Skip to main content

Technology

Agencies Making Progress to Connect America

Over the last eight years, our agencies have worked to expand the availability and adoption of broadband in recognition of the increasingly important role that the Internet is playing in every facet of society.

Recognizing the opportunity to marshal resources across the entire federal government, President Obama in March 2015 created the Broadband Opportunity Council, co-chaired by the Secretaries of Agriculture and Commerce, which in August 2015 identified a series of executive actions that could be taken through existing agency programs, missions, and budgets to increase broadband deployment, competition, and adoption.

Hacking Away at Common Agricultural Issues

 

Hackathons aim to solve real problems and USDA, along with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the California State Fair, hosted a competitive one this past July. Software developers, designers, entrepreneurs, farmers, farm consultants, marketers and others in the agricultural industry participated in the Hackathon, which was held at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources building in Davis, California. Participants competed for cash prizes at a “pitchfest” in front of a live audience at the California State Fair on Sunday, July 17, Prizes were awarded to the top three apps: first place won $5,000, second place $3,000 and third place $1,500. People who work in agriculture brought with them ideas for problems that technology may help solve.

“Apps for Ag” Hackathons have already resulted in multiple startups and we want to see this momentum continue to grow,” said Robert Tse, USDA California Rural Development chief strategy officer for agriculture technology and innovation. “There was no better place than the State Fair in the Capitol to showcase the ingenuity of California’s Ag tech community.”

Getting a Summer Staple to Market at Peak Maturity

Although Florida’s green-skin avocado industry may be a niche compared to Hass avocado operations in California, green-skin avocados are beloved by their growers and a staple for the communities that grew up eating them.

With more than 60 varieties and peak maturity ranging from May to December, the Florida avocado industry uses harvest timing and technology to ensure only mature avocados reached consumers.

The industry works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to operate a federal marketing order, which helps the producers expand marketing opportunities and ensures quality fruit for consumers.  Industry members make up the committee that locally administers the marketing order.  Marketing order committees are able to establish industry standards, develop markets, gather data, and conduct research - all tailored to meet the individual needs of a particular commodity and size of its industry.

Relationships and Technology Are the Keys to Better Data for Farmers and Ranchers

Like nearly all organizations that use surveys to collect information, we have seen declining response rates in recent years. The value of accurate data is now more important than ever for decision-making on the farm, and by USDA farm program administrators, policy makers, researchers, market participants and, really, every aspect of agriculture. It is critical that we work closely with potential respondents and their industry representatives.

End-of-year crop production and stocks surveys, including the county agricultural production survey, which are critical for the Farm Service Agency and the Risk Management Agency to administer programs that benefit farmers and ranchers are upon us.  These agencies need accurate data to serve producers with beneficial programs such as the Price Loss Coverage (PLC), Agriculture Risk Coverage (PLC), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and many crop insurance programs.

Seizing the TechHire Opportunity in Rural America

Cross-posted from the WhiteHouse.gov blog:

There’s an exciting trend underway across the country. More and more, major companies are leaving offshore hubs and turning to rural communities in America for high-quality IT talent. In addition to a narrowing wage gap and higher quality of work in these rural areas, the employee attrition rate in rural areas of the U.S. is less than half the rate typically seen in offshore locations.

The Obama Administration has supported the growth of IT jobs in rural America with unprecedented investments in rural broadband and other key infrastructure, and through innovative efforts like the White House TechHire Initiative, a multi-sector initiative and call to action to rapidly train Americans with the skills they need for well-paying, open tech jobs.

Rural Means Business: Bringing Tech Jobs to rural America

A group of coders in hooded sweatshirts and big headphones stare intently at their computer screens.

In the corner, staff take a break at the foosball table, while a young woman in an oversized beanbag chair types away on her laptop.

You might be picturing the headquarters of a Silicon Valley startup, but the scene described above is over 2,000 miles away from San Francisco—in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Taking Broadband to the Next Level

Getting broadband to unserved rural areas is one of the toughest challenges we face. It’s far easier to make a business case to serve 500 people per square mile than it is where there are only five people per square mile. Broadband is expensive to deploy through hundreds of miles of countryside, including mountains, canyons, forests and deserts. But that’s our challenge.

The Broadband Opportunity Council report the White House released today lays the groundwork to build on the tremendous success of deploying broadband under the Recovery Act, which helped USDA and the Commerce Department expand essential broadband service nationwide. Yet even with this historical investment, we have much more to do.

USDA Participated in a "First of Its Kind" Camp for DC-Area Teens Focused Specifically on Open Data and Agriculture

Summer has arrived and young people all over the country are enjoying their time spent in summer camps. And while many camps involve athletics or camping out, others are meant to keep kids’ brains moving.  Today’s camps are anything but boring. Science Technology Engineering, Agriculture and Math (STEAM) camps can be exciting.

In an era increasingly defined by the challenge of using an unprecedented flow of information to solve problems and govern better, USDA provides national leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition and related issues. To support USDA’s mission, the GovLab Academy designed and executed a dual pilot of a two-week open data summer program, in July 2015, for Washington, DC-area teenagers. The camp’s goal was to help the leaders of tomorrow learn more about data, the tools of data science, and the ways they might be leveraged to improve innovation and security in the nation’s food supply. The camp also provided an opportunity for USDA employees to support the goal of strengthening STEAM education in this country by piloting an initiative that can be scaled and replicated across agencies and across levels of government.

Evolution of Agency Revealed in New Website

Over the last ten years, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has transformed as an agency.  Of course, the core mission is still there—facilitating the domestic and international marketing of U.S. agricultural products—but how we accomplish that mission is an evolutionary process. 

Our agency serves many different stakeholders.  From consumers to industry councils, state inspectors to non-profits, we offer a broad range of services, information, grants, and regulatory oversight that are critical to the agricultural economy and the quality of our nation’s food supply.

Financing for Development Conference Boosts Support for Open Data

At the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, leaders across the globe, in the public, non-governmental, and private sectors, committed to sharing and using data and to investing in the capacity to collect and analyze this data for sustainable development. Open data, particularly open data relevant to agriculture and nutrition, is a powerful tool for long-term sustainable development, improving the economic opportunities for farmers and contributing to the health of all consumers.  Making open data work for agriculture and nutrition requires a shared agenda to increase the supply, quality, and interoperability of data, alongside action to build capacity for the use of data by all stakeholders.

The United States made several pledges at FfD including increasing support for global efforts to make agricultural and nutritionally relevant data available, accessible, and usable for unrestricted use worldwide.  As a cornerstone of this support, the United States will expand and deepen its commitment to the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative. This commitment will encourage collaboration and cooperation among existing agriculture and open data activities, without duplication, and will bring together stakeholders to solve long-standing global problems with a priority toward improving global food security. Specifically, the United States will provide $4 million in support of the GODAN Secretariat, matching the contribution provided by the United Kingdom.