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High-Tech Agriculture Continues to Reap Rewards for Farmers and Society

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.

Just like a smart phone helps users learn, communicate and make important decisions, smart technology—known as precision agriculture—helps farmers know and apply critical information about the right investments in fertilizer, seed, pesticide and water needed to produce their crops. Through new technologies, farmers produce more efficiently and see an increase in profits while improving stewardship of ecosystems and local communities.

To talk about precision agriculture is to talk about mapping the amount of a crop grown per acre (yield) or the types of soils in a given area. It also includes the technology that automatically guides farm machines and controls variables like the rates of seeds, fertilizers or chemicals.

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.

Land-Grant Universities Make NFL Natural Turf Grass Better and Safer

Grass is a big deal in football – a really big deal.  Nearly every day of the week, untold millions of people watch players step out onto lush, green fields painted with white.

All aspects of the game are tough. Even growing and maintaining a real turf grass field has its challenges, like freezing temperatures, rain, and damage from tackles and foot traffic.  So what type of grass can hold up to all that? Horticultural specialists and plant breeders throughout the land-grant university cooperative extension system, as well as USDA researchers from Agricultural Research Service, are working to answer that question.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture supports their research with Hatch Act funding.

Bridging the Language Barrier for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

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.

The Asian-Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population is projected to reach 35.6 million in the next 40 years, making it the fastest growing racial group in the country. One of those communities is that of the Hmong.

Over the past several decades, Hmong immigrants have adapted the traditional agricultural activities of their home environment to this country. Despite the contributions Hmong farmers make to the agriculture and food enterprise of our nation, they have faced a language barrier in the marketplace.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Minnie Lou Bradley

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are highlighting a different leading woman in agriculture each week. Last week, we kicked off the series with Agriculture Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo. This week, we caught up with cattlewoman Minnie Lou Bradley.

Minnie Lou Bradley, now a sprightly 83, always had a passion for agriculture. Growing up in southwestern Oklahoma, Minnie was the first woman to major in animal husbandry from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater in 1949.  In 1955, Minnie Lou Bradley moved to the Texas Panhandle to found Bradley 3 Ranch with her husband Billy. For decades, Minnie’s vision has catapulted Bradley 3 Ranch into a leader and award-winning ranch for land management and genetic beef breeding. Minnie herself has lassoed a herd of accolades, including being the first female President of the American Angus Association, an inductee into the Saddle and Sirloin Portrait Gallery and has received recognition as one of the nation’s top 50 U.S. Beef Industry Leaders by BEEF magazine.

Supporting Regional Economic Development Strategies in Oklahoma's Tribal Communities

Rural Oklahoma is home to many important tribal communities.  Among these, the Choctaw Nation spans over ten counties in southeastern Oklahoma, while the Cherokee Nation runs along the state’s northeast border, and Muscogee (Creek) Nation lies farther west.

These communities play a critical role in developing businesses, affordable housing, and infrastructure like water, roads, and telecommunications. However, these areas endure chronic poverty, limited opportunities and countless other economic challenges.  For instance, most of the 1,100 residents of Boley, Oklahoma – located in the heart of Creek nation – live on less than 25 dollars per day.

Earlier this year, I joined Leslie Wheelock, Director of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations, on a visit to the area.

USDA Grants Assist Small Farmers Who are Making a Big Impact in Agriculture

Farming and ranching is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Agriculture in the United States is a mixing bowl of diversity, and it’s most evident when comparing large- and small-scale farming operations. Having grown up on a small, family farm in Iowa, I saw first-hand not only how important our small farmers and ranchers are to the nation, but also the challenges they face daily.

There is much variation among small family farms and ranches. No one definition comes close to capturing the richness and diversity of these operations. For example, while many farmers and ranchers are loyal to their traditional production systems, others constantly seek new opportunities and experiment with alternative crops, production methods and innovative marketing approaches. As a result, the United States produces a striking range of food and fiber, from soybeans to sesame, from beef to buffalo.

The Faces of Agriculture - A Glimpse of What the Farm Bill Means to Our Nation

A life of farming—whether you grow up in it or are called to it later in life—takes a special kind of commitment and sense of responsibility. The reward is just as unique and appeals only to a handful of people who are willing to literally roll up their sleeves and work hard at a physically- and mentally-challenging job every day of the year. To me, there’s just something special about a profession where the fruits of your labor provide one of life’s most essential elements–food.

But that’s not where their contributions stop. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers strengthen our economy, with nearly one out of 12 jobs in the U.S. coming from agriculture.

Over the last year, I had the opportunity to visit and speak to farmers and ranchers across the country. During these visits, I get a chance to see first-hand how connected they are to their communities and the differences they make for the folks that live and work with them. And I also get to answer their questions directly, to hear the challenges they face and the help they could use. Inevitably, conversation turns to the Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill and what that legislation would mean to each of the farmers, ranchers, businesses and schools that depend on it.

NIFA Grant Addresses Climate Issues Related to Beef Cattle Production

Today, I am on the campus of Oklahoma State University in Stillwater. When I visit universities across the nation, I look forward to meeting with faculty and students to hear about the work they are doing. On this particular visit, I am excited to meet with a research team working on an issue important to all Americans: climate.

As most people are well aware, last year’s drought put tremendous stress on cattle across the nation, especially in the Southern Great Plains. Drought, along with other extreme weather events and climate patterns, threatens food production across the nation. The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has provided grant funds to land-grant universities across our nation to develop approaches to mitigate or adapt to the impact of climate change on food production. Earlier this year, NIFA awarded more than $9 million in funding to Oklahoma State University (OSU) to address the vulnerabilities of beef cattle under stress from climate variations. OSU’s goal is to safeguard regional beef production against climate change while mitigating the environmental footprint of agriculture.

4-H Farmers Market Connects Oklahoma Community

This summer, the Loyal Doers 4-H Club in Hooker, Oklahoma, successfully held the state’s first 4-H-sponsored farmers market.  The market was a huge success, and the youth gained firsthand knowledge about growing produce and getting involved in the community.  It also helped the community connect with the farmers that produce their food while offering them a wonderful selection of fresh, wholesome products.