Subtropical Fruit Crops Research & Education
University of California
Subtropical Fruit Crops Research & Education

Posts Tagged: usda

Read About Your Soil

Here is a really good introduction to the use of the on-line Soil Survey from USDA.  Maybe it is easier to follow than blogs I have posted in the past.

WASHINGTON — “Soil don't get no respect,” Rodney Dangerfield might have said (but didn't). Perhaps you know your state bird or flower, but do you know your state soil?

Well, in recent years soil has begun to get more respect. Since the celebration of the Soil Survey Centennial back in 1999, each state has been given its own official state soil. It was in 1899 that the U. S. Department of Agriculture started its survey of all the soils in the country.


You might wonder what a “soil survey” really is. Isn't it all just dirt — some perhaps stickier, or redder or deeper — that lies beneath forest, meadow, farm, home and garden?

There you go again. Not enough respect.

In fact, soils are distinctive, as different from each other as robins are from blue jays. These differences are hard to appreciate, of course, because soil is mostly underground, hidden from view. But if you were to dig some holes a few feet deep and then look carefully at their inside surfaces, you would find that soils are made up of layers of varying thickness, called horizons. One soil might differ from the next not only in the thickness of its horizons, but also in their appearance and feel.

Horizons might be as white as chalk, as red as rust, or as dark brown as chocolate. A horizon might be cement-hard, gritty with sand, or stuff for sculpture. And if you were to tease the dirt along one edge of the hole so it falls away naturally — wow! — each horizon would reveal its particles clumped together in arrangements like plates, blocks or prisms. Such information, and more, has allowed soils to be classified, much as birds, flowers and other living things are.


Modern soil classification goes back only a few decades, when all the world's soils were grouped taxonomically into a dozen “orders.” Differences among orders reflect the formative influence of a particular combination of climate, plants and animals, topography, time and original rock material.

Just as all vertebrate animals are huddled together by biologists into smaller groupings (mammals, say) and those groupings into still smaller ones, so each soil order is divided and subdivided to include more distinctly different soils. At the end of the dividing and subdividing, you end up with a “soil series” identified with a proper name — like the Haven series in my vegetable garden, for example.


A particular soil becomes an official state soil by being widespread within the state; being distinctive chemically or physically; having some degree of name recognition; and, of course, getting a legislative stamp of approval. Examples include soils like West Virginia's Monongahela soil, Texas' Houston Black soil, California's San Joaquin soil and New York's Honeoye soil.

The job, now, of these “ambassadors” of the benevolent underworld is to rekindle awareness of soil's value as a natural resource that can only be renewed very slowly. Soil provides food, shelter, clothing and more, yet it is being lost at alarming rates to everything from blacktop to erosion.

Out in the garden this spring, dig a hole deep and wide enough that you can see and appreciate at least some of the various and distinctive horizons.

Then, if you want the name and a detailed description of that soil — or any soil — look at the maps and descriptions in the Soil Survey Reports issued by the U. S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Search online for “soil survey nrcs” and you'll find links to soil maps for counties throughout the U.S. Or go to the link to “web soil survey.” At this site, you can type in a street address around which you “draw” your area of interest (AOI). The site will delineate the names and descriptions of soils within that AOI.

And of course this is available as an app at:


soil weathered from rock
soil weathered from rock

Posted on Monday, January 22, 2018 at 6:19 AM
Tags: mapping (1), NRCS (1), soil (22), soil survey (3), Soilweb (1), survey (3), USDA (3), web (2)

USDA Fire Loss Programs

USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) offers disaster assistance and low-interest loan programs to assist agricultural producers in their recovery efforts following wildfires or other qualifying natural disasters. Available programs and loans include:


  • Non-Insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP)


    1. - provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory, or prevented planting occur due to natural disasters including excessive wind and qualifying drought (includes native grass for grazing). Eligible producers must have purchased NAP coverage for 2017 crops. A notice of loss must be filed within 15 calendar days of when the loss is apparent or 15 calendar days after the normal harvest date.


  • Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP)


    1. - offers payments to eligible producers for livestock death losses in excess of normal mortality due to adverse weather. Eligible losses may include those determined by FSA to have been caused by hurricanes, floods, blizzards, wildfires, tropical storms, tornados lightning, extreme heat, and extreme cold. Producers will be required to provide verifiable documentation of death losses resulting from an eligible adverse weather event and must submit a notice of loss to their local FSA office within 30 calendar days of when the loss of livestock is apparent.


  • Tree Assistance Program (TAP)


  1. – provides assistance to eligible orchardists and nursery tree growers for qualifying tree, shrub and vine losses due to natural disasters including excessive wind and qualifying drought.


  • Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program (ELAP)


    1. - provides emergency relief for losses due to feed or water shortages, disease, adverse weather, or other conditions, which are not adequately addressed by other disaster programs. ELAP covers physically damaged or destroyed livestock feed that was purchased or mechanically harvested forage or feedstuffs intended for use as feed for the producer's eligible livestock. In order to be considered eligible, harvested forage must be baled; forage that is only cut, raked or windrowed is not eligible. ELAP also covers up to 150 lost grazing days in instances when a producer has been forced to remove livestock from a grazing pasture due to wildfire and for beekeepers, ELAP covers beehive losses (the physical structure) in instances where the hive has been destroyed by a natural disaster including flooding, high winds and tornadoes. Producers must submit a notice of loss to their local FSA office within 30 calendar days of when the loss is apparent.


  • Emergency Loan Program


    1. – available to producers with agriculture operations located in a county under a primary or contiguous Presidential or Secretarial disaster designation. These low interest loans help producers recover from production and physical losses.


  • Emergency Conservation Program (ECP)


    1. - provides emergency funding for farmers and ranchers to rehabilitate land severely damaged by natural disasters; includes fence loss.


  • HayNet


  1. - is an Internet-based Hay and Grazing Net Ad Service allowing farmers and ranchers to share ‘Need Hay' ads and ‘Have Hay' ads online. Farmers also can use another feature to post advertisements for grazing land, specifically ads announcing the availability of grazing land or ads requesting a need for land to graze.

For more information on these programs, visit FSA online at


To find a local FSA office near you, visit


USDA is an equal opportunity lender, provider and employer.

fire NRCS damage
fire NRCS damage

Posted on Thursday, December 28, 2017 at 10:48 AM
Tags: assistance (2), Farm Service Agency (1), fire (29), FSA (1), loans (2), recovery (8), Thomas (8), USDA (3)

Fire Disaster Workshop for ALL Ventura/Santa Barbara Producers

The USDA's Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service will have workshops to aid agricultural producers; including cattle, tree, nursery, vegetable, and berry farmers in filing for federal assistance programs.  Appointments can be arranged now for filing applications during these workshops.


The California Avocado Commission and University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) are coordinating with the USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) the availability of field appointments for growers who have been impacted by the Thomas Fire. Personnel from both FSA and NRCS will be available to assist growers with the necessary paperwork to apply for federal assistance.

Currently, two days of appointments are available (information below). To schedule an appointment for either of the following two days, please call (805) 645-1434.

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017
Santa Paula Agriculture Museum
926 Railroad Ave, Santa Paula
8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017
University of California Cooperative Extension
669 County Square Drive Suite #100, Ventura
8:00 am – 4:00 pm

Federal relief personnel will be available to assist growers with the paperwork, and growers are asked to provide the following information:

  • Business entity information (e.g. individual, limited liability corporation, etc.)
  • Social Security Number and/or Employer Identification Number
  • Location/size of the farm
  • Extent of damage

In addition, as we reported yesterday, it's important that California avocado industry members who have been impacted by the recent wildfires and/or Santa Ana winds contact their crop insurance agent within 72 hours of the event to determine possible applicable coverage. Both fire and wind events may be included in certain crop insurance coverage, but agents must be notified within 72 hours.

Below, again, is a list of potential FSA programs that may provide disaster assistance to those avocado growers affected by the wildfires:

  • The Tree Assistance Program provides financial assistance to qualifying orchardists to help them replant or rehabilitate trees damaged by natural disasters (separate from crop insurance).
  • The Emergency Conservation Program offers funding and technical assistance to growers to help them rehabilitate land damaged by natural disasters. This program may provide cost share assistance for debris removal, land leveling and shaping, irrigation replacement, and cattle fencing.
  • Emergency loans are available to producers located in counties that receive a primary or contiguous disaster designation.

Remember, if you are an impacted grower you are asked to contact both FSA and your county agricultural commissioner's office as follows:

USDA-Farm Service Agency

Santa Barbara/Ventura County
Daisy Banda
Key Program Technician
805-928-9269 Ex.2

Riverside/San Diego Counties
Desiree Garza
County Executive Director
760-347-3675 ext. 107

Ventura County
Korinne Bell, Chief Deputy Agricultural Commissioner,
Henry Gonzalez, Agricultural Commissioner,
(805) 388-4343, Ext. 2

Santa Barbara County
Debbie Trupe, Deputy Agricultural Commissioner,
Stephanie Stark, Deputy Agricultural Commissioner,
(805) 681-5600

San Diego County
Vince Acosta, Information Technology Principal,
(858) 967-8623

Riverside County
Ron Bray, Assistant Agricultural Commission, RBray@RIVCO.ORG
(951) 955-3000

A complete list of FSA disaster assistance programs can be found online. For more information about available disaster assistance programs, contact your local U.S. Department of Agriculture office. You can find your local USDA service center by clicking on this link.

Tom Bellamore, President
Ken Melban, Vice President of Industry Affairs
California Avocado Commission

IMG 2031
IMG 2031

Posted on Saturday, December 9, 2017 at 12:45 PM
Tags: assistance (2), damage (23), fire (29), flood (2), usda (3), wind (5)
Webmaster Email: