U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Esther Honig

Each spring, ranchers across the Eastern Plains look at their land and ask a very important question: How much green can they expect this season?

In this case, "green" refers not to money, but to grass. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently launched a new tool to help cattlemen predict just how much they can look forward to.

The farm bill traditionally is a bipartisan effort, but House Republicans’ proposed changes to the main federal food-aid program in this year’s version have struck a nerve. To move it through efficiently, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says he’ll appeal to President Donald Trump.

James Gathany / CDC

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report this week saying that the Department of Agriculture has "sidelined science" and "betrayed farmers.” The group is particularly concerned about antibiotics.

After years of declining income on America’s farms and ranches, the agricultural sector might have finally hit the floor.  

The latest figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture expect farmers to bring in more money this year than initially projected. Crop and livestock producers could net $63.4 billion in 2017. That would be an increase of nearly $1 billion from 2016, and would be the first time farmers see a rise in net farm income year-to-year since 2013.

On a sweltering summer morning, Rob Mitchell surveys a plot of switchgrass at a research field near Lincoln, Nebraska. The grass is lush, green and nearly six feet tall.

“And it will get a couple feet taller than this,” says Mitchell, an agronomist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “So we’re putting on a lot of biomass right now.”

Farms and ranches throughout the country won’t see their labor shortages solved by a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

In a call with reporters while visiting Mexico ahead of the trade talks, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said labor issues likely wouldn’t be addressed during formal negotiations among the United States, Mexico and Canada, set to begin August 16th.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

Farmers and ranchers, with their livelihoods intimately tied to weather and the environment, may not be able to depend on research conducted by the government to help them adapt to climate change if the Trump Administration follows through on campaign promises to shift federal resources away from studying the climate.

Farmers stand to lose a lot if worst case climate projections come to pass. They are likely to face extreme swings in temperature and precipitation. Pests and crop diseases will show up more frequently. Heat stress could stunt meat and dairy production from the nation’s cattle herd, costing farmers billions of dollars in lost revenue and forcing food prices to rise.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Newly minted U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue marked his first day on the job this week by relaxing school nutrition standards that had been implemented under the Obama administration. The change offers “regulatory flexibility” when it comes to whole grains, sodium and milk. But many food service departments along the Front Range say this changes nothing, and that the older, more stringent nutritional standards will remain in place in their kitchens.

Three months after his nomination, Sonny Perdue faces a confirmation vote in the U.S. Senate Monday for the post of secretary of agriculture.

If confirmed, Perdue will find a desk at USDA piled high with priorities and will be one of the last members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to be seated.

Rural Groups Push Against Proposed Cuts To USDA Spending

Mar 16, 2017
Adam Fagen / Flickr

Farm and rural advocacy groups say cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would harm rural communities, at a time when many of them need an infusion of cash.

In what’s being called a “skinny budget” because it sets an outline and contains scant details, Trump’s proposal calls for a 21 percent reduction in the USDA’s annual discretionary spending, and lays out rationales for why some programs are either eliminated or scaled back, calling some “duplicative,” or “underperforming.”

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