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Category: Technology and Broadband

Taking Broadband to the Next Level

A technician installing cables at Pine Net Telephone and internet stations

A technician installs cables at Pine Net Telephone and internet stations. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

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. Read more »

Open Data: a Key to Feeding 9 Billion People by 2050

NPR’s “The Takeaway” program recently examined the “The Biggest Challenges Facing America and the World.” The episode included an interview with USDA Chief Scientist and Undersecretary Catherine Woteki on the challenge of being able to feed a world population that is estimated to reach more than 9 billion people by the year 2050.

On behalf of USDA, Dr. Woteki played a key role in the formation of Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), an international organization which supports efforts to make agricultural and nutritional data available, accessible, and usable for unrestricted use worldwide. She said harvesting such data could be a key to harvesting enough future crops to meet future challenges. Read more »

Wildfire Smoke Monitors Working to Reduce Health and Safety Impacts

A Environmental Beta Attenuation Monitor in a forest

Environmental Beta Attenuation Monitors (E-BAMs) are portable particulate monitoring stations. They are one technological tool used to monitor smoke. They can transmit their data via satellite to a central location for analysis. USFS photo.

Smoke from wildfires can have an enormous impact on the public and on fire personnel, affecting health, interfering with transportation safety and upsetting tourism and local economies.

Trent Procter, like all U.S. Forest Service Air Resource Advisors, is a technical specialist with expertise in air quality science, including: air quality monitoring, smoke modeling, pollutant health thresholds and communicating about smoke risks and mitigation. Read more »

Secretary Announces New York and Oregon Tall Wood Building Prize Winners

SHoP Architects proposed 475 West 18th in New York

SHoP Architects proposed 475 West 18th in New York, uses extensive wood structural elements and other wood products and allows the team to set ambitious sustainability targets in the building's design, construction, and operation. Copyright image, permission for use.

All around the world, including here in the United States, builders are adopting new, cutting edge technologies to save energy and reduce a structure’s carbon footprint.  Now, technological advances are enabling architects and contractors to use one of the most traditional materials, wood, to construct lighter-weight, more energy efficient tall buildings.

Today in New York, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced two winners of the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition.  The design projects, one to be built in the Chelsea section of New York City and the other in Portland, Oregon, were selected by a panel of architectural and engineering professionals and meet the competition’s criteria for safety, practicality and sustainability. Read more »

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

Picture of the second session of the Open Data STEAM Summer Camp with 14-16 year olds

Picture of the second session of the Open Data STEAM Summer Camp with 14-16 year olds.

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. Read more »

Evolution of Agency Revealed in New Website

Screenshot of the new AMS homepage

A screenshot of the new AMS homepage.

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. Read more »