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Bringing Ag Data to Life through Satellite Imagery

Rick Mueller, Spatial Analysis Research Section Head, National Agricultural Statistics Service

Rick Mueller, Spatial Analysis Research Section Head, National Agricultural Statistics Service

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

2013 is the International Year of Statistics. As part of this global event, every month this year USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will profile careers of individuals who are making significant contributions to improve agricultural statistics in the United States.

While most of the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) statisticians studied mathematics, economics or agriculture in school, my career path started in a completely different place. I came to NASS in the 1990s as an IT specialist to help the agency evolve its use of geospatial technology and contribute to the remote sensing acreage estimation program. And so, while most of the agency staff learned about agriculture by visiting fields, my knowledge of this intricate subject came from studying and analyzing satellite imagery. Read more »

Feral Swine: Ripping and Rooting Their Way across America

Feral swine are not native to the United States. They are a cross between feral domestic swine introduced by Spanish explorers in the 1500s and the Eurasian boar. (Dana Johnson, USDA-APHIS)

Feral swine are not native to the United States. They are a cross between feral domestic swine introduced by Spanish explorers in the 1500s and the Eurasian boar. (Dana Johnson, USDA-APHIS)

Feral swine have been called the “rototillers” of nature. Their longs snouts and tusks allow them to rip and root their way across America in search of food.  Unfortunately, the path they leave behind impacts ranchers, farmers, land managers, conservationists, and suburbanites alike. April, Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month, is a great time to learn about this serious threat to both plant and animal health. Read more »

Using Data to Change The World One Goat at a Time

Goats are an important part of the solution to global food security. USDA-ARS Photo. Taken by Heather Huson.

Goats are an important part of the solution to global food security. USDA-ARS Photo. Taken by Heather Huson.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

USDA scientist Tad Sonstegard’s comparison of the World Food Programme’s “Hunger Map” to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s goat census statistics, reveals that 90 percent of all goats in the world are located in main ‘hunger zones’ of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.   What’s the connection?  Goats are a common animal of the poorest people, and they are an important part of the solution to global food security.   They are fairly low maintenance and easy to raise and farm. Read more »

Rescued Bobcat Chips Returns to Natural Habitat

Chips the bobcat growled at the camera, as a wild bobcat should, shortly before being transported to her release site in Humboldt County (Photo courtesy Robert Campbell, volunteer and rehabilitation worker, Sierra Wildlife Rescue)

Chips the bobcat growled at the camera, as a wild bobcat should, shortly before being transported to her release site in Humboldt County (Photo courtesy Robert Campbell, volunteer and rehabilitation worker, Sierra Wildlife Rescue)

Chips the bobcat, who was only four weeks old when she was rescued last August by U.S. Forest Service firefighter Tad Hair and his Mad River Hand hotshot crew, is now 8 months old and back in bobcat territory in Lassen County, Calif.

Because of early human handling to treat her second-degree burns, rescuers initially thought Chips acted a little too friendly towards humans raising concerns that she could not survive in the wild. Read more »

Open Data for Agriculture Offers Lift-Off for Global Food Security

Secretary Vilsack in Washington addressing the G-8 Open Data meeting.  Secretary Vilsack today kicked off a two-day international open data conference, saying that data “is one of the most important commodities in agriculture” and sharing it openly increases its value. USDA photo by Bob Nichols

Secretary Vilsack in Washington addressing the G-8 Open Data meeting. Secretary Vilsack today kicked off a two-day international open data conference, saying that data “is one of the most important commodities in agriculture” and sharing it openly increases its value. USDA photo by Bob Nichols

The opening day of the G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture was action-packed and inspiring. From the moment the doors opened at 7:30 am, the air was punctuated with the sound of languages from across the globe. Scientists, policy makers, and leaders from the non-profit and development community all shared a day of discovery and connection around the unlimited opportunity in open data for agriculture.

Secretary Vilsack kicked off the proceedings with a speech that focused the day. “Data is quickly becoming one of the most important commodities in agriculture,” he told the attendees, and encouraged the sharing of data to magnify its power.  He also compared the digital revolution fueled by open data to the industrial revolution, in that data sharing has the same potential to accelerate development of new tools that will bolster the productivity of farmers around the world. Read more »

USDA Officials Highlight StrikeForce at South Dakota Indian Business Alliance Conference

Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of the Native CDFI, Lakota Fund with USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks at the StrikeForce conference. USDA photos

Tawney Brunsch, Executive Director of the Native CDFI, Lakota Fund with USDA Rural Development State Director Elsie Meeks at the StrikeForce conference. USDA photos

South Dakota USDA officials recently highlighted the StrikeForce initiative at the bi-annual South Dakota Indian Business Alliance Conference held in Rapid City.  The conference with the theme of, “Building Opportunities in the New Native America,” was a perfect opportunity to announce South Dakota USDA’s focus on increasing partnerships and leveraging resources on South Dakota tribal lands. Read more »