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Using Market Data to Feed the World

In 2050, there will be about 9 billion people in the world. How do you feed 9 billion people? Clearly, we need more food, greater production, and more efficient processes, but how do we achieve that and how does that translate to success?

The answer may be found through science and data.  USDA works hard to provide good data to decision makers on the farm, in the field, at the lab and in the office place. This data includes economic information that characterizes and evaluates global market performance and keeps food and agricultural systems working smoothly.  Information includes data on crop production, farm income, food and agricultural prices, trade, nutrition, and food security.

How College Catapults Students to Ag Careers

Gracie Valdez explains how traveling around the world helped her to want to pursue a career in international agricultural development and trade.

Growing up, the question of the day often started with “why” or “how” because I loved discovering things. Though my specific interests morphed from archaeology to geology to biology, I knew I wanted to be a scientist since the 5th grade.  In college, I chose to study biology, which exposed me to many different aspects of the field.  College was the springboard that sharpened my focus and led me to becoming the ecosystem ecologist I am today.  Recognizing National College Signing Day, I hope that today’s inbound students consider studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects to help meet our future agricultural challenges.

Growing and Building the Billion Ton Bioeconomy

5/4/2016 UPDATE:

Bioeconomy Webinar Information:
Thursday, May 5, 2 p.m.–4 p.m. Eastern Time
Session Link: https://thinktank.inl.gov/login.html?sessionID=59
Session Passkey: 123
Call in: +1 (562) 247-8422
Access Code: 287-084-886

The USDA and other federal agencies recently released the Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy (FARB) documenting federal agency activities aimed at helping to develop and support the "bioeconomy" - an emerging part of the overall U.S. economy.  Emphasis is specifically placed on the production and use of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower.  USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE), Dr. Catherine Woteki, stresses these fuels, power, and products are produced using biomass--agricultural residues, grasses, energy crops, forestry trimmings, algae, and other sources--instead of fossil fuels.

The report also delves into the Billion Ton Bioeconomy Vision, an effort coordinated through the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Board.  Comprised of industry experts from the Departments of Energy (DOE), Agriculture (USDA), Interior (DOI), Transportation (DOT), Defense (DoD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Board is committed to collaboration among federal agencies on bioeconomy conceptions working to triple the size of today’s bioeconomy by 2030—to more than a billion tons of biomass.

Roadmap Sets the Table for Nutrition Research

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.

I serve as Co-Chair of the Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research (ICHNR), which on March 4 released the first-ever National Nutrition Research Roadmap. This document will help guide government, academia, and the private sector to more effective collaboration on federally funded human nutrition research. Accordingly, the Roadmap itself is the result of more than a year of collaboration among 10 different federal departments and agencies, more than 90 federal experts, and numerous public comments.

The American people are keenly interested in knowing which dietary choices will help them to be healthy and prevent chronic diseases. Research on this relationship between nutrition, dietary choices, and health is important, because even a small impact on health could have large economic benefits to society. In fact, improved nutrition could be one of the most cost-effective approaches to address many societal, environmental, and economic challenges facing the US and nations around the globe. The Roadmap will help make federally supported nutrition research more effective and productive by identifying knowledge gaps and breakthrough opportunities that can be addressed through coordination and collaboration.

A Banner Year for Leadership: 5 Ways We're Answering America's Agricultural and Environmental Challenges

USDA scientists work 365 days to provide safe and sustainable food, water, and natural resources in the face of a changing climate and uncertain energy sources. To recognize the contribution that agricultural science and research makes in our daily lives, this week’s “Banner Year” series features stories from 2015 that show the successes that USDA science and statistical agencies made for us all.

In 2015, we’ve seen agriculture and natural resources at the crossroads of the world’s most critical problems: establishing sustainable food production, providing clean and abundant water, responding to climatic variability, developing renewable energy, improving human health, and strengthening food safety.  The immensity and diversity of the difficulties Americans face allowed USDA an excellent opportunity to once again demonstrate our ability and capacity to rise and meet the greatest of challenges.

Here are five stories from 2015 to review:

USDA Embraces One Health Approach for Solving Problems Associated with Antimicrobial Resistance

This week is World Antibiotic Awareness Week and USDA remains focused on prolonging the usefulness of a very precious resource—antibiotics.  These medicines successfully treat and prevent infectious diseases and must be used responsibly to remain effective to all who need them.  USDA also recognizes that antimicrobial resistance, or the ability of bacteria and other microbes to survive the effects of an antibiotic and then proliferate, is a serious threat to both animal health and human health.

Earlier this year, the World Health Assembly developed a global action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR).  The five objectives of the plan are: Increasing awareness, strengthening research and surveillance, reducing infections, optimizing antimicrobial use, and ensuring sustainable investments to contain AMR.

A Commitment to Scientific Integrity

USDA is one of the world’s leading scientific research institutions for agriculture, food and nutrition. We also have the largest forestry research resource in the world. At just one USDA agency – the Agriculture Research Service - more than 2,000 scientists publish more than 4,000 research papers each year in peer-reviewed journals on their work to ensure high-quality, safe, and sustainable food and other agricultural products. This work continues year after year, and the volume and quality of our research is particularly impressive when you consider that overall funding for both public and private spending on food and agriculture research has been stagnant for many years.

Our research extends from the farm field to the kitchen table, and from the air we breathe to the energy that powers our country.  Recent work by our researchers has produced a way to use radio frequencies to kill harmful salmonella in eggs; gene silencing technology that controls mosquito populations without harming pollinators; and a new soil nitrogen test that reduces fertilizer application amounts, reduces costs for farmers, and benefits the environment.

USDA is Making Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Possible through STEM and Collaboration

Today, USDA will engage with citizen-science professionals, researchers, and stakeholders from local, state, Federal, and Tribal governments, as well as representatives of the academic, non-profits, and private sector to celebrate citizen science at the first-ever White House citizen science forum on “Open Science and Innovation: Of the People, By the People, For the People” – co-hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Domestic Policy Council. The forum will raise awareness of citizen science and crowdsourcing as innovative approaches that can be used to solve complex real-world problems and encourage more Americans to take advantage of them. For example, Dr. Ann Bartuska, Deputy Under Secretary of USDA’s Research, Education and Economics mission area, is moderating a panel discussion on citizen science in areas related to water and agriculture.

Open Data: a Key to Feeding 9 Billion People by 2050

NPR’s “The Takeaway” program recently examined the “The Biggest Challenges Facing America and the World.” The episode included an interview with USDA Chief Scientist and Undersecretary Catherine Woteki on the challenge of being able to feed a world population that is estimated to reach more than 9 billion people by the year 2050.

On behalf of USDA, Dr. Woteki played a key role in the formation of Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), an international organization which supports efforts to make agricultural and nutritional data available, accessible, and usable for unrestricted use worldwide. She said harvesting such data could be a key to harvesting enough future crops to meet future challenges.

USDA/Microsoft "Innovation Challenge" Offers $60K in Prizes to Software Developers

Farmers have long looked to the clouds for signs of relief, but a new competition launched by USDA and Microsoft will tap the Internet cloud to help farmers and our food systems to adapt to climate change. The “Innovation Challenge” is asking software developers to create applications that will use more than 100 years of USDA data to explore how our food system can achieve better food resiliency.

Climate change will likely affect every aspect of the food system—whether it’s the ability to grow food, the reliability of food transportation and food safety efforts, or the dynamics of international trade in agricultural goods. Even so, we don’t yet fully know how to anticipate and mitigate any negative changes.