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Weaving Up New Uses for Cotton

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.

In the agriculture industry, having a green thumb can help businesses improve their yield and their bottom line. As good stewards, our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and agricultural business are also committed to another type of green. Through sustainable and conservation practices, ag businesses are finding multiple uses for products, which reduces land and water usage.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) witnesses these efforts first-hand while overseeing industry Research and Promotion Programs. These self-help programs that are requested for and completely funded by the industry are charged with developing cutting-edge marketing campaigns and supporting nutrition research that benefits all of the industry’s members. Many of their research projects focus on sustainable practices and conservation. While we know that the list of these types of projects is endless, we would like to highlight a few of the things that the cotton industry is doing.

Training Empowers Ag Boards to Recruit the Next Generation of Farmers

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, and all of USDA are committed to supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers and promoting diversity and inclusion in all sectors of agriculture. As Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I had the pleasure of advancing these important priorities during our Research and Promotion Program (R&P) board diversity and inclusion training session, held in Northern Virginia prior to the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Meeting participants – including more than 50 board members and board staff from 20 of the 22 R&P boards that we oversee, AMS employees, and representatives of Certified Nominating Organizations – gathered to tackle a serious issue: how to recruit talented and diverse board members who are representative of the industries they serve. The R&P boards allow farmers and ranchers to pool their resources and set common goals to develop new markets and strengthen current markets for the commodities they grow or handle.

How Industries Create a Research and Promotion Program

We often talk about the many ways research and promotion (R&P) programs benefit both ag industries and the consumer. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers leverage these programs and the pooled resources they collect to help overcome marketing barriers and connect with consumers. R&P programs are self-help initiatives that are national in scope and funded by the industry to help these businesses continue to strengthen their rural economies and the communities they support.

To form a new R&P, there are specific steps that the industry and USDA follow:

Avocados: Helping Draw up the Perfect Recipe for the Big Game

The Super Bowl is next Sunday and people are busy making plans for the big game. For many, the most valuable player will be the avocado, which is quickly becoming a fan favorite.

In fact, it’s estimated that Americans will consume 120 million pounds or 240 million fresh avocados during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. This is a 20 percent increase from last year. It is also estimated that the amount of avocados consumed during the big game will be enough to fill an entire football field from end zone to end zone over 46 feet high.

Helping Ag Businesses Reflect on their Accomplishments and Look to the Future

Reflection, celebration, and ambition are hallmarks of entering a new year. We reflect on the challenges we faced, celebrate our accomplishments, and set goals for the future. For businesses, a common goal is finding new ways to satisfy ever-changing consumer demands. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers rely on research and promotion programs to help meet these demands, connecting consumers to their quality products. With a focus on highlighting quality products and building consumer trust, many research and promotion groups embarked on new initiatives and continued to expand on others in 2014.

Success for agricultural businesses often depends on their ability to provide consumers more information. The American Lamb Board accomplishes this by providing locations where lamb fans can enjoy this tasty product. Not only does the Lamb Locator list farmers markets, grocers, butchers and restaurants selling American lamb, it also includes a list of wholesale suppliers. Making this information available to the public helps more and more people enjoy quality lamb products that are produced by American farmers and ranchers.