USDA

USDA

Rural communities can access a newly-developed tool for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

The US Department of Agriculture unveiled the COVID-19 Federal Rural Resource Guide is meant to help rural leaders who are seeking federal funding and partnership opportunities to help address the pandemic.

OMAHA, Nebraska — At eight months pregnant, government food inspector Rosalie Arriaga was scheduled in March 2018 to handle twice her normal workload at the meat processing plants she was assigned to cover.

It was her third straight week of double coverage, according to agency schedules given to the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

This June the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its plan to move two of its research agencies out of Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area. Most of the people working at the agencies have since quit, leaving gaping holes in critical divisions. Researchers warn that the agency upheaval will starve farmers, policymakers and ultimately consumers out of the best possible information about food and the business of growing it.

A monthly report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture assessing the global supply and demand of key crops had mixed messages for Midwest farmers Monday.

Critics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision to move two of its research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area got more ammunition this week.

(This story was updated at 5:15 p.m.)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans Thursday to move headquarters of two large research agencies from Washington, D.C., to the Kansas City area, promising the region more than 550 research jobs.

A couple of federal agencies you probably haven’t heard of keep track of what farmers grow, what Americans eat and how the country’s entire food system operates. And the Trump Administration wants them out of Washington, D.C.

The Kansas City metro area is among three sites still in the hunt to become the next location for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's research arms.

From Texas Standard:

Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture produces a count of all the country's farms, ranches, crops, livestock and anything else related to agriculture. It recently released data from its 2017 census and here are three things worth nothing:

The number of farms in the state continues to shrink while the average farm size increases. KGOU's Katelyn Howard joins Russell Ray, editor of The Journal Record, to make sense of this and other findings revealed in the latest Census of Agriculture report.

It’s been five years since the last ag census. Since 2012, the U.S. has lost about 70,000 farms, saw the average age of farmers go up and prices for certain commodities go down.

Is the country careening towards summertime with a shortage of onions?

The National Onion Association certainly seems to think so. The Greeley, Colorado-based trade group is warning consumers the nation’s supply is about 30 percent lower than it was this time last year. The association’s vice president, Greg Yielding, said storms in the southern U.S. and Mexico drowned out crops while in the Netherlands, a top onion producer, dry conditions resulted in a smaller than usual harvest.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said this week that that a long-anticipated program for dairy farmers will be available June 17, with payments possibly coming as soon as early July.

At her desk in Greeley, Colorado, Shelly Woods pulls out three thick stacks of manila folders. These files represent dozens of local farmers who’ve applied for safety-net programs, including tariff relief through the Farm Service Agency. While Woods and about 800,000 federal colleagues were furloughed for 35 days, the work piled up.

The U.S. meat industry is gigantic, with roughly $200 billion a year in sales and growing. But the industry faces emerging threats on two fronts: plant-based meat substitutes and actual meat grown in labs.

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture determined that only foods containing detectable genetic material should be considered as bioengineered or genetically modified (GMO).

The USDA was tasked with deciding if refined products, like soybean oil and corn sweeteners, should be considered a GMO food. It said they are not, which is a victory for sugar beet farmers.

On top of a second round of payments to farmers as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s trade relief program, the agency is trying to ease the impact by purchasing surplus food and distributing it to food banks and other hunger relief groups.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing $1.2 billion to help rebuild and improve rural water infrastructure across the nation.

Of the 234 water infrastructure projects nationally, 16 are in Kansas, including one in Valley Center.

The city will get a $3.1 million loan to replace a portion of its aging water distribution system with new water lines, service lines, valves and hydrants. Corroded cast-iron pipe from the 1960s will be replaced.

Here’s the list of the other projects in Kansas:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to send hundreds of its employees out of Washington, D.C., to areas closer to stakeholders like farmers and with lower costs of living. As it turns out, there are a lot of people who think their town fits the bill.

On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump promised to revitalize rural America, specifically through increased investment in infrastructure. And his ag secretary, Sonny Perdue, wants to modernize the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

One rural bank representative said there’s a key piece to doing that: Fixing an outdated and burdensome loan application process to make it easier to access capital.

The trade war has come home to roost among U.S. farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods are targeted by tariffs from China, Mexico and Canada. The U.S. Department of Agriculture did something about it Tuesday, announcing it'll spend up to $12 billion in aid, including direct payments to growers. 

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the nation’s largest program to reduce hunger. It’s also the biggest program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

But under the White House’s plan to reorganize the federal government, released Thursday, SNAP would have a new home at a revamped Department of Health and Human Services.

Though it’s not yet clear which highly processed ingredients will be labeled as genetically modified foods, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released possible designs for those labels.

The labels fulfill a law passed in 2016 that gives food companies three options to disclose GMO ingredients: a line of text, a scannable QR code, or a symbol. It is meant to be an impartial notice to shoppers, and the labels avoid the polarizing term “GMO.”

Yet, one of the label designs released this month is a smiling orange and green sun with the letters “b-e” standing for “bioengineered,” which is the word used in the law.

USDA Official To Farmers: Please Be Patient

Apr 8, 2018

It was an appropriate week for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s trade expert to address a gaggle of Nebraska farmers — even if their responses tended toward frustration.

Congress has passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill that’ll keep the federal government running. In that package, which President Donald Trump signed on Friday, is a fix for a troublesome provision for some grain businesses.

Passed in last year’s tax overhaul, the provision allows farmers to deduct up to 20 percent of their earnings from selling crops — but only to cooperatives. That threatens businesses that aren’t co-ops but also buy and sell commodities like corn, soybeans and wheat, including large companies like Cargill and Bunge to small, local grain elevators.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture tossed out a set of proposed changes this week that would have redefined living conditions for dairy and beef cattle, sheep, lamb, poultry and egg-laying chickens on certified organic farms.

New U.S. dietary recommendations are in the works. And for the first time in 30 years, the federal government is seeking public comment about what belongs on the plate.

“This is fabulous because we have so many experts in the field of nutrition and diet and health and I think they can all weigh in to suggest questions about what needs to be addressed,” says Joan Salge Blake, a clinical associate professor of nutrition at Boston University.

About 16.4 million people who receive federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits would not have a say in how to spend about half of their monthly benefits under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year.

Low-income Americans who receive at least $90 a month would see "about half" of their benefits come in the form of a nonperishable, American-grown “USDA Foods package,” or a "Harvest Box," according to a news release Monday from the USDA, which runs SNAP.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it wants feedback on how to get a certain segment of Americans out of poverty and off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

Starting Friday, the public — as well as states and other stakeholders — will have 45 days to comment about possible changes to SNAP benefits for recipients who are between the ages of 18 to 49 and don’t have dependents. They make up about 9 percent of the SNAP recipients, the USDA says.

The two federal agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s food safety laws agreed this week to collaborate better, update biotechnology regulations and implement new safety inspections on produce farms.

The biggest change from the agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, however, could come from a review of how food processing facilities currently are regulated by both departments. Experts say that could lead to less paperwork for food manufacturers and more streamlined reports of recalls and other food safety issues.

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