USDA publishes final rule to restore the nation’s forests through science and collaboration PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by USDA Communications   
Friday, 23 March 2012 14:30

Secretary Vilsack announces publication of the final land management planning rule


WASHINGTON, March 23, 2012 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s final Planning Rule for America’s 193-million acre National Forest System that includes stronger protections for forests, water, and wildlife while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities.

This final rule – which follows USDA’s Feb. 3 publication of the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement – replaces the 1982 rule procedures currently in use, and provides a new framework to be used for all individual management plans for 155 national forests and grasslands across the country. Over half of Forest Service units are currently operating with plans that are more than 15 years old.

“This new rule provides the framework we need to restore and manage our forests and watersheds while getting work done on the ground and providing jobs,” said Vilsack.  “The collaboration that drove this rulemaking effort exemplifies the America’s Great Outdoors initiative to foster conservation that is designed by and accomplished in partnership with the American people.”

The USDA and the Forest Service carefully considered over a quarter million comments received on the proposed rule and draft environmental impact statement issued in February to develop today’s final rule, which emphasizes collaboration, sound science and protections for land, water and wildlife.

The final rule strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. It also requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions.

“We are ready to start a new era of planning that takes less time, costs less money, and provides stronger protections for our lands and water”, said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.  “This new rule will bring 21st century thinking to a process that is sorely needed to protect and preserve our 193 million acres of amazing forests and grasslands.”

Land management plans under the final rule will include:

  • Mandatory components to restore and maintain forests and grasslands.
  • Requirements to provide habitat for plant and animal diversity and species conservation. The requirements are intended to keep common native species common, contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered species, conserve proposed and candidate species, and protect species of conservation concern.
  • Requirements to maintain or restore watersheds, water resources, water quality including clean drinking water, and the ecological integrity of riparian areas.
  • Requirements for multiple uses, including outdoor recreation, range, timber, watershed, wildlife and fish.
  • Requirements to provide opportunities for sustainable recreation, and to take into account opportunities to connect people with nature.
  • Opportunities for public involvement and collaboration throughout all stages of the planning process. The final rule provides opportunities for Tribal consultation and coordination with state and local governments and other federal agencies, and includes requirements for outreach to traditionally underrepresented communities.
  • Requirements for the use of the best available scientific information to inform the planning process and documentation of how science was used in the plan.
  • A more efficient and adaptive process for land management planning, allowing the Forest Service to respond to changing conditions.

Continuing the strong emphasis that has been placed on public engagement throughout this rule-making effort, USDA is forming a Federal Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary and the Chief on implementation of the final rule. The nomination period closed on February 21, 2012 with committee members to be announced this spring.

The Nez Perce and Clearwater National Forests in Idaho, the Chugach National Forest in Alaska, the Cibola National Forest in New Mexico, El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico and California’s Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra National Forests will begin revising their plans using the final rule this spring. These eight national forests were selected because of their urgent need for plan revisions, the importance of the benefits they provide, and the strong collaborative networks already in place.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

USDA works with state, local and Tribal governments and private landowners to conserve and protect our nation’s natural resources – helping preserve our land, and clean our air and water.  President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors initiative in 2010 to foster a 21st century approach to conservation that is designed by and accomplished in partnership with the American people.  During the past two years, USDA’s conservation agencies— the U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Farm Service Agency—have delivered technical assistance and implemented restoration practices on public and private lands.  We are working to better target conservation investments: embracing locally driven conservation and entering partnerships that focus on large, landscape-scale conservation.


USDA Trade Mission to Create Opportunities for U.S. Agriculture in China PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by USDA Communications   
Friday, 23 March 2012 13:49
Nearly 40 U.S. Companies to Form Business Ties and Joint Ventures

WASHINGTON, March 22, 2012–Acting Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse will lead nearly 40 American businesses on a U.S. Department of Agriculture trade mission to China March 23-28. U.S. agricultural exports to China have grown more than 80 percent in the past three years. The USDA trade mission aims to help American businesses strike new deals, strengthen business ties, expand their markets, and support jobs for Americans.

"This is the largest USDA trade mission to date," said Scuse. "China and the United States share a special relationship, and we embrace this opportunity to demonstrate that our U.S. farmers, ranchers, and producers are reliable suppliers of the highest-quality food and agricultural products. At the same time, USDA and our federal partners will continue to aggressively work to expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade."

Also joining Scuse on the mission are leaders from six state departments of agriculture, including Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, Oklahoma Agriculture Secretary Jim Reese and representatives from North Carolina, Illinois, Kansas and South Dakota. In Shanghai, the delegation will be joined by Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Darci Vetter and Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, who is the chief agricultural negotiator for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

During stops in Chengdu and Shanghai, participants will meet with dozens of Chinese producers, importers, buyers, distributors and investors. The mission also coincides with the Food Ingredients China (FIC) trade show where Scuse will cut the ribbon to open the show's USA Pavilion.

Chinese demand for bulk commodities like soybeans and cotton is high, while demand for high-value U.S. products like meat and processed foods continues to grow. Bilateral trade between the United States and China in fiscal year 2011 reached an all-time high of $32.1 billion. U.S. exports to China were $22.8 billion and exports from China to the United States were $9.3 billion. Today, USDA's largest overseas presence is in China. With seven offices in five cities, USDA is well-positioned to support American agriculture and agribusinesses.

The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's leadership, has aggressively worked to expand export opportunities and reduce barriers to trade, helping to push agricultural exports to record levels in 2011 and beyond. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its best periods in history thanks to the productivity and resourcefulness of our producers. Today, net farm income is at near record levels while debt has been cut in half since the 1980s. Overall, American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in the United States and provides American consumers with 83 percent of the food we consume, while maintaining affordability and choice. Strong agricultural exports contribute to a positive U.S. trade balance, create jobs, boost economic growth and support President Obama's National Export Initiative goal of doubling all U.S. exports by the end of 2014.

A list of companies participating in the China trade mission follows. For more information, visit

U.S. Companies Participating in the USDA Trade Mission, March 2012

Company Location Market

1. AgWorld International Illinois Breeding Stock, Livestock, Veterinary Equipment

2. Airfresh Seafood Washington Seafood

3. The Biltmore Company North Carolina Wine, Tourism

4. C.I.B. Minnesota Barley, Biotechnology

5. CK International, Ltd. Iowa Pork and Pork Products, Produce

6. Case New Holland Delaware Equipment

7. China Iowa Group Iowa Animal Feed, Consumer and Industrial Goods

8. Cranberry Marketing Massachusetts Cranberries

9. Dantzler Florida Forestry Products

10. Des Moines Area CC Iowa Education

11. Diamond V Iowa Animal Feed

12. Dodge City Beef Kansas Beef

13. Duck Pond Cellars Oregon Wine

14. Faegre B.D. Consultig Iowa Legal Consulting

15. Far West Fruit Co. Oregon Fruits and Vegetables

16. Garuda International California Food Ingredients

17. Glacier Treasures New York Wine

18. Herr's Foods Inc. Pennsylvania Snack Foods

19. KH International Georgia Dried Fruits and Nuts

20. Kerns and Associates Iowa Agricultural Risk Management

21. Land 'O Lakes Purina Washington Dairy, Feed and Processed Products

22. North Food Group Texas Meat, Poultry, Seafood, Grocery Products, Produce

23. OSI Group Hong Kong Commercial Food Sourcing

24. Pacific Ag Commodities California Grains, Inputs, Ingredients, Oil, Dairy, Grocery Products

25. PS International Ltd. North Carolina Meat, Poultry, Edible Oils, Flour, Sugar, Other Commodities

26. Sage Hill Northwest Washington Feed Products

27. SIG International Iowa Iowa Pork

28. Spring Lake Winery New York Wine

29. Stine Seed Company Iowa Seeds

30. Sun-Maid Growers CA California Dried Fruit

31. Syngenta, LLC Wisconsin Biotechnology, Seeds

32. Taylor Brothers Farms California Prunes, Cherries, Pomegranate Products

33. Ten Square Int. Iowa Import/Export

34. U.S.-China Ag Center Iowa Non-Profit

35. U.S. Grains Council Washington, D.C. USDA Cooperator Group Representing Corn, Barley, Grain Sorghum, Agribusiness

36. Valley Pride Sales, Inc. Washington Potatoes, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Spirits

37. Valley Proteins, Inc. Virginia Recycled Animal Fats and Proteins

38. Vermeer Corporation Iowa Equipment

39. World Wood Wholesale North Carolina Wood


Witnesses Announced for Ag. Committee Field Hearing in Galesburg PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Andie Pivarunas   
Friday, 23 March 2012 13:37

Washington, DC – The House Committee on Agriculture today released the witness list for tomorrow's Farm Bill field hearing in Galesburg, Illinois.  The field hearing will be held on Friday March 23 at 9am Central, at Carl Sandburg College in Building F's gymnasium.  More information on the Farm Bill can be found here on the Agriculture Committee’s website.

Friday’s hearing is the second in a series of four field hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill taking place throughout the country in March and April.  This hearing will give members of the Agriculture Committee the opportunity to hear firsthand from producers from Illinois and surrounding states about their priorities for the next farm bill.

Panel I

Mr. David C. Erickson, corn and soybean producer, Altona, Illinois

Mrs. Deborah L. Moore, corn, soybean, and beef producer, Roseville, Illinois

Mr. John Mages, corn and soybean producer, Belgrade, Minnesota

Mr. Blake Gerard, rice, soybean, wheat, and corn producer, McClure, Illinois

Mr. Craig Adams, corn, soybean, wheat, hay, and beef producer, Leesburg, Ohio

Panel II

Mr. John Williams, sorghum, corn, wheat, and soybean producer, McLeansboro, Illinois

Mr. Gary Asay, pork, corn, and soybean producer, Osco, Illinois

Mr. Terry Davis, corn and soybean producer, Roseville, Illinois

Mr. David W. Howell, corn, soybean, pumpkin, and tomato producer, Middletown, Indiana

Ms. Jane A. Weber, specialty crop producer, Bettendorf, Iowa

The witnesses' testimony will be posted online on the Committee Hearings webpage the day of the hearing.  Schilling and the Ag. Committee also invite feedback from members of the public on the future of farm policy to be considered as part of the Committee’s Farm Bill field hearing record.  To submit feedback, please visit  The field hearing is open to the public, but those unable to attend will be able to view a live webcast here.

# # #

Easter is just a few weeks away. PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Move America Forward   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:43
As we plan our Easter egg hunts and Easter Brunch feasts with our families, American troops are thousands of miles away from their loved ones and fighting for our country.  Every year our troops fighting the War on Terror spend the holidays Afghanistan, fighting to keep America safe. They are going to be missing their families on Easter Sunday, April 8th!

Just think of all your family’s beloved Easter traditions: boiling and coloring Easter eggs, going to church together on Easter Sunday and coming home to enjoy a special Easter feast with dear family and friends, putting on Easter egg hunts and giving baskets full of candy to the kids. Our troops will be missing all of that!

These care packages do a lot to help our troops while on the front lines and fighting terrorists over in the Middle East. So many of them have families back home they miss and cannot see. Some of our troops have already missed Christmas with their families; they have missed loved one’s birthdays; some have even missed the birth of their own children!

No one wants to be far away, missing their families, but that is a sacrifice our troops make to keep us safe. We owe them a little gratitude!! Our Troops don’t ask for anything, but they appreciate everything we send to them.

“We have been receiving your boxes  . . . that are truly a blessing to everyone here.  To know that someone is thinking of us is such a great feeling inside.”
-Master-Sergeant Donika Nealy

“This package means a lot to me, and I am grateful you remembered me by sending this package…I will pray for all of you who put this package together. God will bless you and he will be with you. I don’t ever know how I can express myself because it was too much for me.”
-Petty Officer 2nd Class Pat Honvo

To add a touch of Easter greetings, we have included items in our packages that will remind our troops of the holidays and make them feel right at home. Our Easter Package comes with special products tailored just for Easter!

For this year’s special Easter Care Packages for the Troops, we are including a classic Easter treat EVERYONE will recognize; MARSHMALLOW PEEPS!

These soft, sugary, marshmallow chicks are the original, the name brand PEEPS that everyone recognizes. The camo-eggs come in many varieties and are filled with assorted candies like sweet tarts, smarties, and an assortment of hard candies and other chews.

Don’t forget, these Easter Care Packages may still include
all of our troop’s favorites from year round, including:

**  PEEPS Brand Marshmallow Chicks
**  Premium Roasted Coffee
**  Hot Cocoa
**  Hot Apple Cider
**  Gatorade
**  Beef Jerky
**  Oreo Cookies
**  Planters Trail Mix
**  Candy Diplomacy Jelly Bellies
**  Chap Stick    
**  Deodorant
**  Various Candy
**  Bug Repellant
**  Wet Wipes
**  Sun Block

Most importantly, as always, MAF Care Packages include a personalized note from YOU! Our troops need to hear that you support them and their missions! Make sure to include your mailing address – the troops love to write back!

During these tough economic times, families of troops are struggling to get by. There is a fear that they will have fewer resources to send packages to their loved ones in war zones. This is why it is so important for you and other patriotic Americans to send what we can to our troops. We must never let them forget that we are not only thankful for our families here at home, we are thankful for their selfless sacrifices for our great country.

Senator Grassley, Senator Johnson propose reform payment limits for Federal Farm Programs PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Agribusiness
Written by Elisha Smith   
Friday, 23 March 2012 12:37

Center for Rural Affairs applauds effort to close loopholes and cap payments


Lyons, Nebraska - Today, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) introduced legislation designed to tighten payment limits on federal farm commodity programs and close loopholes mega-farms use to evade limits, while ensuring small and mid-size family farmers have the kind of support farm programs were designed to deliver.

“This legislation represents the most important step congress can take to strengthen family farms - limit the subsidies that mega-farms use to drive smaller operations out of business,” said Brian Depew, Acting Executive Director of the Center for Rural Affairs.

“The Grassley-Johnson bill includes measures to close the loopholes in farm payment limitations that others in Washington know how to close but won't, thanks to the political clout of mega-farms,” Depew added.

In commenting the introduction of the bill, Senator Grassley stated, “When seventy percent of farm payments go to only ten percent of farmers, there’s something wrong. It’s time to change that. A safe, stable and affordable food supply is essential to social cohesion and a strong safety-net geared toward small and medium-sized farmers is an important part of making that happen.”

Senator Johnson echoed that rationale, saying, “I have long believed that we must target our farm programs to the small and medium-sized family farmers that are the backbone of our rural economy. Senator Grassley and I acknowledge that the structure of the safety net is likely to change during the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization process, and so we are introducing this bill to ensure that payment limits apply to the new structure.”

According to Depew, the new Grassley-Johnson payment limits bill has a hard cap on marketing loan gains of $75,000 ($150,000 for a couple). The remainder of the payment limit would be a cap on the total amount a farmer can receive in safety-net payments in general.  For instance, if the Congress were to adopt a shallow loss program, the Grassley-Johnson bill would set a limit of $50,000 ($100,000 for a couple) that a farmer could receive.

Additionally, the bill closes loopholes that allow people with ties to farmland whose management consists of little more than an occasional phone call. The bill sets a measurable standard for someone to qualify as actively engaged in farming by providing management for the operation, and the bill provides an exception for farming operations where there is only one manager of the farm. This exception should help the Department of Agriculture administer the standard.

"The bill would tighten rules that are supposed to limit payments to active farmers who work the land and their landlords. Current law is weak. Investors who participate in one or two conference calls are considered active farmers, allowing mega-farms to get around payment limitations by claiming uninvolved investors as partners," explained Depew.

“The farm safety net was designed to help family farmers but it has increasingly led to a windfall for owners of our nation’s largest farms. Congress should act to close the loopholes and better target payments to our small and mid-sized family farmers. This legislation represents our best chance to move forward with reforms as consideration of the farm bill continues,” said Johnson.

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