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Research

The Cost of Raising a Child

USDA recently issued Expenditures on Children by Families, 2015. This report is also known as “The Cost of Raising a Child.” USDA has been tracking the cost of raising a child since 1960 and this analysis examines expenses by age of child, household income, budgetary component, and region of the country.

Based on the most recent data from the Consumer Expenditures Survey, in 2015, a family will spend approximately $12,980 annually per child in a middle-income ($59,200-$107,400), two-child, married-couple family. Middle-income, married-couple parents of a child born in 2015 may expect to spend $233,610 ($284,570 if projected inflation costs are factored in*) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise a child through age 17. This does not include the cost of a college education.

Selecting Trees to Grow in Cities: Database Captures Urban Tree Sizes, Growth Rates Across US

In the cramped environs of U.S. cities every inch counts, especially if attempting to make space for nature. But now city planners and urban foresters have a resource to more precisely select tree species whose growth will be a landscaping dream instead of a maintenance nightmare.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station recently published a technical manual and launched the most extensive database available cataloging urban trees with their projected growth tailored to specific geographic regions.

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.

The Science Behind Fire

In recent months, we have all become familiar with images in the media of wildland firefighters digging lines, air tankers dropping retardant and fire engines dispersing water. You may wonder “how do these firefighters know what it takes to fight fire?”

The short answer is: research.

Before a wildland firefighter sees his or her first fire, they are given the tools and training on how to fight fire and its behavior. The information passed onto them is not learned overnight but rather through years of research.

Nutritional Security Through Sustainable Agriculture

Nutritional security is defined as “a situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

Achieving nutritional security in the context of the burgeoning population, climate change, diminishing land and water resources, environmental degradation, and changing incomes and diets will require not just approaches to sustainably producing more food, but also smarter ways of producing food, dealing with food waste, and promoting improved nutritional outcomes.  The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invests in and advances agricultural research, education, and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve these societal challenges. NIFA’s portfolio of support for nutritional security and sustainable agriculture includes literally thousands of impactful efforts across our nation; below are just a handful that speak to the transformative work transforming lives.  For example:

Spring Climate Trends Changing in the Northeast

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA's Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

You might have noticed spring-like weather in the Northeast is arriving earlier than usual.  There is reliable evidence from many studies that conditions in the Northeast and upper Midwest have become warmer and wetter in recent decades, especially before the coming of winter and spring.  The spring-like warmth has snow melting faster and plant growth starting sooner.  On average, the last spring frost in the Northeast is about a week earlier now than it was 30 years ago.  The change is not as positive as one might expect since the start of growth for many plants has shifted even earlier than the last frost date leading to increased chances of frost damage.  This happens most often when unusually warm temperatures in March are followed within 2-5 weeks by a frost event.  In 2012, record high March temperatures were followed by record low temperatures (for the date) at the end of April with terrible consequences for fruit growers across Michigan, Ontario, New York, Vermont, and surrounding states.  In some places losses were almost total.  In something of a repeat, unusual warmth in the Northeast this past winter was interrupted by very cold outbreaks in mid-February and early April.  This combination was particularly bad for peaches in New Jersey, Connecticut, parts of New York, and other northeastern states where greater than 90% losses have been reported.

Spotting Trends Based on 'What We Eat in America'

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

The U.S. food supply is abundant, but many consumers are experiencing nutritional shortfalls. Some are overfed but undernourished at the same time. Observing trends in U.S. diets is possible based on food-consumption data collected during the annual “What We Eat in America/NHANES” dietary-intake survey.

The USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is responsible for the consumption interview, one of several components of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The dietary survey is managed by researchers at the Food Surveys Research Group in Beltsville, Md., part of the ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center.

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.

Woodland Buffers Protect Amphibians, Ecosystems

Forested areas that border wetlands help protect wildlife, but until recently their efficacy has been untested for most amphibian species.  Now, recently published results of a six-year study explore how the loss or reduction of amphibians could affect the ecosystem.

At the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Kimberly Babbitt and a team of graduate students conducted landscape-scale experiments that tested the impacts of forest buffer width vernal pools on population size and structure, body size and condition and population genetics of two amphibian species in the northeastern United States. A grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) supported the project.

Partners in Agroforestry

When thinking about how to reduce run-off from potato fields in New Brunswick, Canada, researcher Josée Owen of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada turned to a tool created by Mike Dosskey, a U.S. Forest Service researcher at the USDA National Agroforestry Center.

With others at the University of Kentucky and the Forest Service, Dosskey created AgBufferBuilder, a GIS-based computer program used for designing vegetation buffers around agricultural fields. Soil can erode, and fertilizer and pesticides off of fields while suspended in water. Buffers with trees, shrubs and other plants help to filter this water by trapping sediment and nutrients.