Archive for the ‘U.S. Department of Agriculture’ Category

Questions and Answers: Proposed Rule – Retail Pet Sales

July 16, 2012 Comments off

Questions and Answers: Proposed Rule – Retail Pet Sales (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Agricultural (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service)

APHIS is proposing to revise its definition of “retail pet store” to close a loophole that has in some cases threatened the health of pets sold sight unseen over the Internet and via phone- and mail-based businesses. Under the current definition of “retail pet store,” which was developed over 40 years ago and predates the Internet, some breeders selling pets are taking advantage of a loophole that improperly exempts them from meeting the basic requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The proposed rule will close this loophole, ensuring that animals sold over the Internet and via phone- and mail-based businesses are better monitored for their overall health and humane treatment.

The proposal will restore the definition to its original intent so that it limits the retail pet store exemption to only those places of business and residence:

  • that buyers physically enter to observe the animals available for sale prior to purchase and/ or to take custody of the animals after purchase, and
  • where only the following animals are sold or offered for sale at retail for use as pets: Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, gophers, chinchilla, domestic ferrets, domestic farm animals, birds, and coldblooded species.

APHIS is also proposing to increase the number of breeding females from three to four that small hobby breeders of dogs, cats, and small exotic or wild mammals can own and still be exempt from licensing requirements. To meet the exemption requirements, these breeders can only sell the offspring of the breeding females that were born and raised on their premises, and sold for only pets or exhibition.

Slaughter and Processing Options and Issues for Locally Sourced Meat

June 22, 2012 Comments off

Slaughter and Processing Options and Issues for Locally Sourced Meat
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

This report evaluates the availability of slaughter and processing facilities for local meat production and the extent to which these may constrain or support growth in demand for locally sourced meats.

Estimating the Range of Food-Insecure Households in India

June 18, 2012 Comments off

Estimating the Range of Food-Insecure Households in India
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service

This study provides a quantitative assessment of food security using a large household-level expenditure survey conducted by the Government of India during 2004/05. The analysis tests the impact of several key assumptions required to estimate actual calories consumed from the expenditure data. The authors found significant differences in the estimates of calories consumed and the number of food-insecure people under alternative plausible assumptions for computing the calorie content of nonprocessed foods, processed foods, and meals eaten outside the household. The measurement errors were largest in accounting for calories consumed by the highest and lowest income households. Overall, the difference between the highest and lowest estimate of the number of people consuming an average of less than 2,100 calories per day was equivalent to about 17 percent of India’s population, or 173 million people in 2004/05. Given the significant measurement error in estimating calories consumed, it is important to consider not only consumption surveys, but also aggregate food availability studies and survey data on anthropometric measures that accompany undernourishment—such as growth stunting—in assessing food insecurity.

The Potential Impact of Changes in Immigration Policy on U.S. Agriculture and the Market for Hired Farm Labor: A Simulation Analysis

June 7, 2012 Comments off

The Potential Impact of Changes in Immigration Policy on U.S. Agriculture and the Market for Hired Farm Labor: A Simulation Analysis
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service

Large shifts in the supply of foreign-born, hired farm labor resulting from substantial changes in U.S. immigration laws or policies could have significant economic implications. A computable general equilibrium (CGE) model of the U.S. economy is used to evaluate how changes in the supply of foreign-born labor might affect all sectors of the economy, including agriculture. Two scenarios are considered: an increase in the number of temporary nonimmigrant, foreign-born farmworkers, such as those admitted under the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program, and a decrease in the number of unauthorized workers in all sectors of the economy. Longrun economic outcomes for agricultural output and exports, wages and employment levels, and national income accruing to U.S.-born and foreign-born, permanent resident workers in these two scenarios are compared with a base forecast reflecting current immigration laws and policies.

Raising native plants in nurseries: basic concepts

June 6, 2012 Comments off

Raising native plants in nurseries: basic concepts
Source: U.S. Forest Service

Growing native plants can be fun, challenging, and rewarding. This booklet, particularly the first chapter that introduces important concepts, is for the novice who wants to start growing native plants as a hobby; however, it can also be helpful to someone with a bit more experience who is wondering about starting a nursery. The second chapter provides basic information about collecting, processing, storing, and treating seeds. Chapter three focuses on using seeds to grow plants in the field or in containers using simple but effective techniques. For those native plants that reproduce poorly from seeds, the fourth chapter describes how to start native plants from cuttings. The final chapter provides valuable information on how to successfully move native plants from the nursery and establish them in their final planting location. Several appendices expand on what has been presented in the chapters, with more details and specific information about growing a variety of native plants.

The Future of Environmental Compliance Incentives in U.S. Agriculture

May 13, 2012 Comments off

The Future of Environmental Compliance Incentives in U.S. Agriculture
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

In recent years, direct payments—a type of farm commodity program payment—have made up a large share of Federal agriculture assistance that could be withheld from farmers who fail to comply with highly erodible land conservation (conservation compliance and sodbuster) or wetland conservation (swampbuster) provisions, known collectively as environmental compliance requirements. If direct payments are sharply reduced or eliminated to help reduce the Federal budget deficit, compliance incentives would be reduced on many farms, potentially increasing environmental quality problems. Some farmers will still be subject to compliance through existing Federal agricultural programs (e.g., conservation or disaster programs) or programs that may succeed direct payments. Making federally subsidized crop insurance subject to compliance could also make up some of the lost incentive to farmers.

+ Summary (PDF)
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Exploring the relationship between outdoor recreation activities, community participation, and environmental attitudes

March 22, 2012 Comments off

Exploring the relationship between outdoor recreation activities, community participation, and environmental attitudes
Source: U.S. Forest Service

The relationship between environmental attitudes (EA) and environmentally responsible behavior (ERB) has been the focus of several studies in environmental psychology and recreation research. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between EAs and ERBs at both a general level and at an activity-specific level using a 2009 survey of motorized recreationists (all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders). Questions to measure general attitudes were adapted from the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) and activity-specific environmental attitude questions were developed from the literature.

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The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2011 Annual Report

March 22, 2012 Comments off

The Food Assistance Landscape: FY 2011 Annual Report
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

This report examines trends in USDA’s food and nutrition assistance programs through fiscal 2011. It also summarizes a number of ERS research reports on WIC-related topics that were released in fiscal 2011.

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Trends in U.S. Farmland Values and Ownership

March 10, 2012 Comments off

Trends in U.S. Farmland Values and Ownership
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service

Because farm real estate represents much of the value of U.S. farm sector assets, large swings in farmland values can affect the financial well-being of agricultural producers. This report examines both macroeconomic (interest rates, prices of alternative investments) and parcel-specific (soil quality, government payments, proximity to urban areas) factors that affect farmland values. In the last few years, U.S. farmland values have been supported by strong farm earnings, which have helped the farm sector in many regions to withstand the residential housing downturn. Historically low interest rates are likely a significant contributor to farming’s current ability to support higher land values. About 40 percent of U.S. farmland has been rented over the last 25 years. Non-operators (landowners who do not themselves farm) owned 29 percent of land in farms in 2007, though that proportion has declined since 1992.

+ Report Summary (PDF)
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Farms, Land in Farms, and Livestock Operations 2011 Summary

March 8, 2012 Comments off

Farms, Land in Farms, and Livestock Operations 2011 Summary (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

2011 Number of Farms and Land in Farms Highlights

  • The number of farms in the United States in 2011 is estimated at 2.2 million, down slightly from 2010. Total land in farms, at 917 million acres, decreased 1.85 million acres from 2010. The average farm size is 420 acres, up 1 acre from the previous year.

    Farm numbers and land in farms are broken down into five economic sales classes. Farms and ranches are classified into these “sales classes” by summing their sales of agricultural products and government program payments. Sales class breaks occur at $10,000, $100,000, $250,000, and $500,000.

  • Farm numbers increased slightly in the $10,000-$99,999, $250,000-$499,999, and $500,000 and over sales classes. Higher commodity prices and larger value of sales contributed to changes in the number of farms within these sales classes. Farm numbers increased 1.3 percent, to slightly over 600,000 farms in the $10,000 – $99,999 sales class and 1.9 percent in the $250,000 – $499,999 sales class to over 100,000 farms. Meanwhile, the number of farms in the $500,000 and over sales class increased by 5.9 percent, to 133,570 farms.
  • Land in farms increased in the largest sales class while decreasing in all other sales classes. Land operated by farms in the $500,000 & over in sales class increased 2.5 percent, to 305.7 million acres. Land operated by farms in both $1,000- $9,999 and $100,000-$249,999 sales classes decreased by 3.5 percent, to 100.7 million acres and 138.7 million acres respectively.
  • The average farm size increased 1 acre in 2011 to 420 acres per farm. However, average farm sizes declined in some of the sales classes partially due to smaller farms moving up to higher sales classes.

Trends and causes of severity, size, and number of fires in northwestern California, USA

March 7, 2012 Comments off
Source:  U.S. Forest Service
Research in the last several years has indicated that fire size and frequency are on the rise in western U.S. forests. Although fire size and frequency are important, they do not necessarily scale with ecosystem effects of fire, as different ecosystems have different ecological and evolutionary relationships with fire. Our study assessed trends and patterns in fire size and frequency from 1910 to 2008 (all fires > 40 ha), and the percentage of high-severity in fires from 1987 to 2008 (all fires > 400 ha) on the four national forests of northwestern California. During 1910–2008, mean and maximum fire size and total annual area burned increased, but we found no temporal trend in the percentage of high-severity fire during 1987–2008. The time series of severity data was strongly influenced by four years with region-wide lightning events that burned huge areas at primarily low–moderate severity. Regional fire rotation reached a high of 974 years in 1984 and fell to 95 years by 2008. The percentage of high-severity fire in conifer-dominated forests was generally higher in areas dominated by smaller-diameter trees than in areas with larger-diameter trees. For Douglas-fir forests, the percentage of highseverity fire did not differ significantly between areas that re-burned and areas that only burned once (10% vs. 9%) when re-burned within 30 years. Percentage of high-severity fire decreased to 5% when intervals between first and second fires were .30 years. In contrast, in both mixed-conifer and fir/high-elevation conifer forests, the percentage of high-severity fire was less when re-burned within 30 years compared to first-time burned (12% vs. 16% for mixed conifer; 11% vs. 19% for fir/high-elevation conifer). Additionally, the percentage of highseverity fire did not differ whether the re-burn interval was less than or greater than 30 years. Years with larger fires and greatest area burned were produced by region-wide lightning events, and characterized by less winter and spring precipitation than years dominated by smaller human-ignited fires. Overall percentage of high-severity fire was generally less in years characterized by these region-wide lightning events. Our results suggest that, under certain conditions, wildfires could be more extensively used to achieve ecological and management objectives in northwestern California.

Full Paper (PDF)

See: Study of Wildfire Trends in Northwestern California Shows No Increase in Severity Over Time (Science Daily)

Baselines in Environmental Markets: Tradeoffs Between Cost and Additionality

March 5, 2012 Comments off
Source:  U.S. Department of Agriculture
Markets for farm-based environmental services are designed to allow farmers to sell “credits” for environmental improvements in water quality, carbon sequestration, wetlands restoration, and other areas. These markets use an environmental baseline to help determine whether proposed improvements qualify for market credits, and, if so, the number that should be awarded. Selection of a baseline is often a critical and contentious element in the design of environmental service markets. Due to the complexity and costs associated with defining, measuring, and verifying environmental baseline levels across heterogeneous landscapes, program managers may face a tradeoff between the precision with which changes in environmental performance can be estimated and the cost of refining those estimates. This brief focuses on the issues involved in measuring baselines, the strengths and weaknesses of alternative types of baselines, and the tradeoffs involved when selecting a baseline to measure environmental improvement.

Full Report (PDF)

Study: Nation’s urban forests losing ground

February 27, 2012 Comments off

Study: Nation’s urban forests losing ground
Source: U.S. Forest Service

National results indicate that tree cover in urban areas of the United States is declining at a rate of about 4 million trees per year, according to a U.S. Forest Service study published recently in Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.

A scenic picture of a person walking through a forest.

Tree cover in 17 of the 20 cities analyzed in the study declined while 16 cities saw increases in impervious cover, which includes pavement and rooftops. Land that lost trees was for the most part converted to either grass or ground cover, impervious cover or bare soil.

Of the 20 cities analyzed, the greatest percentage of annual loss in tree cover occurred in New Orleans, Houston and Albuquerque. Researchers expected to find a dramatic loss of trees in New Orleans and said that it is most likely due to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Tree cover ranged from a high of 53.9 percent in Atlanta to a low of 9.6 percent in Denver while total impervious cover varied from 61.1 percent in New York City to 17.7 percent in Nashville. Cities with the greatest annual increase in impervious cover were Los Angeles, Houston and Albuquerque.

“Our urban forests are under stress, and it will take all of us working together to improve the health of these crucial green spaces,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.  “Community organizations and municipal planners can use i-Tree to analyze their own tree cover, and determine the best species and planting spots in their neighborhoods. It’s not too late to restore our urban forests – the time is now to turn this around.”

The benefits derived from urban trees provide a return three times greater than tree care costs, as much as $2,500 in environmental services such as reduced heating and cooling costs during a tree’s lifetime.

Forest researchers David Nowak and Eric Greenfield of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station used satellite imagery to find that tree cover is decreasing at a rate of about 0.27 percent of land area per year in U.S. cities, which is equivalent to about 0.9 percent of existing urban tree cover being lost annually.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

2011 USDA Certified Organic Production Survey

February 26, 2012 Comments off
Source:  U.S. Department of Agriculture
The 2011 USDA Certified Organic Production Survey gathers detailed production and marketing information on certified organic farming in the United States, including acres planted, acres harvested, quantity harvested, quantity sold, value of sale, marketing practices and more for field crops, vegetables, fruits, tree nuts and berries, livestock, poultry and livestock products. From December 2011 – April 2012, NASS will conduct the survey nationwide targeting farm operators known by NASS and USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to produce USDA organically certified crops and/or livestock.

USDA Agricultural Projections to 2021

February 22, 2012 Comments off
Source:  U.S. Department of Agriculture
This report provides longrun (10-year) projections for the agricultural sector through 2021. Projections cover agricultural commodities, agricultural trade, and aggregate indicators of the sector, such as farm income and food prices.

USDA Unveils New Plant Hardiness Zone Map

January 25, 2012 Comments off

USDA Unveils New Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released the new version of its Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM), updating a useful tool for gardeners and researchers for the first time since 1990 with greater accuracy and detail. The new map—jointly developed by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Oregon State University’s (OSU) PRISM Climate Group—is available online at ARS is the chief intramural scientific research agency of USDA.

For the first time, the new map offers a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based interactive format and is specifically designed to be Internet-friendly. The map website also incorporates a “find your zone by ZIP code” function. Static images of national, regional and state maps have also been included to ensure the map is readily accessible to those who lack broadband Internet access.

Compared to the 1990 version, zone boundaries in this edition of the map have shifted in many areas. The new map is generally one 5-degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous map throughout much of the United States. This is mostly a result of using temperature data from a longer and more recent time period; the new map uses data measured at weather stations during the 30-year period 1976-2005. In contrast, the 1990 map was based on temperature data from only a 13-year period of 1974-1986.

Some of the changes in the zones, however, are a result of new, more sophisticated methods for mapping zones between weather stations. These include algorithms that considered for the first time such factors as changes in elevation, nearness to large bodies of water, and position on the terrain, such as valley bottoms and ridge tops. Also, the new map used temperature data from many more stations than did the 1990 map. These advances greatly improved the accuracy and detail of the map, especially in mountainous regions of the western United States. In some cases, advances resulted in changes to cooler, rather than warmer, zones.

Research Investments and Market Structure in the Food Processing, Agricultural Input, and Biofuel Industries Worldwide

January 5, 2012 Comments off
Source:  U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service

Meeting growing global demand for food, fiber, and biofuel requires robust investment in agricultural research and development (R&D) from both public and private sectors. This study examines global R&D spending by private industry in seven agricultural input sectors, food manufacturing, and biofuel and describes the changing structure of these industries. In 2007 (the latest year for which comprehensive estimates are available), the private sector spent $19.7 billion on food and agricultural research (56 percent in food manufacturing and 44 percent in agricultural input sectors) and accounted for about half of total public and private spending on food and agricultural R&D in high-income countries. In R&D related to biofuel, annual private-sector investments are estimated to have reached $1.47 billion worldwide by 2009. Incentives to invest in R&D are influenced by market structure and other factors. Agricultural input industries have undergone significant structural change over the past two decades, with industry concentration on the rise. A relatively small number of large, multinational firms with global R&D and marketing networks account for most R&D in each input industry. Rising market concentration has not generally been associated with increased R&D investment as a percentage of industry sales.

Report Summary (PDF)
Full Report (PDF)

Direct Certification in the National School Lunch Program: State Implementation Progress School Year 2010-2011 — Report to Congress

January 1, 2012 Comments off

Direct Certification in the National School Lunch Program: State Implementation Progress School Year 2010-2011 — Report to Congress (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture (Food and Nutrition Service)

This report responds to the legislative requirement of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (P.L.110-246) to assess the effectiveness of State and local efforts to directly certify children for free school meals under the National School Lunch Program (NSLP). Direct certification is a process conducted by the States and by local educational agencies (LEAs) to certify certain children for free school meals without the need for household applications. The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 required all LEAs to establish, by school year (SY) 2008–2009, a system of direct certification of children from households that receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The mandate was phased in over three years. The largest LEAs were required to establish direct certification systems by SY 2006–2007; all were required to directly certify SNAP participants by SY 2008–2009.

Eighty-five percent of LEAs that participate in the NSLP directly certified some SNAP participants in SY 2010–2011. These LEAs enroll 97 percent of all students in schools that participate in the NSLP. This is an increase from SY 2004–2005, when 56 percent of LEAs, enrolling 77 percent of all students in NSLP schools, directly certified some SNAP-participant students.

Nationally, the number of school age SNAP participants was 16 percent higher at the start of SY 2010–2011 than it was at the start of SY 2009–2010, and States and LEAs directly certified 1.9 million more students in SY 2010–2011 than in the previous year. Analysis in this report estimates that 78 percent of children in SNAP households were directly certified for free school meals, substantially higher than last year’s rate of 72 percent. Eight States achieved direct certification rates higher than 90 percent, whereas three had direct certification rates lower than 60 percent.

Where’s the (Not) Meat?—Byproducts From Beef and Pork Production

December 10, 2011 Comments off

Where’s the (Not) Meat?—Byproducts From Beef and Pork Production
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service

The report describes the many uses for animal byproducts—both inedible and edible—and estimates the volume of production of beef and pork variety meats in the United States in addition to the proportion of value added to the live animal from the byproducts. The value added to U.S. meat trade and the role of variety meats in the global marketplace is also evaluated.

+ Full Report (PDF)

Identifying Overlap in the Farm Safety Net

December 8, 2011 Comments off

Identifying Overlap in the Farm Safety Net
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service

This report provides a classification of types of overlap and a synthesis of ERS research about overlapping payments in the U.S. farm safety net, including how to identify and measure overlap among crop revenue insurance, ACRE, SURE, and ad hoc disaster assistance. Future research avenues are suggested, including exploring how income support and risk management programs interact within the context of a whole farm revenue definition of farm business viability.

+ Summary (PDF)
+ Full Report (PDF)


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