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September: A Nice Time to Celebrate Rice Research

September is National Rice Month, and the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas, is well positioned—literally and figuratively—to support the production, harvest, and public enjoyment of this versatile and nutritious grain. And on the world-food security front, ARS’ Stuttgart center is closing in on genes that regulate rice’s uptake and storage of iron, thiamine and other important vitamins and minerals—a pursuit that could bolster the nutritional value of this cereal grain crop as a staple food for roughly half the world’s population.

In the United States, nearly 85 percent of the rice eaten by consumers is grown on family-run farms across six States:  Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. Of these, Arkansas produces about half of all U.S. rice on nearly 1.3 million acres of cropland.

Knowledge at Your Fingertips Makes Every Penny Count

America is a nation blessed by agricultural bounty.  Unfortunately, that blessing comes with price-suppressing surpluses being the norm for most of the past century with occasional periods of short stocks, and temporary prosperity for the nation’s grain farmers.  Margins are tight and every penny counts.

Recently I started receiving calls from producers who were experiencing devastating price discounts for wheat – 3 cents per 10th of a pound of test weight below 60.1 pounds – resulting in a 33 cent per bushel discount for 59 pound wheat.  At today’s prices, that is approaching at or very near a ten percent discount on wheat that has a test weight one full pound above the U.S. No. 1 wheat grade standards minimum.

Discovering New Opportunities in Thailand - from Grains and Greens to Seafood

In mid-August, I traveled to Southeast Asia and witnessed firsthand the great strides being made to help increase food security and trade. I also came to appreciate the immense potential for future trade opportunities in the area. I returned with a reaffirmed sense of urgency to continue building upon recent gains in trade with Thailand.

Thailand purchased a record $1.7 billion in food and agricultural products last year from the United States, making it our 13th largest export market. Overall, U.S. agricultural exports to Thailand have grown by more than 150 percent over the past decade. Throughout my visit, growing demand for both U.S. bulk commodities and consumer products was very clear.

Creating Uniformity in a Diverse Industry

During its 100 years of serving the livestock industry, USDA Market News – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – has prided itself in creating transparency and clarity in the marketplace by allowing all industry stakeholders to have the same information about the market at the same time.  The entire agricultural supply chain relies on USDA Market News for timely, unbiased data.  Without this free service, information would not be available to everyone equally, making USDA Market News a vital lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.

Over the years, countless changes have occurred in the livestock industry – like the way that livestock standards are applied and the way market reporting is conducted.  To keep up with these changes, livestock correlations are held to assure the industry that all USDA market reporters are applying the USDA’s livestock grades and standards consistently and accurately.

USDA Grain Inspectors Work to Uphold America's Reputation for Quality, Support New Markets

As America’s leadership role in the global economy increases, shipments of American grain, oil seeds, and related agricultural products could continue expanding into promising markets in some of the world’s most robust economies. Facilitating the marketing of U.S. grain exports by thorough inspection and weight certification in accordance with Federal law is the job of the Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyard Administration (GIPSA) through its Federal Grain Inspection Service (FGIS).

A team of dedicated professionals located around the country ensures that America remains competitive in the world agricultural market by upholding the quality of U.S. grain as well as the integrity of U.S. grading standards. Working shifts around the clock in export elevators loading ocean vessels and in interior locations loading shipping containers along the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico, on coastal and other locations, FGIS personnel along with delegated states and designated agencies inspect and weigh grain arriving daily by truck, rail, and barge for domestic markets and export by cargo ships. Once loading is complete, FGIS inspectors provide an official certificate backed by the reputation and authority of the U.S. Government.

Focus on Soil Health Drives Innovation, Moisture Preservation for an Oregon Farmer

Without irrigation, it’s hard to imagine growing a cash crop in an environment that receives less than 12 inches of precipitation annually. Welcome to the world of grain farmers in central and eastern Oregon.

David Brewer is one of those farmers. But rather than looking to the sky for help, he’s looking to the soil — improving its health in an effort to retain and preserve every drop of precipitation that happens to fall on his farm.

Brewer is a fifth-generation farmer who manages the Emerson Dell Farm, which was founded in 1883, and now includes more than 2,000 acres of cropland and 800 acres of pasture — just southeast of The Dalles, Oregon.

Grain Inspectors "Make the Grade" with Digital Media Tools

Most consumers may not realize it, but in many ways grain inspection has not changed much over the years.  Even though there are sophisticated scientific tests today to measure moisture, oil, protein and several other intrinsic qualities of grain, the human eye still carries the most weight when judging a grain sample for classification and grade.

To ensure consistency and uniformity throughout the grading process, individual graders need lasting references.  Digital media is an important tool used to reduce variability and maintain consistency.

Grains, Trains and Global Success

Fall is harvest time and our rural communities are bustling with activity.  For American soybean farmers the days start in the early dawn, and they stay until the last light is gone, tending fields that seem to stretch to the end of the world.  But success for them relies on more than just growing a good crop.  Their soybeans must also move efficiently from the fields to the far corners of the world.

Helping farmers understand the importance and impact of transportation trends is one of the services provided by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).  AMS helps growers and exporters by gathering agricultural transportation data for a wide array of publications that are available to everyone on our agricultural transportation website.

Following the Rails: USDA Tracks Agricultural Exports Across the Border

Driving down a rural road, admiring the expansive fields of corn and soybeans, I stopped at a rail crossing to wait for what seemed like an endless train of cars filled with grain.  My idle mind wondered, where are all those tons of grain headed, where was its final destination?  For anyone else, it may just be curiosity. But for me and those who work in my division within USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), it’s our job to answer those questions.

We understand that for stakeholders within the agricultural industry—farmers, grain mill operators, shippers and exporters—the answers are critical.  Sound business decisions require knowledge about what is happening with the transportation of agricultural products, both in the domestic and international marketplace.