"United States Department of Agriculture"

U.S. Meat Waste Leads to Unnecessary Production

By: Toney Robinette, Staff Member

A recent study done by the USDA showed that U.S. consumers waste around 26.2% of the meat that they purchase.[1] Rough estimates show that this equates to around 25 billion fish, 15 billion shellfish, over 1 billion chickens and over a hundred million other land mammals that we harvest for food.[2]

This is in light of American portion sizes continuing to grow in the 21st century.[3] This is especially concerning when one considers the environmental impact of meat production and fishing. Meat production has environmental costs in the form of greenhouse gas emissions, water resources and land uses. Overfishing causes ecosystem damage, economic harm, and negative environmental effects.[4] Meat production causes more agricultural production, using up 2/3 of agricultural output.[5] Therefore, all of the environmental issues that come from agricultural development are also exacerbated by the meat industry.

Food waste is directly tied to portion size.[6] This means that for the U.S. to reduce its food waste and the environmental concerns arising from said waste, portion sizes need to be controlled to minimize the amount of meat going unused. If portion sizes were better controlled, then meat waste would likely drop, thereby relaxing the negative effects of underuse. More environmentally sound and sustainable production methods could also alleviate the negative effects of meat production, but waste would remain an issue if Americans do not control the amount of food on their plates. Therefore, Americans must seek to reduce meat waste through portion management and smarter meal planning. Meat production is likely to double by 2020 due to an increase in global demand, but this doubling of production may be unnecessary if smarter usage methods are adopted.[7]
[1] Mary K. Muth, Shawn A. Karns, et al., Consumer-Level Food Loss Estimates and Their Use in the ERS Loss-Adjusted Food Availability DataUSDA (Jan. 2011), http://www.ers.usda/gov/publications/tb-technical-bulletin/tb1927.aspx#.
[2] Harish, Animals We Use and Abuse for Food We Don't EatCounting Animals (Mar. 27, 2013), http://www.countinganimals.com/animals-we-use-and-abuse-for-food-we-do-not-eat/.
[3] Dr. Lisa Young, Portion Sizes in the US Continue to Increase: Time for ActionHuffington Post (Oct. 18, 2012), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-lisa-young/portion-sizes_b_1975344.html.
[4] Overfishing - A Global DisasterOverfishing.org, http://overfishing.org/pages/why_is_overfishing_a_problem.php (last visited Apr. 15, 2013).
[5] Cassandra Brooks, Consequences of increased global meat consumption on the global environmentStanford Woods, http://woods.stanford.edu/environmental-venture-projects/consequences-increased-global-meat-consumption-global-environment (last visited Apr. 15, 2013).
[6] Food Waste Reduction and PreventionEPA, http://www.epa.gov/foodrecovery/fd-reduce.htm (last visited Apr. 15, 2013).
[7] Supra at note 5.

More States Join USDA's StrikeForce Initiative: Is Kentucky Next?

By: Megan Crenshaw, Staff Member

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) began a pilot program called the StrikeForce initiative in 2010.[1] The USDA via the StrikeForce initiative "provides assistance to help grow American agriculture and provide tools to increase opportunity for rural communities."[2] The USDA hopes to improve the quality of life of producers and their communities and accelerate the implementation of conservative practices on their land.[3] The initiative seeks to increase partnership with rural communities and leverage community resources in targeted, persistent poverty areas.[4] "Ninety percent of America's persistent poverty counties are in rural America."[5] Therefore, there is a strong need for the StrikeForce initiative as it aims to create equal access to USDA programs.[6] The overall goal of the initiative is to "increase investment in rural communities for technical assistance and other resources in priority, poverty-stricken communities."[7]

The pilot program operated within selected regions of three states: Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi.[8] The program was expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada in 2011.[9] Now, in 2013, United States Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, has announced "new efforts to bring StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity" in ten more states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.[10]

So far, the program has partnered with organizations within local communities to promote local and regional development projects.[11] The assistance provided has ranged from food insecurity in Arkansas to access to farm programs in Nevada.[12]

Kentucky is not among the states that were part of StrikeForce's recent expansion despite its persistent poverty counties. Based on data analysis, Kentucky is among the states that take the title of having some persistent-poverty counties.[13] "Persistent poverty is defined as counties where 20% or more of the residents were poor" in recent censuses (1970, 1980, 1990, 2000).[14] The state covers 39,728 square miles.[15] In 2011, the estimated population of the state was 4,369,356 people with 1,820,571 people living in rural Kentucky.[16] "Estimates from 2010 indicate a poverty rate of 22.9% in rural Kentucky, compared to 16.0% in urban areas of the state."[17]

It seems that Kentucky would be among the ten states that recently joined the StrikeForce initiative. Although there are presently no clear reasons as to why Kentucky has not partnered with the USDA to promote economic development and job creation, Vilsack noted that through the StrikeForce initiative, the USDA will do more to partner with local and state governments and community organizations.[18] Perhaps Kentucky will soon be among the latest states to join the initiative.
[1] News Release, Secretary Launches "StrikeForce" Initiative to Boost Rural Growth and Opportunity (March 26, 2013) (on file with the United States Department of Agriculture), http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2013/03/0054.xml.
[2] USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, USDA.gov, http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=STRIKE_FORCE (last visited April 1, 2013). 
[3] News Release, Secretary Launches USDA "StrikeForce" Initiative to Boost Rural Growth and Opportunity, supra note 1.
[4] Additional States Join USDA's StrikeForce Initiative (March 26, 2013), FarmFutures.com, http://farmfutures.com/story-additional-states-join-usdas-strikeforce-initiative-0-96496.
[5] USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, USDA.gov, http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=STRIKE_FORCE (last visited April 1, 2013).
[6] Tom Vilsack, USDA StrikeForce: Expanding Partnerships and Opportunity in Rural Communities, USDA.gov (March 26, 2013, 10:53 AM), http://blogs.usda.gov/2013/03/26/usda-strikeforce-expanding-partnerships-and-opportunity-in-rural-communities/.
[7] USDA StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, supra note 5.
[8] News Release, Secretary Launches USDA "StrikeForce" Initiative to Boost Rural Growth and Opportunity, supra note 1.
[9] Id.
[10] Id.
[11] Vilsack, supra note 6.
[12] Id.
[13] Geography of Poverty, USDA.gov, http://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/rural-economy-population/rural-poverty-well-being/geography-of-poverty.aspx (last visited April 1, 2013).
[14] Id.
[15] Health and Human Services Information for Rural America, Kentucky, Raconline.org, http://www.raconline.org/states/kentucky.php (last visited April 1, 2013). 
[16] Id.
[17] Id.
[18] Additional States Join USDA's StrikeForce Initiative, supra note 4.

Post Hurricane Sandy Relief for Farmers and Producers

By: Megan Crenshaw, Staff Member

Despite the high estimate of economic damage that has been predicted as a result of recent Hurricane Sandy, overall farm and crop damage appears to be minimal.[1] However, there has been an impact in some areas of the United States and damages are still being assessed. Some severe localized crop damage has occurred in some urban farms in New York.[2] Farmers and ranchers in New Jersey have reported damage.[3] Other crop damage has also been reported in parts of Virginia.[4]

In the event of natural disasters when relief aid is necessary, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides assistance to farmers through programs administered via the Farm Service Agency (FSA).[5] The FSA "provides assistance for natural disaster losses, resulting from drought, flood, fire, freeze, tornadoes, pest infection, and other calamities."[6]

The USDA's authority to operate FSA programs authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill expired on September 30, 2011.[7] Production losses due to natural disasters occurring after September 30, 2011 are no longer eligible for diaster program coverage under programs that have expired.[8] In light of this eliminated relief, there are still some sources of recovery available for farmers. Those sources include: Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance, the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), and the Emergency Loans Programs (ELP).[9]

The FSA has advised farmers and ranchers affected by Hurricane Sandy to keep thorough, detailed records of all losses.[10] These records could be very beneficial when seeking post-Hurricane Sandy relief from the FSA. Records should include livestock death, as well as expenses for feed purchases, costs due to lost supplies, increased transportation of livestock, and damaged farm land and crops.[11] These suggestions that have been given to farmers and producers after Hurricane Sandy are precautions that every farmer and producer facing similar circumstances should take after any natural distaster in order to receive all forms of reimbursement and relief in the future.
[1] Brad Plumer, Is Sandy the second-most destructive U.S. hurricane ever? Or not even top 10?WashingtonPost.com, (Nov. 5, 2012), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/11/05/is-sandy-the-second-most-destructive-u-s-hurricane-ever-or-not-even-top-10/; Politics/Nation, Hurricane Sandy slows final crop harvest in eastern U.S. statesEconomicTimes.com, (Oct. 30, 2012), http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-10-30/news/34817312_1_corn-harvest-soybean-harvest-crop-progress-report.
[2] Russell McLendon, Hurricane Sandy wreaks agricultural havocMotherNatureNetwork.com, (Oct. 31, 2012), http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/climate-weather/blogs/hurricane-sandy-wreaks-agricultural-havoc.
[3] Tracy Grondine, Agricultural damage from Hurricane Sandy still being assessedSoutheastFarmPress.com, (Nov. 5, 2012), http://southeastfarmpress.com/livestock/agricultural-damage-hurricane-sandy-still-being-assessed.
[4] Id.
[5] Farm Service Agency, Disaster Assistance ProgramsUSDA.gov, http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=diap&topic=landing (last visited Nov. 5, 2012).
[6] Id.
[7] News Release, Farmers and Ranchers Urged to Record Losses from Hurricane SandyUSDA (Oct. 31, 2012), http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdamediafb?contentid=2012/10/0337.xml&printable=true&contentidonly=true.
[8] Id.
[9] Id.
[10] Id.
[11] Id. 

USDA and Congress Seek to Help Farmers Affected by Summer 2012 Drought


By: Clay Duncan, Staff Member

Almost 40% of the United States, as of August 2012, was affected by “severe to extreme drought,” according to the National Climatic Data Center.[1]  It should come as no surprise that those feeling the greatest sting from these conditions are the farmers who rely upon weather that is favorable to crop growth for their livelihood.  Realizing this, the United States Department of Agriculture and Congress are providing relief programs and seeking to pass laws that will extend some programs that have recently expired.[2]
The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 authorized substantial funding for agricultural disaster relief programs; however, these programs are now expired.[3]  In an attempt to bridge the gap after expiration of the 2008 Act, Congress is currently pushing legislation to extend these relief efforts.[4]  The Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2012, passed by the Senate in June of 2012, seeks to extend previously enacted programs and thereby provide coverage to some farmers suffering from the recent drought.[5]  Similarly, the House of Representatives passed the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 the following month, which includes the same programs found in the Senate bill.[6]  Also, the United States Department of Agriculture currently provides Emergency Farm Loans of up to $500,000 to producers hard-hit by disasters for the purpose of restoring or replacing necessary equipment as well as covering costs incurred in the disaster year, among other things.[7]
It remains to be seen whether Congress and the USDA will make the necessary relief accessible to the agricultural producers in order to mitigate the harsh consequences of the drought.  Otherwise, individual farmers could face crippling losses that will have far-reaching effects on the United States food supply.

[1] National Drought Overview, National Climatic Data Center (Sept. 25, 2012, 10:30 P.M), http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/drought/#national-overview.
[2] See Dennis A. Shields, Agricultural Disaster Assistance, Agricultural Legislation (Aug. 27, 2012), http://agriculture-legislation.blogspot.com/2012/08/agricultural-disaster-assistance_27.html?m=1.
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] Id.
[7] Emergency Farm Loans, United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=home&subject=fmlp&topic=efl.