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Washington, D.C. – On May 11, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced an overhaul in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organization structure, including the creation of an undersecretary for trade and foreign affairs and consolidation of several agencies.

Perdue’s reorganization efforts recognize “the ever-increasing importance of international trade to American agriculture.”

Perdue issued a report to announce the changes, which address Congressional direction in the 2014 Farm Bill to create the new undersecretary for trade and also are a down payment on President Trump’s request of his cabinet to deliver plans to improve the accountability and customer service provided by departments.

“Food is a noble thing to trade. This nation has a great story to tell and we’ve got producers here that produce more than we can consume,” said Secretary Perdue. “And that’s good, because I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy. Our people in American agriculture have shown they can grow it, and we’re here to sell it in markets all around the world.”

Changes

Among the changes made to USDA, Perdue created a new undersecretary position, the undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.

“Agricultural trade is critical for the U.S. farm sector and the American economy as a whole,” says USDA, citing figures that U.S. agricultural and food exports account for 20 percent of the value of production.

Additionally, every dollar from exports creates another $1.27 in business activity, and every $1 billion in U.S. ag exports supports nearly 8,000 American jobs.

“Our plan to establish an undersecretary for trade fits right in line with my goal to be American agriculture’s unapologetic advocate and chief salesman around the world. By working side-by-side with our U.S. Trade Representative and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the USDA undersecretary for trade will ensure that American producers are well equipped to sell their products and feed the world,” Perdue said.

Increasing logic

“Under the existing structure, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), which deals with overseas markets, and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which handles domestic issues, were housed under one mission area, along with the Risk Management Agency (RMA). It makes much more sense to situate FAS under the new undersecretary for trade, where staff can sharpen their focus on foreign markets,” USDA explains.

In creating the new undersecretary position, Perdue also announced reorganization of agencies that creates a more logical order to workflows.

In addition to the undersecretary for trade, Perdue also created an undersecretary for the farm production and conservation mission area, which will house FSA, RMA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The move allows a “one-stop shop for USDA’s primary customers – the men and women of farming, ranching and foresting across America,” he said.

The undersecretary for natural resources and environment will retain supervision of the U.S. Forest Service. 

“The economic health of small towns across America is crucial to the future of the agriculture economy. It is my commitment to always argue for the needs of rural America, which is why we are elevating Rural Development within USDA,” said Secretary Perdue. “No doubt, the opportunity we have here at the USDA in rural development is unmatched.”

Perdue will also elevate the importance of Rural Development.

Rural Development agencies will report directly to the secretary of agriculture, ensuring that rural America maintains a voice.

From the industry

Across agriculture and conservation groups, USDA’s reorganization has solicited positivity from many, with promise for cooperation in the process.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Craig Uden said, “We believe the restructuring of USDA makes sense for cattlemen and women, providing a one-stop shop for producers who utilize the many services of the FSA, RMA and NRCS. Additionally, having Rural Development directly reporting to the secretary shows the emphasis he is placing on helping rural America.”

He continued, “Furthermore, establishing this new undersecretary for trade position was one of our top priorities for 2017, so we are extremely pleased to see Secretary Perdue filling in the gaps left by the previous administration.”

Uden noted that the position will allow USDA to capitalize on markets for ag products and break down trade barriers.

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association’s President Kenny Graner said, “USCA is looking forward to working with this undersecretary to secure U.S. beef access to China and to ensure that our global trading partners are held to the same high standards of production as U.S. cattle producers.”

In the conservation realm, the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) President Brent Van Dyke said, “As one of USDA’s core partners, NACD’s primary goal is to ensure that American landowners are given the tools and technical assistance they need to conserve and enhance our nation’s natural resources.”

“NACD looks forward to providing input to USDA throughout the reorganization process to ensure continued strong service delivery,” NACD CEO Jeremy Peters said. “Because many of the nation’s 3,000 conservation districts are co-located with USDA field offices, local input is critical as the reorganization progresses to prevent any loss of service.”

However, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition commented, “We are confused and concerned with the administration’s decisions.”

They view the changes in Rural Development as a demotion, calling it simply an “office” under the secretary, rather than as its own agency.

“By demoting Rural Development to simply an “office” under the Secretary, it will lose its Cabinet-level status and the decision-making power that comes with being categorized as a USDA mission area,” said NSAC’s Greg Fogel.

Graner comments, “USCA looks forward to continuing our work with Secretary Perdue and his staff as these changes are implemented.”

Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) said, “I commend Secretary Perdue and the administration for, after just two weeks in office, putting forward a thoughtful reorganization plan that seeks to ensure all the critical mission areas at USDA are operating efficiently and effectively.”

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article from a number of press releases and interview with Wyoming ag industry representatives. Send comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Washington, D.C. – On May 11, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced an overhaul in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organization structure, including the creation of an undersecretary for trade and foreign affairs and consolidation of several agencies.

Perdue’s reorganization efforts recognize “the ever-increasing importance of international trade to American agriculture.”

Perdue issued a report to announce the changes, which address Congressional direction in the 2014 Farm Bill to create the new undersecretary for trade and also are a down payment on President Trump’s request of his cabinet to deliver plans to improve the accountability and customer service provided by departments.

“Food is a noble thing to trade. This nation has a great story to tell and we’ve got producers here that produce more than we can consume,” said Secretary Perdue. “And that’s good, because I’m a grow-it-and-sell-it kind of guy. Our people in American agriculture have shown they can grow it, and we’re here to sell it in markets all around the world.”

Changes

Among the changes made to USDA, Perdue created a new undersecretary position, the undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs.

“Agricultural trade is critical for the U.S. farm sector and the American economy as a whole,” says USDA, citing figures that U.S. agricultural and food exports account for 20 percent of the value of production.

Additionally, every dollar from exports creates another $1.27 in business activity, and every $1 billion in U.S. ag exports supports nearly 8,000 American jobs.

“Our plan to establish an undersecretary for trade fits right in line with my goal to be American agriculture’s unapologetic advocate and chief salesman around the world. By working side-by-side with our U.S. Trade Representative and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, the USDA undersecretary for trade will ensure that American producers are well equipped to sell their products and feed the world,” Perdue said.

Increasing logic

“Under the existing structure, the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), which deals with overseas markets, and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which handles domestic issues, were housed under one mission area, along with the Risk Management Agency (RMA). It makes much more sense to situate FAS under the new undersecretary for trade, where staff can sharpen their focus on foreign markets,” USDA explains.

In creating the new undersecretary position, Perdue also announced reorganization of agencies that creates a more logical order to workflows.

In addition to the undersecretary for trade, Perdue also created an undersecretary for the farm production and conservation mission area, which will house FSA, RMA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The move allows a “one-stop shop for USDA’s primary customers – the men and women of farming, ranching and foresting across America,” he said.

The undersecretary for natural resources and environment will retain supervision of the U.S. Forest Service. 

“The economic health of small towns across America is crucial to the future of the agriculture economy. It is my commitment to always argue for the needs of rural America, which is why we are elevating Rural Development within USDA,” said Secretary Perdue. “No doubt, the opportunity we have here at the USDA in rural development is unmatched.”

Perdue will also elevate the importance of Rural Development.

Rural Development agencies will report directly to the secretary of agriculture, ensuring that rural America maintains a voice.

From the industry

Across agriculture and conservation groups, USDA’s reorganization has solicited positivity from many, with promise for cooperation in the process.

National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) President Craig Uden said, “We believe the restructuring of USDA makes sense for cattlemen and women, providing a one-stop shop for producers who utilize the many services of the FSA, RMA and NRCS. Additionally, having Rural Development directly reporting to the secretary shows the emphasis he is placing on helping rural America.”

He continued, “Furthermore, establishing this new undersecretary for trade position was one of our top priorities for 2017, so we are extremely pleased to see Secretary Perdue filling in the gaps left by the previous administration.”

Uden noted that the position will allow USDA to capitalize on markets for ag products and break down trade barriers.

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association’s President Kenny Graner said, “USCA is looking forward to working with this undersecretary to secure U.S. beef access to China and to ensure that our global trading partners are held to the same high standards of production as U.S. cattle producers.”

In the conservation realm, the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) President Brent Van Dyke said, “As one of USDA’s core partners, NACD’s primary goal is to ensure that American landowners are given the tools and technical assistance they need to conserve and enhance our nation’s natural resources.”

“NACD looks forward to providing input to USDA throughout the reorganization process to ensure continued strong service delivery,” NACD CEO Jeremy Peters said. “Because many of the nation’s 3,000 conservation districts are co-located with USDA field offices, local input is critical as the reorganization progresses to prevent any loss of service.”

However, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition commented, “We are confused and concerned with the administration’s decisions.”

They view the changes in Rural Development as a demotion, calling it simply an “office” under the secretary, rather than as its own agency.

“By demoting Rural Development to simply an “office” under the Secretary, it will lose its Cabinet-level status and the decision-making power that comes with being categorized as a USDA mission area,” said NSAC’s Greg Fogel.

Graner comments, “USCA looks forward to continuing our work with Secretary Perdue and his staff as these changes are implemented.”

Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) said, “I commend Secretary Perdue and the administration for, after just two weeks in office, putting forward a thoughtful reorganization plan that seeks to ensure all the critical mission areas at USDA are operating efficiently and effectively.”

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article from a number of press releases and interview with Wyoming ag industry representatives. Send comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Arlington, Va. – “This is a terrific opportunity for us to visit with a number of folks who are working very hard to make agriculture opportunities available to new, beginning and young producers,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at the 90th Annual USDA Ag Outlook Forum.

The USDA held their 90th Annual Outlook Forum in Arlington, Va. on Feb. 20-21. The forum’s focus was of the changing face of agriculture and the future of young farmers within agriculture. 

Forum

The forum consisted of four panelists who shared their struggles, trials and errors when they entered the agriculture sector and their advice to young farmers who were thinking about taking the same path. 

“I didn’t think that I ever really wanted to be involved in agriculture for the simple fact that I thought it meant solely riding a tractor for 12 to 14 hours a day,” commented Joanna Carraway, co-owner of Carraway Farm Families and recipient of 2013 Tomorrow’s Top Producer Horizon Award. 

“I didn’t realize that there was a whole other life out there,” she continued. “Once I got to college, I realized that there is a whole other world that involved agriculture and that what I was doing on the farm was just a small part of it. I realized I could do more.”

Trials

“If an individual has the passion and wants to get into farming, the opportunity is there. It’s not impossible to start from scratch,” stated Greg Wegis, president of the Kern County Farm Bureau in California and recipient of National Outstanding Young Farmers of America Award. 

Wegis mentioned water and land values are escalating in the nation, and particularly in California, producers are seeing a decrease in the workforce to help with a farm’s crops.

“A lot of land seven years ago was worth $5,000 an acre. Now we’re talking $15,000 an acre and $20,000 an acre to expand,” said Wegis. “We’ve also gotten 50 percent of our water for the last four to five years while we are paying for 100 percent.”

Connecting with consumers

“There are new, emerging ways of connecting with consumers,” said Emily Oakley, interim director of National Young Farmers Coalition. 

The National Young Farmers Coalition began four years ago by farmers who were seeking representation and having their voices heard. The coalition is 23,000 members strong across the country with a presence in every state and a total of 21 chapters.

“We work on issues of policy and networking to make young farmers feel connected and technically supported,” said Oakley. “All of us are finding opportunities with consumers who want to know who grows their food and talk to them.”

A major outlet for these young farmers are farmers’ markets, where they can meet consumers who are interested in knowing where their food comes from and connect with agriculture that way. 

“This is the direction that we’re hoping to head in as a Young Farmers Coalition to let people know that we’re here. A lot of us are first generation farmers, and we’re finding opportunities in agriculture,” added Oakley. 

Becoming involved

Oakley also encourages schools to start a Farm-to-School program to incorporate locally- or regionally-sourced fruits and vegetables in meals and to start school gardens. 

“Definitely getting someone who has never seen growing food is an opportunity and getting them to grow it themselves, and then eat it, is one of the best ways of getting students interested in food and farming,” explained Oakley. 

She added, “It gives them the opportunity to be self-employed and make their own decisions. It’s not just about getting their hands in the dirt.”  

 Helping hand

“All young farmers, especially first generation farmers, need access to land, capital and training,” explained Oakley. “Land is the single biggest challenge for beginning farmers.”

To help with access to land and financial support, Oakley suggested the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program, Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development program and the Farm Service Agency Microloan program. 

Land access

Other options for beginning farmers are to place ads of interest to lease land and putting the word on the street of leasing opportunities. 

“Even though the young farmers may not own the land they are farming, leasing is an affordable and accessible way for them to enter the agricultural business,” reiterated Oakley. “It also allows them to farm without a mortgage and gain experience to make them more eligible for loans.” 

“Access to opportunities for training is the single most important thing for beginning farmers,” said Oakley. “They can go to college and study agriculture, but unless they go to someone else’s farm and learn from somebody who’s been doing this for years, they will not be successful.”

Tools 

Carraway specified farming is not what is used to be 20 or 30 years ago, and it has become so dynamic financially, to the point where everyday contains a business decision. 

Crop insurance and good bookkeeping skills have helped her become profitable and sustainable with her operation.

“We’ve had to utilize crop insurance a lot, unfortunately, and realizing how important it is, especially for beginning farmers who have so much on the line, producers have to have a plan B,” said Carraway. 

Producers don’t have to start with something elaborate for their bookkeeping, it can be something very simple like an Excel spreadsheet or QuickBooks – anything that will help monitor the farm’s cash flow and income that is coming in or going out.

“Moving forward, insurance is going to become even more important as prices fall and margins become tighter,” advised Carraway. “We’ve got to become better managers and teach people, especially young people coming in, about the do’s and the don’ts of agriculture.” 

Madeline Robinson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Farmers are unique in that they touch every single American every single day, because we all eat. Ensuring a continuity of agriculture is important to all of us. To take the pulse of U.S. agriculture, we conduct a Census of Agriculture every five years, which gives us a comprehensive analysis of agriculture in America and supplements information from more than 400 other surveys we conduct each year.

Our last census was in 2012, and the resulting data showed a decline in the number of new and beginning farmers compared to the previous census in 2007. On top of that decline, we saw the average age of American farmers trending upward to 58 years old. USDA took these two pieces of information and recognized the need to encourage new and beginning farmers.

One result of analyzing the data and understanding the need to promote new and beginning farmers can be seen in the 2014 Farm Bill. Among other things, it increased the flexibility for USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) to offer financial assistance programs to new farmers. Amanda Robertson, one of FSA’s new beginning farmer regional coordinators works in Kentucky and Tennessee. She informs new and beginning farmers that the bill allows for broader application of disaster relief, disaster assistance, commodity insurance, farm start-up loans and agriculture-based loans, such as cattle loans to help them with start-up costs.

All of these programs have foundations in National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) surveys. We conduct more than 400 surveys annually, in addition to the Census of Agriculture every five years, and every response matters to make sure reliable data are available to administer the programs Amanda mentioned and many others. Long-time experts in the field know how important our data is, too.

“There is nothing better than the Census of Agriculture data to represent the small, limited-resource and minority farmer,” said Dr. Marion Simon, Kentucky State University state specialist for small and part-time farmers. “USDA can target its program delivery by understanding how many and where these farms are located. These data have also helped USDA change programs as new trends emerge. The Census of Agriculture is the only way to know many of these small farms are there.”

NASS employees and our National Association for State Departments of Agriculture enumerators work hard to get timely, accurate and useful data that gives a realistic view of agriculture in America.  These surveys ultimately help our farmers in a variety of ways, whether it’s through new and beginning farmer programs, FSA farm payments, crop insurance or agricultural production statistics. We at USDA NASS are working together with producers to keep agriculture in America growing.

Learn more about USDA NASS and other programs by visiting usda.gov.

After nearly two weeks of being closed, the impact of federal government shutdown continues to affect agriculture producers across the country. 

One of the major impacts of the shutdown is the lack of data being released by USDA.

“Livestock producers, packers and end users are trying to adjust now that all of the USDA market reporting they had come to depend upon has stopped,” commented CME Group on Oct. 4. 

The result, they continue, is that packers are working closely with producers and customers to establish the parameters of pricing product that in the past was done on a formula basis.

“Price discovery has always been challenging,” added CME Group. “In recent years, however, thanks to congressional mandates and the expansion of USDA’s ability to collect market information, price discovery for many participants became almost costless, sometimes an afterthought.”

Missing reports

Included in the reports that have been postponed are September’s World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report and production and price summary data.

Other reports that will not be released include the October Crop Report. 

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture notes that market analysts heavily rely on the October Crop Report.uDespite the shutdown of the majority of USDA’s services, the Mandatory Price Reporting Datamart is still operative and available at mpr.datamart.ams.usda.gov.

Though new information is not available on the site, historic data is still accessible through Sept. 27.

Farm bill

In the midst of the closure, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) continues its push to resolve the Farm Bill. Especially in the wake of recent natural disasters, NCBA Executive Director of Government Affairs Kristina Butts noted that the Farm Bill is incredibly important now. 

Recent natural disasters, Butts says, such as last year’s droughts, fires, floods and most recently early and destructive snow storms in South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana, have illustrated the need for disaster assistance provisions for farmers and ranchers. 

The 2008 Farm Bill, which was temporarily extended, included disaster assistance provisions but only for four years, so producers affected by these recent disasters are left with considerable uncertainty.

Though the shutdown is hampering lobbying efforts of NCBA, they continue to push for their additional goals of border security, labor and immigration reform.

NASDA reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has floated the idea of attaching the Farm Bill to a broader budget discussion. 

Despite the shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner (R - Ohio) could appoint conferees to negotiate the House and Senate Farm Bills soon. The Senate is heavily pressuring Boehner to appoint conferees. 

State impacts

In addition to impacts through agriculture, the state of Wyoming required that 233 federally funded employees were placed on furlough, effective Oct. 7.

“It is not easy for me to write today,” Govenor Matt Mead wrote in a letter to those individuals.  “I know there has been great uncertainty for you since the federal shutdown began on Tuesday.  It is a troubling time, and while I cannot change the situation – only Congress and the President can do that – I do hope the situation is resolved soon.”

Wyoming employs 9,867 individuals and of those, 1,600 positions are funded in whole or in part by federal funds. 

The 233 employees immediately impacted are paid with funds not available without a federal budget on Oct. 1. The number of employees subject to furlough may grow if the federal shutdown continues past Oct. 30.

The Departments of Environmental Quality, Family Services, the Military and Parks and Cultural Resources employ the 233 individuals. The furlough impact on each employee will vary depending on the salary percentage of federal funds to other funds, including state general funds. 

In a letter to the affected employees, Mead noted that it is a difficult time, and the action was difficult to take.  He and his staff explored all options, but found that state and federal law required the furloughs of employees.  

“The state cannot pay for all federally funded positions. However, the state is trying to take the best path forward,” Mead wrote. 

Mead has authorized employees to use accrued annual leave, if they choose to do so. They are eligible for unemployment insurance.

Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article.