Skip to main content

From Data to Decisions: Using Data to Improve Public Access and Knowledge

Posted by Joyce Hunter, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Policy and Planning in Technology
Nov 29, 2013

There are many companies that are currently using USDA data. Mercaris is a new company filling in the gap in offerings with reliable market data and an online trading tool tailored to the organic and non-GMO production, processing, and retail industries. Their reports present current and archived market condition information to assist in pricing decisions. FarmLogs provides comprehensive farm management software-as-a-service to farmers managing farms ranging from small-scale to over 30k acres. Their platform supports a hybrid of government and farmer-generated data that is analyzed and incorporated into their decisionmaking tools.

USDA wants to continue to encourage additional innovations and solutions by providing the data and statistics necessary that will offer improved agricultural production, global food security, poverty, nutrition and human health, natural resources and environmental issues, rural development, local and regional food systems, and many other issues.

Therefore, in support of the Open Data Policy, USDA officially launched the U.S. Government’s new Food, Agriculture and Rural virtual community on This community serves as a single access point for our databases, tools, apps and other data resources discussed throughout the G-8 Open Data for Agriculture conference. For example, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) will be releasing a model for scenario analysis and projecting the long-run food security status in three developing countries.  Similar to how the coding community collaboratively builds applications, researchers and others will be able to learn from the models and build upon them to spur other research studies. This supports the USDA Digital Strategy efforts to ensure high-value services and systems are available anywhere, any time and on any device.  USDA has also developed a comprehensive catalog of all data assets that are available to the public on

Some of the USDA featured datasets and tools include:

  • The USDA National Farmers Market Directory helps connect farmers and consumers, communities and businesses around the country. And, thanks to wider use of smartphones and enhanced search tools like our directory API, consumers can search for farmers markets using mobile phone apps while on-the-go (see related "Meet Me at the Market" - The Evolution of a Farmers Market blog).
  • The recently announced VegScape tool provides data and mapping capacity from our satellite-based U.S. crop condition vegetation assessment and monitoring web service.
  • The Germplasm Resource Information Network  (GRIN) Global is a powerful and easy-to-use, web-based information management system for the world’s plant genebanks, providing access to plant genetic resources in the face of challenges such as crop diseases and pests.
  • The community also features some new statistical products that support the U.N. Global Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Statistics.
  • USDA’s Economic Research Service launched an API and widget for programmatic access to their daily visualization series Charts of Note (see related USDA, ERS Moving Down the Track to Open Data blog), along with APIs to select data sets (including GIS applications).
  • USDA has also completed building a dynamic API for the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Quick Stats data. Quick Stats is the best source of agricultural census and survey data published by NASS

Working with you, USDA is committed to prioritizing the release of additional data sets based on feedback from the public.  As part of that effort, at this year’s Open Government Partnership summit the Department of Agriculture lead the U.S. delegation in collaboration with the UK Government, Gates Foundations, World Wide Web Foundation, and over 60 others from public and private sectors launched the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) Initiative. Participants will focus on building high-level policy and institutional support for open data worldwide.

If you have questions about the catalog, or suggestions regarding which USDA data sets would be most valuable if they were made available, please leave a comment here on our blog, or at USDA’s API issue tracker:

Category/Topic: Technology