The United States Department of Agriculture wears many hats, but it seems they always have their farm boots on. Every initiative, every trade mission, every funded research proposal aims to advance agriculture in the U.S. Read up on what the USDA has been up to lately in pursuit of improving opportunities, abilities, and the outlook for the future of ag in America.

In early March, the USDA announced $20 million available in grants through the Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) program. This program’s goal is to encourage conservation efforts by farmers and ranchers, putting special emphasis on utilizing the latest technology and industry best practices. The aim is to benefit both the environment and producers using science-based solutions. Ten percent of the grants are set aside for veteran farmers and ranchers, new farmers and ranchers, and those with limited resources. Read more here.

A U.S. trade mission to Peru has resulted in the removal of the certification requirements of the 2003 Export Verification Program, which have hampered U.S. beef exports to the South American country, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack announced in mid-March. U.S. beef and beef products can now be exported to Peru without costly hoops to jump through. In 2015, U.S. beef and beef products exported to Peru totaled $25.4 million. Bilateral trade with Peru has grown by 110 percent since 2009, totaling $3 billion in 2015, and the new agreement opens the door for even more exports of U.S. beef and beef products. Read more here.

In mid-March, President Obama made a historic trip to Cuba, and USDA Ag Secretary Vilsack joined the President to represent U.S. agriculture interests. Cuba’s proximity to the U.S., paired with its tropical climate and coral-free soil make it very ag-friendly. While in Cuba, Sec. Vilsack announced the USDA is giving authorization to the 22 industry-funded Research and Promotion Programs and 18 Marketing Order organizations to exchange information and conduct research into the island nation. It’s another step towards what many in the ag industry hope will be a future trade arrangement that’s beneficial to both parties. Read more here.

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