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Ranchers

New Study Offers Sage Advice

For many, one of the New Year’s first big chores is to remove a tree from inside their home. Trees, beautiful and useful as they are, do not belong everywhere. Such is the case with trees and other woody species that are expanding into the Western grasslands.

Over the years, woody species like juniper, pinyon pine, redcedar and mesquite have encroached on grassland and sagebrush ecosystems, altering these landscapes and making them unsuitable for native wildlife like the lesser prairie-chicken and greater sage-grouse. Encroaching conifers also degrade rangelands for agricultural producers whose livestock rely on nutritious forage.

Supporting Organic Integrity with Clear Livestock and Poultry Standards

The mission of the National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is to protect the integrity of organic products in the U.S. and around the world. This means creating clear and enforceable standards that protect the organic integrity of products from farm to table.  Consumers trust and look for the USDA organic seal because they know that USDA stands behind the standards that it represents.

Today, USDA announced a final rule regarding organic livestock and poultry production practices.  The rule strengthens the organic standards, and ensures that all organic animals live in pasture based systems utilizing production practices that support their well-being and natural behavior. It’s an important step that will strengthen consumer confidence in the USDA organic seal and ensure that organic agriculture continues to provide economic opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and businesses across the country.

A Farewell Message from Secretary Tom Vilsack to Employees

Today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sent the following message to all USDA employees:

I want to take this opportunity on my final day at USDA to express my profound gratitude to the people who work at USDA. Every day, nearly 90,000 people leave their families and the comfort of their home to do the people's work in the People's Department. What an amazing job you do each day for the country.

Regional Partnerships Help De-Clutter Arizona Grasslands

A popular new year’s resolution is to de-clutter our homes. But what if a clutter-free home was the only way you could survive and thrive?

Across Arizona, there is wildlife living in grasslands impacted by poorly-planned fencing and woody invasive brush. Invasive plant species, such as pinion juniper and mesquite that grow and spread quickly, create obstacles in grassland habitats that make it difficult for pronghorn and other migratory, grassland-dependent species to avoid predators.

Further, these invasives crowd out native grasses that provide food for wildlife and livestock, reduce soil erosion and help soil absorb precipitation, which is vital to replenishing supplies of groundwater and improving water quality.

Climate Smart Conservation Partnership Serves Two Scoops of On-Farm Solutions

Eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream may make you feel guilty about your waistline, but thanks to a new partnership between the ice cream company and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), you may be able to feel less guilty about contributing to climate change. The partnership is designed to help Ben & Jerry’s milk suppliers—generally small dairies—understand their greenhouse gas footprint and consider voluntary conservation approaches to reduce that footprint.

NRCS and Ben & Jerry’s will help dairies implement conservation practices that meet Ben & Jerry’s objective of “Happy Cows, Happy Planet, & Happy Farmers.” Through its Caring Dairy sustainability program, Ben & Jerry’s will use USDA’s suite of greenhouse gas estimation tools, COMET-FarmTM and COMET-PlannerTM, to quantify on-farm GHG emissions and reductions. The COMET tools—COMET stands for CarbOn Management & Emissions Tool – are a product of a long-standing partnership between NRCS and Colorado State University.

A New Retirement Account Option for Farm Households

In agriculture, retirement can mean something quite different compared with other U.S. households.

Often, our parents and senior relatives on the farm or ranch are far from “retired,” and, in fact, remain active participants in daily operations and decisions.

Seeing is Believing: Soil Health Practices and No-Till Farming Transform Landscapes and Produce Nutritious Food

This month, we’re highlighting 12 important gifts given to us when we conserve natural resources: soil, food, plants, wildlife, people, health, protection, recreation, air, water, technology and the future. NRCS’ mission is to conserve the full range of natural resources, but soil health is our foundation. And it’s the first conservation gift that we’re going to highlight. And without soil, we couldn’t celebrate with food. We encourage you to give the gift of conservation this season!

Curbing Soil Erosion

Soil is the foundation for a healthy environment. If you need proof that no-till farming works, look no further than the rolling hills of north-central Oregon.

For decades, this region was dominated by winter wheat farms that used extensive tillage to control weeds during fallow years. It was the conventional way of farming in the area, from the early 1900’s through the 1980’s.

World Soil Day - A Time to Celebrate the Foundation of Agriculture

Last year during the International Year of Soils (IYS), I had the incredible opportunity to help the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) spread the word about the many life-giving functions of soil. As part of this effort, I traveled to New York City to attend the kickoff ceremony for IYS at the United Nations, which was held on World Soil Day.

In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly designated December 5 as World Soil Day. It is observed this day each year to honor the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, the world’s longest reigning monarch, who passed away in October. He played a pivotal role in the promotion of soil science and conservation, and was a leader in sustainable land resource management.

A Tale of a Fish from Two Countries

How can fish in a grocery store be labeled as both “Alaskan” and “Product of China” on the same package?  The answer is that although much of the seafood sold in the United States is labeled with a foreign country of origin, some of that same seafood was actually caught in U.S. waters.

Under the Country of Origin Labeling program regulations – enforced by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – when fish are caught in U.S. waters and then processed in a foreign country that foreign country of processing must appear on the package as the country of origin.  This processing usually takes the form of filleting and packaging the fish into the cuts you see in the grocery store seafood department or frozen food aisle.  However, if the fish was actually caught in Alaskan waters, retailers are also able to promote the Alaskan waters the fish was actually caught in, in addition to the country in which the processing occurred.

Artisan Cheese Makers Embrace Voluntary Conservation at Award-Winning Vermont Dairy

The story behind Vermont’s Consider Bardwell could be the plot for a great movie. The lead characters are Russell and Angela, two New York City executives who decide in their fifties that they want to buy a farm, raise goats, and be artisan cheesemakers. The setting is a 300-acre dairy farm and cheese operation in West Pawlet, Vermont. And the twist…they had no previous farming experience.

What could have been a comedy is an inspiring story of dedication and perseverance. This is the true tale of an architect and a literary agent who pursue a dream to farm sustainably through a voluntary conservation approach, and create a unique farm-to-plate product. Their partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is helping to ensure the health of the natural resources on their farm.