Agriculture news

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AskUSDA to improve & streamline customer experience

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the official launch of the AskUSDA Contact Center program. The AskUSDA Contact Center will serve as the “one front door” for phone, chat, and web inquires, transforming how the public interacts with USDA and providing an enhanced experience for the public.

Prior to the creation and implementation of AskUSDA, members of the public had to navigate dozens of phone numbers and had no chat function or online platform for self-service, creating frustrations and inefficiencies. This new resource was created to make USDA more responsive to the public by providing a single destination for phone, chat, and web inquiries. Whether it’s talking to a USDA representative via phone, chatting with a live agent on our website, or communicating with USDA via e-mail, the public will have streamlined access.

The launch of AskUSDA delivers a centralized contact center that offers customer service and consistent information for the public. With over 29 agencies and offices, USDA’s mission impacts every single person in the U.S. and hundreds of millions around the globe. This new resource assures that farmers, researchers, travelers, parents, and more have efficient access to the information and resources they need.

AskUSDA is set up to handle common questions across programs that service a variety of audiences. For example, customers who may have basic questions about USDA’s nutrition services can be assisted across phone, e-mail, and web chat by trained representatives, and customers who may have complicated questions about loan programs can be quickly connected to agency experts. AskUSDA also hosts over five thousand articles for a self-service option to help with more common questions such as food safety inquiries or pet-travel guidance.

Over the course of its pilot program, AskUSDA successfully assisted with over 93,000 citizen inquiries, and its website resulted in over 1.4 million knowledge article page views. 

The public can contact AskUSDA by phone at (833) ONE-USDA with representatives available 9:00am-5:30pm EST weekdays. The website is available 24/7 and includes live chat agents available 10:00am-6:00pm EST on weekdays. Inquiries can also be sent via email at any time on the new website.


Great Black Friday deals for farmers and rural residents

Black Friday is just another work day on the farm — livestock doesn’t stop eating and machines won’t winterize themselves. But we also don’t want you to miss out. Everyone is taking advantage of shopping deals that day after Thanksgiving, whether it’s to fill a Christmas stocking or simply to replace some much-needed items for the shelves in your workshop. These are the kinds of Black Friday deals for farmers and rural residents that we should pay attention to.

Amazon is no doubt a giant when it comes to shopping, and because many of us likely live at least 30 minutes from Walmart or Target or anything bigger than a Dollar General, we often look to the online retailer to find what we need. And, yes, Amazon goes big on Black Friday!

The online retail giant has released major deals. And now that they’ve done so, we hope our list gives you a chance to get a jump on some of your shopping — and don’t leave out the awesome Prime membership with two-day shipping!

Check out what’s on sale for Black Friday, and be sure to double check pricing, as some deals come and go throughout the day! We’ll work to keep everything up to date to the best of our abilities.


BLACK+DECKER Portable Project Table

The lightweight BLACK+DECKER workmate WM225 portable work bench transforms into a sawhorse, a vise, and a bench tool stand capable of holding up to 450 pounds. Its strong steel design also includes an easy-to-use clutch and clamp system, as well as rubber feet. Its adjustable jaws include four swivel pegs that can be used to grip almost any object. Bench dimensions: 30-1/8-inch bench height, 23-1/8-inch sawhorse height, 0-9-1/4-inch parallel clamping, 0-9-7/8-inch diagonal clamping, 16-inch max. Parallel leg clamping, 24-inch max. Diagonal peg clamping, and a 24-inch-by-9-11/16-inch work surface. This project center conveniently folds for easy storage and transport.


Levi’s Women’s Fishtail Hooded Rain Parka

This raincoat is made of 100 percent polyurethane and is fully waterproof — definitely made for a practical approach to chores or being out in the elements. It has a boxier feel to allow for layering underneath, and it has a fixed hood, spacious patch pockets, a full-zip front closure with snap placket, and a mesh interior for breathability.


VIVOSUN 315W Grow Light Fixture

This cutting-edge hood made of imported Italian VEGA aluminum boosts reflectivity by 20 percent compared to standard aluminum reflectors. It has an excellent light reflectivity rating of 98 percent, and the contouring of the polished reflective surface ensures no hot spots or dead spots. VIVOSUN recommends use of this unit to cover an area of approximately 3-by-3 feet during vegetative growth and approximately 6 square feet during the bloom phase. It runs significantly cooler compared to conventional lighting setups and do not need to be cooled with ducting and fan


PROGENY 280W Generator Portable Power Station

The PROGENY portable generator is not only a function of a mobile power source but also a function of an inverter, and is a combination of two functions: Portable generator built-in 27 pack 18650 high-density lithium battery packs can safely and quickly charge tablets, iPhones, iPads and other terminal devices. At the same time, it also has built-in UPS function to invert the low voltage to 110V US household voltage to supply AC equipment, such as laptop, 32-inch TV, mini refrigerator, CPAP machine or other small appliances.


Alpha Grillers Instant Read Meat Thermometer

So easy to use, this meat thermometer works right out the box. Insert the tip into your food, and in as little as 2-3 seconds you will have an accurate and easy to read temperature displayed on the large dial. Once done, simply flip the probe back and the unit auto powers off. One CR2 button battery is needed, which is include so you have everything you need to start cooking perfectly grilled steak, chicken, pork, fish, lamb, or turkey.


DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Drill Combo Kit

The DEWALT DCK240C2 20v Lithium Drill Driver/Impact Combo Kit (1.5Ah) is composed of the DCF885 20V MAX Lithium-Ion 1/4 inch Impact Driver which is compact (5.55″ front to back) and lightweight (2.8 lbs.), designed to fit into tight areas. This unit offers one-handed loading 1/4″ hex chuck accepts 1″ bit tips, and also features a 3 LED light ring with 20 second delay to provide visibility without shadows. A belt hook is also included for portability on the worksite. The DCD771C2 20V MAX Lithium-Ion Compact Drill/Driver is also compact and lightweight, designed to fit into tight areas.

This drill/driver offers a high performance motor that delivers 300 unit watts out (UWO) of power ability, which allows for a wide range of applications. This unit also features a high speed transmission that delivers 2 speeds (0-450 and 1,500 rpm) for a range of fastening and drilling applications. The 1/2″ single sleeve ratcheting chuck provides tight bit gripping strength, and the ergonomic handle delivers comfort and control. Both tools are part of the DEWALT 20-Volt MAX system and are compatible with all 20-Volt MAX batteries, chargers and accessories. Includes: (1) DCF885 20v MAX Lithium Impact Driver, and (1) DCD771 20v MAX Lithium Drill/Driver, (2) 20-Volt MAX lithium-ion 1.5Ah battery packs, (1) 20-Volt MAX charger and contractor bag.



NoCry Cut Resistant Gloves

The NoCry cut resistant gloves let you handle all your knives — the giant one, the normal one you use for everything, the super tiny one and the one with the weird holes in the middle — confidently. Without injuring yourself.

Made of food safe, ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, nylon, polyester, glass fibre and spandex (for comfort), these gloves have been designed to resist cuts and nicks from even the sharpest blades.

Qooltek Multipurpose Laser Level

Qooltek Multipurpose Laser Level

Use this Multipurpose Laser Level for hanging pictures, installing shelving,laying flooring, hanging wallpaper and more. The tape measure is an 9-foot measure that includes imperial and metric linear mures, with graduations down to 1/32” and 1mm.

Laser Parameters:

  • Laser light has an on/off power switch.
  • Class IIIA laser product.
  • This is a Class 3R laser product, Power output < 1mW.

Of course, not everything we love is on sale for the Black Friday holiday. Here are some of the cool gift ideas we’d like to see a discount on!

agriculture degree mug

Do Not Confuse Your Google Search With My Agriculture Degree Stainless Steel Mug

This is our new go-to coffee mug! Who among us isn’t tired of the army of “keyboard farmers” on social media? This travel mug sums things up nicely, and is a perfect gift for anyone heading off to college or who has wrapped up their ag education. Just a heads up, though, this isn’t part of Amazon Prime, so expect delivery to take longer than a couple of days.

Carhartt Men’s Rugged Flex Rigby Double Front Pant

This is one of Carhartt’s newest items, and we’ve been testing it out for the past few weeks. Absolutely love it! It’s darn-near replaced most of our other farm pants. They sport a mid-weight canvas blend, which isn’t too hot in the warmer months, with the perfect amount of stretch for easy movement. And they’ve got all the traditional jean pockets — plus a secure right thigh phone pocket and a left thigh utility pocket for your knife.

While the Hickory color (in the pic above) is our fav, these pants are also available in Shadow and Tarmac colors.

Dovetail Workwear

Dovetail Freshley Overall in Black Stretch Denim

These are not repurposed, boxy men’s overalls. They’re intentionally designed to complement a woman’s frame, without sacrificing the functionality of men’s overalls. There are deep pockets galore. Accessible — and functional — pockets! There’s even one on the breast of the overalls. A large cellphone (Samsung Note 8) fits securely in nearly every one of the pockets. There’s plenty of room to accommodate its size, and the stretch in the denim keeps it from flopping around. There’s a zippered pocket on the rear leg that’s great for holding valuables such as keys, your ID, and credit cards. 

The Freshley has a slightly stretchy fabric — the overalls move with your body: while stacking hay, trimming my goats’ hooves, whatever — and yet the reinforced knee panels mean the fabric stays strong despite the abuse of farm or construction work. 

Some super cool features: There’s a small round hole in the front bib pocket, perfect for earbuds cord or even some twine. Not to be outdone — there’s also a secret zipper in that pocket on the side.


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Read "Give-a-Ham”

U.S. pork producers participate in ‘Give-a-Ham’ program

During this pandemic we have seen neighbor helping neighbor and neighbor helping strangers, especially in the agriculture community. To continue helping people in their community, the National Pork Producers Council today launched the “Give-a-Ham” challenge. The “Give-a-Ham” challenge is a national social media campaign encouraging hog farmers and those involved in the industry to donate pork to organizations serving the food insecure, and challenging others to follow suit. The national challenge begins today and runs through the end of the year.

“With so many Americans struggling with COVID-related financial challenges, this year’s ‘Give-a-Ham’ challenge takes on special meaning,” said NPPC President Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin. “Giving back to our communities is a core value of hog farmers nationwide; it’s gratifying to come together as an industry this time of year to serve those in need.”

Throughout the COVID pandemic, U.S. hog farmers and numerous state associations that represent them have donated to local food banks, providing a collective 15.7 million pounds–or 222.8 million servings–of pork through Oct. 31.

“I’m proud to be part of an industry that has already made significant contributions this year to help those less fortunate and look forward to participating in the ‘Give-a-Ham’ challenge, paying it forward with pork,” Roth added.

On Twitter, Wakefield Pork Twitter tweeted, “We Care. Even in a challenging year like 2020, we remain committed to those in need in our communities. This year we donated 11 Thanksgiving meals to local families in need. We are proud to #GiveAHam this holiday season! Will you join us & #GiveAHam to someone in your community?”

Even though this year has been tough for so many, but that hasn’t stopped pork producers from helping their local community members. Participants are encouraged to share their stories on social media using the #GiveaHam hashtag.

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Read Thanksgiving food dollar

Farmers earn 11.9 cents of Thanksgiving food dollar

While you are shopping for your Thanksgiving meal, you might wonder how much money goes back to the farmer. For every dollar Americans spend on their Thanksgiving dinner this year, farmers and ranchers will earn approximately 11.9 cents, according to National Farmers Union. This marks a decline from 2019, when farmers claimed 12.15 cents of the Thanksgiving food dollar.

Though farmers’ increasingly small share of food expenditures could be blamed on dropping commodity prices in years past, that isn’t the case this Thanksgiving; after cratering during the pandemic, prices for many agricultural products have mostly recovered. Instead, the shift can be attributed to higher grocery bills. In the last 12 months, food prices have risen nearly 4 percent, far outpacing the 1.4 percent rate of overall inflation.

The rise in food prices couldn’t come at a worse time for American families, who are experiencing elevated rates of unemployment and food insecurity as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. “Ordinarily, Thanksgiving is a time to gather with our loved ones and enjoy a big meal,” said NFU President Rob Larew. “But for many Americans, the typical, food-filled get-together won’t be possible, and not just because of public health concerns. With millions out of work and no additional government support in sight, the cost of traditional holiday foods may simply be out of reach for some families.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, NFU has been pushing legislators to expand the nutrition safety net in order to offset an abrupt rise in food insecurity. Congress took some steps to do so with the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March, which added $15.5 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in order to accommodate more participants and facilitated the redistribution of surplus food from farmers to food banks. In the subsequent eight months, however, most of the CARES Act funding has been spent, and there has been little progress towards securing additional support for nutrition assistance programs.

“As cases continue to rise across the country and safety measures are put in place, it’s clear that we have a long ways to go with economic recovery,” said Larew. “In the meantime, it is a moral imperative that we ensure every single American has access to the food they need. By far the most cost-effective and efficient way legislators can achieve that is by expanding SNAP benefits.”

Even though consumers are paying 4 percent more for food, almost none of that is being passed on to farmers and ranchers. Instead, it’s being captured by the processors, packers, distributors, and retailers in between. Nowhere has this been more evident than the meat sector; retail beef prices have increased more than 10 percent over the last 12 months, but ranchers are earning essentially the same amount for cattle as they were a year ago.

The disparity is largely due to the overwhelming market power held by the largest beef packers, Larew indicated. “Lax antitrust enforcement has allowed just four corporations to take over 85 percent of beef slaughtering and packing in the United States. As a result, those companies are able to manipulate farmers’ and consumers’ prices to their advantage — and, as we’ve seen again and again, they do just that,” he said. “The key to ensuring farmers a fair price isn’t charging consumers astronomical prices ­– it’s breaking up these companies and restoring competition to the market.”

The Farmers’ Share is based on calculations derived from the monthly Agriculture Prices report produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service and price points of common grocery food items at Safeway supermarket. The farmer’s share of retail turkey sales is reported by the Contract Poultry Growers Association of the Virginias, as national data on farm prices for turkey does not reflect the amount turkey growers receive.

The Thanksgiving Farmers’ Share can be viewed and downloaded here.

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