobe.

Cotton. From Blue to Green® transforms used jeans into UltraTouch ™ Denim Insulation for communities in need. This amazing project uses an environmentally responsible process to help jump start rebuilding communities.  The program has partnered with many organizations, including Habitat for Humanity affiliates, to install home insulation for victims of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, and for those needing help to finish their homes.  They also offer grants to improve community buildings and partner with college and university campuses to host denim collection drives.