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Category: Technology and Broadband

Agricultural Data Users Weigh-in on USDA Statistical Programs

USDA NASS Data Users Meeting graphic

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will hold its annual Data Users’ Meeting, followed by a live Twitter #StatChat at 6 p.m. ET on Tuesday, October 18.

As I’ve learned over my years with the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), in order to make an impact, our information needs to meet the needs of the people who use the data we produce. And while we constantly try to gauge and meet their needs, it is imperative to speak to our data users directly to get their input. We are open to feedback all the time and we hold annual special Data Users’ Meeting in Chicago every October.

Of course face-to-face interaction has its limitations since not everyone can travel to Chicago to meet with us. To address this concern, for the first time this year, we are also adding a social media component to our Data Users’ Meeting. Immediately following the panel session at the meeting, from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time, I will be answering questions via Twitter during our monthly #StatChat. Read more »

Digital Connection Helps Kodiak Students

Cross-posted from the Alaska Dispatch News:

For students heading back to school this month in Kodiak, it’s anything but “class as usual.” Because at Kodiak Island Borough School District, 400 miles from Anchorage and accessible only by airplane and ferry, ConnectED investments in high-speed internet and new technology have transformed the student experience — with remarkable results.

Walking through Kodiak High School offers a glimpse at the transformative role education technology is playing in rural America. In one classroom, students use videoconferencing technology to connect with teachers and students from across the island — expanding their horizons through virtual field trips and never-before-available courses like music and civics. Math offerings, once limited to algebra, now include online and distance-learning courses all the way up through calculus. And before and after school, high-speed connectivity allows teachers to tap into interactive professional development and training to customize student learning based on individual needs. Read more »

Using Data for Social Good

Joyce Hunter, USDA Deputy CIO, Policy and Planning at the United State of Women Summit

Joyce Hunter, USDA Deputy CIO, Policy and Planning, United State of Women Summit, June 2016

We are entering a new era of information openness and transparency.  Open data has the potential to spur economic innovation and social transformation.   Focusing just on economic impacts, in 2013, for example, the consulting firm McKinsey estimated the possible global value of open data to be over $3 trillion per year.  A study commissioned by Omidyar Network has likewise calculated that open data could result in an extra $13 trillion over five years in the output of G20 nations.

These impacts illustrate why it is important that we encourage people of every age to invest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.  For example, the White House initiative on Equal Futures Partnership, aims to open more doors to high-quality education and high-paying career opportunities for women and girls in the STEM disciplines, fields in which they are currently underrepresented. To support this effort, Federal science and technology agencies, private corporations, and academic institutions are taking steps to collect better data on women and girls in STEM fields, expand STEM mentoring opportunities, encourage research-driven teaching practices, and increase access to online STEM-skill training. Read more »

Getting a Summer Staple to Market at Peak Maturity

An avocado

“When consumers buy Florida avocados from any grower, they associate that avocado with all avocados,” said Alan Flinn, manager of the Avocado Administrative Committee. “That’s why it is essential that any Florida-type avocado that reaches the market aligns with our standards.” USDA photo by Lillie Zeng

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. Read more »

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

NASS Administrator Hubert Hamer speaking to a small farms conference

Hubert Hamer speaks to a small farms conference about the value of NASS data and the importance of responding to NASS surveys.

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. Read more »

Seizing the TechHire Opportunity in Rural America

Cross-posted from the 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. Read more »