Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Less than 50% of U.S. farms were profitable in 2017, new census shows

Soybean harvest on October 2, 2013 near Worthington, Minnesota.
Soybeans harvested near Worthington, Minnesota. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The gap between how many U.S. farms were profitable and those that weren't widened in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's first census since 2012, released Thursday.

Why it matters: The most in-depth government survey of the agricultural economy shows a downturn in conditions for farmers even before the start of President Trump's tit-for-tat trade war began, which has resulted in lower Chinese demand for U.S. commodities.

USDA halts deadly experiments on kittens for food safety research

A Kitten
Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Agriculture Department said Tuesday that the agency will cease its controversial practice of infecting kittens with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite for laboratory research to combat foodborne illness.

The backdrop: Bipartisan legislation was introduced in Congress last month to end the agency's practice. The department’s Agricultural Research Service has been using this practice to study the parasite it says is the leading cause of death from foodborne illness in the U.S. NBC News reported that since 1982, the agency had also been feeding cats with dog and cat remains obtained from "Asian meat markets." The USDA said it hasn’t infected any kittens in its facilities since last September, and the cats that were never infected will be available for adoption.