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Office of the Chief Economist

The U.S. Drought Monitor: A Resource for Farmers, Ranchers and Foresters

Even before the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s, agricultural producers have recognized the economic and emotional devastation that drought can cause. Recently, the focus has shifted from dealing with drought as an unexpected hazard, to more proactive planning for the inevitability of drought. One of the tools available to producers is the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), a weekly map of drought conditions produced jointly by the USDA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The Next Generation of Agriculture at the Ag Outlook Forum

On February 22-23, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hosted the 94th Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum (AOF), welcoming hundreds of current and rising agricultural leaders. The event brought together public and private stakeholders to discuss key issues in U.S. agriculture. Among those representing the future of American agriculture were this year’s USDA Student Diversity Program winners, students from the Virginia chapter of the National FFA Organization, and students from the 1994 Tribal Colleges and Universities. These special guests shared their impressions of the event.

The Global Customer for American Agriculture

Last week, nearly 1,600 agriculture stakeholders gathered at the 94th Annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, the USDA’s largest convening. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and other distinguished speakers shared their insights on upcoming challenges and opportunities in agriculture, including infrastructure, regulatory reform, industry, governance, and farm policies.

USDA Agencies Collaborate to Produce Trusted and Reliable Commodity Market Information

Since its inception nearly 100 years ago, USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum has provided analysis of the farm economy, including the short- and long-term outlook for agricultural commodity markets. Producing credible and reliable information about supply and demand conditions for all the major crop and livestock markets, along with the implications for prices, production and trade, is a year-round process that relies on expertise from dozens of highly-trained analysts spread across several USDA agencies, including USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS).

Student Diversity Program Winners are Honored Guests at this Year’s Ag Outlook Forum

The next generation of agricultural leaders get to rub elbows with today’s ag decisionmakers at the 2018 Agricultural Outlook Forum (AOF) later this month. Twenty undergraduate juniors and seniors and 10 graduate students have been selected as winners of the 2018 Student Diversity Program. These students receive invaluable, hands-on experience through a weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., capped off with the 94th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum (AOF), USDA’s largest annual meeting, held Feb. 22-23 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

Quantifying Water Quality Benefits of Conservation Practices

Although we know that farm conservation practices, like cover crops, reduced tillage and nutrient management, as well as improve overall performance and environmental outcomes, it’s difficult to say exactly how these practices affect resources, such as water quality. We can say that the water coming off of a field with conservation practices might “look cleaner,” but what does this really mean in terms of nitrogen, phosphorous, and sediment? These challenges can make it difficult for producers to decide which practices to implement, because there’s no way to determine which are the most effective at improving their soil health or reducing their environmental impact. There’s an element of risk as well, because it’s difficult to predict how new conservation practices might affect yield.

New Caribbean Climate Hub Video Teaches Kids About Agriculture

Sr. Sapo is a very popular figure among children in Puerto Rico and Latin America and he has a new healthy hobby, agriculture! The USDA Caribbean Climate Hub and the musical group Atención Atención Inc. partnered to produce a video focusing on how food is grown and its relationship with nature.

Drought Conditions at Lowest Point since Autumn 2010

Nationally, we are seeing extreme to exceptional (D3 to D4) drought conditions fall to their lowest point in more than 6 years. Nowhere is that change more dramatic than in California. The current (February 21, 2017) Drought Monitor for California notes the disappearance of D3/D4 from California. At the California drought’s peak from August-October 2014, that percentage was nearly 82 percent. As recently as early-December 2016, coverage of D3/D4 in California stood at 43 percent.