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Microloan Gets Getting Growing

This post is part of a Microloan Success feature series on the USDA blog.  Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Beginning farmer Andy Getting was doing some research on the Internet when he came across information on USDA’s Microloan program.  The program allows beginning, small and mid-sized farmers to access up to $35,000 in loans using a simplified application process, and with up to seven years to repay.

Getting, an Iowa farmer, grows irrigated corn, soybeans and strawberries. He is a part-owner with his parents, Don and Mary Getting, who are starting their 30th farming season.

The Gettings started growing strawberries in 1983 on one acre. Next year, they will pick 17 acres of June-bearing strawberries. Their customers have the option of picking their own berries or they can buy pre-picked berries at the market, which also sells fresh strawberry shakes, muffins, bread and many other strawberry-flavored baked goods made by Getting’s grandmother. During the summer months, the market employs 15 to 30 people.

#Newfarmers: Please Join me at the Table

Coming from a farming family in Georgia, I know firsthand the risks farmers take each and every day. The work is hard, the margins are slim and Mother Nature can be fickle. The questions that my family is asking about what happens to our farm in the future are questions that are shared by farmers across the country. Where will the next generation of farmers come from? Who will they be? Where will they live? How will they get started? What do they need to succeed?

Yesterday, I hosted a Google+ Hangout with Kate Danner and Alejandro Tecum, two passionate individuals who share a love of agriculture. They spoke about the challenges and experiences of new farmers across the country. With the recent Agricultural Census indicating the average age of farmers continues to rise and opportunities for new farmers are growing, I wanted to know why Kate and Alejandro got into agriculture and what advice they could offer to others interested in doing the same.

Cover Crops Improve Soil & Provide Food for Cattle

The Bremmer family has raised cattle and grown crops in northwestern Illinois for more than a century. Over time, they’ve found ways to improve their operation -- the latest improvement is the use of cover crops.

Brothers Ross and Chad Bremmer, fourth-generation farmers, are already seeing the benefits of cover crops -- healthy food for their cattle, less erosion and an increase in the soil’s water-storage capacity.

The brothers worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to find the best cover crops for their land. They were looking for a cover crop that helped the soil while providing good sustenance for their cattle.

Cochran Fellow Influences Food Security in Mozambique

Promoting food security and agricultural development around the world is a key part of the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) mission. One way FAS does this is by providing educational opportunities to emerging leaders from developing countries through programs such as the Cochran Fellowship Program. Among the FAS-trained fellows who have gone on to great things is Mozambique’s Minister of Science and Technology Louis Pelembe.

Minister Pelembe was a Cochran fellow in 2003, learning about food processing techniques for soy and other commodities at Texas A&M University. He later continued his training at the University of Illinois National Soybean Research Laboratory and Kansas State University with the support of FAS’s Emerging Markets Program. Today, he’s helping address critical food security and developing agricultural policy in Mozambique.

U.S. Soybeans Support Sustainability in Afghanistan

Minnesota soybean farmers recently gathered at a local seed house to witness final preparations for a shipment of U.S. soybean seeds about to make a 7,000-mile journey to Afghanistan. The shipment is part of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress Program and will provide subsistence farmers in Afghanistan with 68.5 metric tons of early maturing soybean seeds to plant.

The United States is China’s Soybean Supplier of Choice

Last week was a momentous one for U.S.-China agricultural relations. In addition to the productive meetings that took place in Washington and Des Moines, I was honored to witness the signing of an agreement between the U.S. soybean industry and Chinese buyers who agreed to purchase more than 8.6 million metric tons of U.S. soybeans in the coming year. That’s about $4.3 billion worth of soybeans, or 317 million bushels.

The signing of that purchase agreement represents another very important milestone in the U.S.-China trade relationship, a relationship that continues to grow and flourish – in large part thanks to agricultural trade.  Last fiscal year, for the first time ever, China was the number one market for U.S. food and agricultural exports. And it was also the top market, by far, for U.S. soybeans. In fact, China purchased nearly 60 percent of the U.S. soybeans sold internationally last year.

USDA Science Unlocks the Genetic Secrets of the Soybean

Today, the work of scientists from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), our State Land Grant Universities, and the Department of Energy (DOE) is featured as the cover story in the prestigious science journal, Nature.  I am very proud and excited that USDA science played an important part in unlocking the genetic secrets of one of the world’s most important crops, the soybean.